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The NY Times this week manages to put a uniquely patronizing spin on the growing awareness among middle class American parents that they could be living more environmentally-friendly lives.

” Move over, Tupperware. The EcoMom party has arrived,” says Patricia Leigh Brown in the piece. And that’s basically all she has to say.

The idea that parents are working actively for a better environment on a local as well as a national scale (the real news in the piece) is interesting. But Brown’s framing does everything it can to diminish what she reports. Try this:

Perhaps not since the days of “dishpan hands” has the household been so all-consuming. But instead of gleaming floors and sparkling dishes, the obsession is on installing compact fluorescent light bulbs, buying in bulk and using “smart” power strips that shut off electricity to the espresso machine, microwave, X-Box, VCR, coffee grinder, television and laptop when not in use.

It’s dispiriting to see mothers’ concerns reduced, once again, to questions of shopping and ‘the household.’ And it’s a shame Brown buys into, rather than questions, gender stereotypes. Okay, so this is what a group of mothers are doing. But is that in concert with, or in defiance of, what the men in their lives are doing? Who knows? That question is only addressed in an utterly uninformative and hoary ‘battle of the genders’ quote towards the close.

Like so much of the piece, it’s essentially played for laughs. “Where there is ecoanxiety, of course, there are ecotherapists,”Brown jokes elsewhere. She ends finding an ‘unsisterly’ bitchiness behind the dialog between the mothers she meets. Well, that’s them summed up, then.

The tone of the story suggests that editors at the Times have a long way to go before they are troubled by ‘eco-anxiety’ themselves.

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