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Faults in Feminism

As Dr. Spock spoke at the National Women’s Political Caucus in 1971, he was attacked with shouts of, “Sexist!” by the women. In the early 1970s, Gloria Steinem called out Dr. Spock on the sexist assumptions made in his first edition, and, surprisingly, he revised his books to fix this matter.

In his first book, Dr. Spock made many chauvinist statements, as well as refers to the baby as “he” and the caretaker as “she”, inferring the mother.  Spock implies that the mother belongs at home, fulfilling her calling to become a wife and mother. It is not shocking that this is his view point, due to the time period that it was written in, however the reference to a mother caretaker on every page is overwhelming. He also mentions that the father might help out too, suggesting that he make the formula on Sunday, perhaps.  Additionally, he states that little girls are naturally domestically oriented and should be given dolls while boys are denied of dolls. There are dozens of examples such as these mentioned, all extremely offensive to women, providing Spock as a clear target in the feminist movement.

Although he changed his books, Spock defended himself, claiming that he was only writing down what everyone else was saying at the time. Women were his best customers, and because he fell into trouble with them, a change was necessary. Spock fixed his wording and content to cut out his sexist elements. "He and him and his," were replaced with "they, them and theirs." More recently, "she" and "he" are used interchangeably in the text, and "parent" has replaced "mother." He continues to recommend that infants receive constant care, yet omits which parent is responsible. Also, he no longer promotes enforcing sexual identity through toys and clothing. As an update to his first edition, Spock also insists on the help of the father in multiple ways and frequently. In his defense, Spock had prefaced his original publication with an apology for referring to the baby as a “him” for the entirety of the book, however, Spock himself admits that this was not enough, and calls himself an insensitive chauvinist.

Clearly, Spock was affected personally by the feminist movement, along with many others at this time. Originally produced in the late 1940’s, Spock’s manuals were accepted because they reflected the ideas of the time period. However, as the second-wave of feminism emerged, Spock found himself changing his advice to reflect this huge cultural shift.