Of course you’ve read the Anne-Marie Slaughter Atlantic piece, “Why Women Can’t Have It All”. You’ve read the responses and the responses to the responses.
So I guess I’m a little late to the game. The article itself was epically long, and it’s only after several conversations and a lot of meta-reading have I decided what I think. And so here it is:
There’s exactly one paragraph, which I’ll get to in a second, that I find even a little bit inflammatory. The rest of it seems to be a list of things I already take for granted.
- High powered careers are generally incompatible with active, attentive parenting (even if you have help)
- Women feel more pressure to make caretaking choices
- Men feel more pressure to make breadwinning choices
- Everyone should have more choices.
I take for granted that fellow progressive people are in favor of more parent-friendly work policies. We already know that the wage gap is driven by motherhood, not straight gender discrimination (at least, mostly), so it stands to reason that facilitating the work/life balance of parents is a huge step towards closing that gap. Plus, parent-friendly work environments have the added bonus of helping dads get the resources and support they need to be equally engaged parents.
Speaking of fathers, Slaughter’s one controversial point for me was this: “From years of conversations and observations, however, I’ve come to believe that men and women respond quite differently when problems at home force them to recognize that their absence is hurting a child, or at least that their presence would likely help. I do not believe fathers love their children any less than mothers do, but men do seem more likely to choose their job at a cost to their family, while women seem more likely to choose their family at a cost to their job.”
I don’t doubt the premise, but I’m unwilling to peg this on any sort of inherent difference between the fathers and mothers. What evidence suggests this is a “natural” distinction instead of the male response to media pressure, societal expectations, and a culture that rewards men who keep their noses to the grindstone? My college friend, Ryan, agreed to let me repost this from his Facebook, and I think he’s extremely eloquent on the subject :
Men can’t have it all either; the difference is, society does not expect us to want it all. Arguments like Slaughter’s showcase a pervasive belief in the gender stereotype that men should not or do not care about “work-life balance”. These types of biases are especially damaging to someone like me who wants to have a high-powered career while being an involved father.
The lack of family contact that is characteristic of most high level positions is a product of the American brand of capitalism and governance; it affects men as well as women and to imply that it affects women more is a slight to both genders. The notion implies that a woman’s desire to care for her family tends to distract her from a high level position and shorten her tenure, while simultaneously implying that men care less about their families, or are less integral to family life.
Besides maternity leave (paternity leave should be the norm as well) and the difficulty of childbirth, women do not have to make any sacrifices for family that a man does not also have to contemplate. However, when we send the message to our men that they are less important in the family, we change the calculus for them, spurring them to choose careers more often, on average. They still have to make the choice, society just forces their hand with stereotypes of “the breadwinner”
….Because of how little merit this article has, in my opinion, I refuse to repost it. Google “Why Women Can’t Have It All” if you want a frustrating read, and replace the word “women” with “people” if you something other than sexist dribble.
He feels pretty strongly, eh? Well I do too. Reminds me of the Sheryl Sandberg line, “Give us a world where half our homes are run by men and half our institutions are run by women. I’m pretty sure that would be a better world.” Damn straight.
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