Anne-Marie Slaughter and the fiction of ‘have-it-all’ feminism

From The Guardian UK:

The former state department high-flier is right, and feminism needs to tackle work-life inequity, not blame its victims, Friday 22 June 2012

When Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” hit the web this week, the reaction was what you have come to expect with any in-your-face article about gender: polarized, vitriolic, and most of all, extensive.

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. And, as detailed by the New York Times, Slaughter’s assessment has furthered debate into how moms should handle work, and contrasts with Facebook exec’s Sheryl Sandberg’s “higher-harder-faster school of female achievement”.

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 phallocentric 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.”

Some reactions? American Prospect’s EJ Graff, in a blog entry titled “Why Does The Atlantic Hate Women?”, wonders whether Slaughter’s piece reflects the Atlantic’s alleged “women problem”, in which female gains get presented as “dangerous – to children, to families, to marriages, to themselves, and to men”.

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