Can women ‘have it all?’ US writer stirs debate

2012-06-28 07:40

An Ivy League scholar and mother-of-two is touching a raw nerve by questioning whether high-flying career women with families, at least American ones, can truly “have it all.”

Writing in The Atlantic magazine, Anne-Marie Slaughter cited her own downshift from powerful State Department official to Princeton University professor as evidence that they cannot, at least not as US society now stands.

“I still strongly believe that women can ‘have it all’ (and that men can too),” wrote Slaughter (53), referring to the ability to juggle a successful career with raising a family.

“But not today, not with the way America’s economy and society are currently structured.”

She floated a grab bag of potential solutions, from a female US president to more family-friendly working hours and encouraging young men “to act more like the women – to speak less and listen more.”

She also hailed Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg for acknowledging knocking off work at 5.30 pm to have dinner with her family rather than enslave herself to the “time macho” culture of many US workplaces.

No one expected Slaughter to resolve the issue once and for all, but her essay has touched off a firestorm since it appeared last Thursday both online and in the print version of The Atlantic with a cover photo of a baby in a briefcase.

According to The Atlantic (www.theatlantic.com), “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” is among its most popular articles ever, on a par with the recent “How Your Cat is Making You Crazy” (about feline parasites and human brains).

It has garnered more “likes” on Facebook than any other Atlantic piece (more than 157 000 as of yesterday ) – although it has failed to make an apparent impact on the November presidential election campaigns.

“Absolutely wonderful ... As a 21-year-old woman, it is the most encouraging thing I have read all year,” wrote New York blogger Tala Azar Strauss on Slaughter’s Twitter account (@SlaughterAM).

But some of the reaction on a variety of blogs, social media and the Atlantic’s own website has been critical, if not downright catty.

“Slaughter ... wants to be in a high-powered job and also at home making pancakes and doing school pick-up in another city,” said author Lori Gottlieb in a blog on The Atlantic’s website.

“And merely because she wants this so badly ... she believes she deserves it.”

“Seriously, you live the life you choose,” added an on-line comment-writer who identified herself - or maybe himself - as “pjs1965” beneath a Washington Post article about Slaughter’s article.

“Those who choose to have children (and it is a choice) and have the need to work full-time have to wake up to reality. And having this thing called a ‘career’ isn’t all it’s cracked up to be either.”

As director of policy planning from 2009 to 2011, Slaughter oversaw the State Department’s internal think tank and reported to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whom she holds up as a personal role model.

Slaughter – photographed inside the print version of The Atlantic smiling on a sofa with her two boys lying in her arms, one twirling drum sticks – candidly admits her lifestyle as a tenured professor at a world-famous university and author of a forthcoming book is out of the norm.

“I am writing for my demographic,” she said, rather than the majority of American mothers with far less glamorous jobs, or none at all. She has almost nothing to say about women in other countries.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.