This week the prominent and very influential academic, Anne-Marie Slaughter, published an article in the Atlantic called “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All”. The article has caused a great deal of debate online, as such an important subject should.
Anne-Marie Slaughter is the former dean of Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of International Affairs, former director of policy planning for the U.S. State Department, and currently a full international affairs professor—a named chair, at that—at Princeton. She says that the inspiration for her article came during her time at the state department, trying to manage that very demanding job whilst caring for her two teenage sons.
There was both stinging criticism and emphatic praise for Slaughter’s piece, which argues that women cannot excel both as high-powered professionals and moms in America today (“having it all”), as we have been long promised by feminists.
Slaughter ultimately feels that women can achieve far better career-family balance – that we can “have it all” – but not until major cultural shifts against structures like “time macho” workaholism take place. Some people were not very happy, however, with the article’s presentation of feminism: that it had lied to a generation of women and grossly oversimplified the tricky realities of working motherhood. Slaughter wrote:
“Women of my generation have clung to the feminist credo we were raised with, even as our ranks have been steadily thinned by unresolvable tensions between family and career, because we are determined not to drop the flag for the next generation. But when many members of the younger generation have stopped listening, on the grounds that glibly repeating ‘you can have it all’ is simply airbrushing reality, it is time to talk.”
Whilst I do respect Slaughter’s view on this subject I’m not sure we should be blaming feminism if women feel that they can’t have a work life balance. The culture certainly does need to change, for the good of men as well as women, but as far as a I can see the impetus for such change is coming almost solely from women. I’d like to see more support from men so that we can all achieve a better work-life balance.