Vivienne Westwood Throws Working Moms Under The Bus

Vivienne WestwoodVivienne Westwood made some extremely harsh statements about working mothers. She seems to believe that women who leave their children in the care of others to have a career are simply selfish. Looking back, the fashion designer believes she made the wrong choice when it comes to working when her kids were little. Her statements make me wonder, which aspect of her life would Westwood choose to go back and change? Does she wish that she had never worked her tail off to create a successful global fashion empire? Or would she rather have not had children at all?

When speaking with The Independent in a wide-ranging interview, Vivienne said this about the state of mothers today.

“I’ve got people here in this company who pay as much to the baby minder as they earn at work. Because they’d rather work than look after their child. But I think they have to really think about what they’re doing.”

After the interviewer rightly mentioned that Westwood herself worked while raising a family, the designer responded by saying,

 ”I know and I was a terrible mother. I didn’t put my children first. You have to work today to make money but my mother didn’t have to and we managed.”

It’s hard to respond to a woman who says that she was personally a terrible mother so obviously other women who work must be terrible as well. There’s really no logical comeback to that type of statement. But I do think that it raises an important question, especially when it comes from such a successful woman.

If Vivienne Westwood wants modern mothers to choose between a career and parenthood, if she thinks that we aren’t capable of handling both, which direction should she have gone in? With all this hindsight, shouldn’t she be able to tell us whether she should’ve stuck to clothes or childrearing?

It’s easy to tell a woman that they can’t do both well. It’s easy to say that the juggle is too hard. It’s more difficult to tell women that they need to give something up. The fact is, most modern moms aren’t given that option. Most families need two incomes to support their children. If that makes us terrible, I would love to hear what the other options are.

If Vivienne Westwood ever reads this, I’d like her to know that plenty of us mothers are thinking about what we’re doing. We’re worrying and stressing every time we hear criticism from someone like you, someone who should understand how hard this is, as to whether or not we’ve made the right life choices. But the fact is that for most of us, staying home is no longer an option. And for others, they find a way to keep their children as a priority and still build a career. It’s not easy and they aren’t perfect, but they definitely aren’t terrible either.

And if you’re going to say that women shouldn’t have children and careers, you better be willing to tell us which one you would give up personally. If you’re asking us to make that impossible decision, you should think about it yourself for a while first.

(Photo: Will Alexander / Stuart Castle /

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  • ipsedixit010

    “And if you’re going to say that women shouldn’t have children and
    careers, you better be willing to tell us which one you would give up

    I agree with this part. It’s easy to sit back on your multimillion dollar fashion line and wax poetic about how you were a terrible mother for working. But if you’re going to make such a statement, at least say what you would have done differently. That’s a harder question to answer.

    But I don’t agree that just because a powerful woman says that *she* feels like *she* was a terrible woman for working hard to build a fashion empire that it equates that all working women are terrible mothers.

    You can work and be a good mom. It may require some sacrifice on your part in the way of promotions and whatnot, but just because someone said they would have done things different doesn’t mean that everyone who works is an awful, neglectful parent.

    • LiteBrite

      I agree completely with your first paragraph, and that’s the first thing I thought of when I read this piece.

      I also want to point out that she’s the mogul of a multimillion dollar fashion empire, and I’m sure she had to put in many brutal hours in order to get her business where it was and still is today. That’s not true for the majority of working mothers. I would say the lot of us are not heads of fashion lines and do not have such demanding career obligations that correspond with running a world-reknowned fashion business.

  • Eve Vawter

    consider the source, she was also supportive of putting a 14 year old Anabella Lwin naked on Bow Wow Wow’s album cover and has famously been quoted as talking about how she is not a feminist. Cool clothes though!

  • maureen

    For many women, not working isn’t an option. I took a few years off after my daughter was born, but I consider that a privilege, which many families don’t have. Westwood is a multimillionaire, so maybe this bit of common sense didn’t occur to her?
    After age 5 kids are in school 35 hours a week anyway, not to mention sports and activities afterwards. When I was a SAHM I found I was bored at home alone half the time.

  • Angela

    I feel like her comments are being blown out of proportions. It seems like this is a woman with some regrets in her life. And while I am against pushing those regrets onto others, via telling them how to live, I understand wanting to tell others a cautionary tale. I think she acknowledges that we live in a different time, financially speaking. I don’t think there is anything wrong with sitting back and taking a second look. If a career and children is what you want, I am your champion. I will stand on a soap box all day long and defend your right to be a working mother because that is a choice you are allowed to make. But if you are working because you have to and you are sad everyday when you have to take your kids to daycare or a babysitter, then I feel like Ms. Wood is saying, perhaps take another look. Is there some other way? And for some, there definitely is not, and that is OK. Others, I believe may just be in this mindset that mothers work these days and that’s just how it is, but it doesn’t have to be. We can make other choices, IF WE WANT. That is what is important, that we take what she is saying and use it reevaluate ourselves while we have the chance. It doesn’t matter what her choice would have been because we have to make the choice for ourselves. Also, it is an unfair question. Regretting how you went about something doesn’t mean you know exactly how you would have done it differently. It just means you wish you could have done it differently.

  • Curtis

    I think you’re totally blowing Ms Westwoods comments out of proportion and taking them to heart. She gave an opinion from her own personal experience to share as a lesson she learnt personally. Everyone’s situation is different and everyone has a choice to make on there own. I work with children and their mothers/ guardians and I would tend to agree with her. If you’re making the choice to have children that is a full time job in its self. Maybe we should be asking ourselves the question, can we afford to have children and take care of them properly and weigh out the reality of what’s going on in our lives. Children aren’t just, some thing, to have like the rest of the stuff we accumulate. I understand that times have changed, our lives have changed, so lets take that into account when we’re thinking about having children.

  • Stefania

    I am totally fine with her comments. I think it is okay to criticize the fact that in today’s economy many of us think that we have to be working mothers… but do we really? It is not a direct insult to those who work, it is just having a conversation about her and her regrets. I hate that opening up any discussion on this becomes a hotbed of sensitivity.

    I truly think that this problem is an economic problem, and mothers should not take questioning it personally. I work from home, and am the main provider for my family since my husband lost his job. Personally, I don’t have balance, but my son does get a lot of time with me and his Dad, which is a good thing. I wish we lived in an economic time where we could choose to have only one person work – either the man or the woman, and still have a middle class lifestyle.

  • K

    I feel like the author of this article didn’t really read the article, but just sort of skimmed through it to get the parts she needed to write this piece. I don’t think Ms. Westwood is either advocating or against working mothers, or mothers that stay home. Her statement i think is talking about how times have changed, and how it is more difficult for a mother to be working today than it would have been when she herself was a child. It doesn’t sound like she’s looking down on women who work. The main focus of the article on Westwood is about how she’s spent her life being a radical and making a statement because she had to, and the fact that her kids might have suffered from that was just a small part. People go jumping all over others at the slightest provocation without fully understanding the implications of what someone has said or written. It’s just a sad sign of the times, I guess.