I had no idea, until I read her obituary, and then this memorial op-ed, that Elizabeth Fox-Genovese's repudiation of feminism occurred in parallel with and was intimately related to her conversion to Catholicism. Makes sense.
No, I haven't read the book (it doesn't even come out till tomorrow, I think), and I don't intend to (I have no objection to it, I'm just kind of bored with the whole genre [the genre being 1) parenting, and 2) parenting by the oh-so-cool]). But I found Elissa Schappell's review annoying. I'm not always so good with subtlety and snark (which do not always come together, though here I think they do). So maybe Schappell's point is totally obvious to everyone else. But for me, the insinuating mockery was just grating, not illuminating, and I like my book reviews--and my books--illuminating.
I have realized, in recent years, just how negative and pessimistic I truly am (cue laugh track for those to whom it's been perfectly obvious forever). This realization results, first, from living with my genuinely optimistic and positive children, especially E who wakes up happy and has an incredible gift for filling every cup, and, second, from working with my current boss who is a snarky, cynical, complaining...optimist. Actually, C and I work very well together, and this, I think, is because she is what we have termed an optimistic realist, while I am a pessimistic pragmatist, and thus we both try really hard to create change and good stuff.
What does pessimistic pragmatist mean? It means that although I never think anything will work--nobody will come to the party, the program will be a failure, I will never get another job, nobody will want to read my blog, the war will never end--I go ahead and do it anyway, because if you don't take action, then the only option is despair, and that's no way to live (and I should know, as I spend a fair amount of time living there anyway).
Given my congenital negativity (which is not to say that I'm never happy, for I often am, but it always surprises and amazes me), I find the positive psychology movement disturbing. Via research that, like much social science, seems highly questionable (the nuns who smiled biggest in their intake photos lived longest and thus happy people live longer? maybe they were smiling so big because they were trying to hide their anxiety, or because they wanted to look good for the camera [OK, I just checked the article, and I made up that nun thing--I conflated the nuns who wrote positive essays and lived the longest, with the alumnae who had the biggest smiles in their yearbook photos and the happiest marriages, but wouldn't it be great if the nuns with the biggest smiles lived the longest? and don't you think the happily-married smilers might just be the best fakers?]), at any rate, research aside, where I know I shouldn't put it, but go read the article and tell me with a straight face that some of that stuff isn't bogus, the basic point is that if you are a positive and optimistic person, your life is better and you live longer.
Which on the one hand seems self-evident (social science research self-evident???), but on the other hand leaves people like me even more pessimistic than we already are. You're telling me that not only do I have to live like this, which is just the way I am, but I'm not going to get to live as long, even like this?
I would give anything to be an optimistic, positive person. I know such people, and I stand in awe and admiration of them (and of those I don't know). But I already do most of the stuff in this positive psychology regime--accentuating the positive, helping others, yoga, mindfulness--because they are things it is obviously good to do. And I am still me, albeit probably a better-off me than if I didn't. So maybe they're right: maybe I am already a practitioner of positive psychology, and if I wasn't I would be drowning in the sea of despair. Hmm, is this a case where in the writing I convince myself of the opposite of that which I set out to write about? I don't think so, because the fact is: I'm still a pessimist, albeit a highly functioning pessimist, and it thus seems clear that, if these people are right, I'm going to die young, and that just makes me feel worse about everything.
And one more thing: teaching literature via positive psychology, that is, using positive outcomes in literature as lessons in how to live, and considering what positive attributes might have prevented negative outcomes (if Romeo and Juliet had better problem-solving skills they would have lived??) (I made that one up too), is totally bogus (but that's what a $2.8 million Department of Education grant is being used for).