The Atlantic Tells Us Why Women Can’t “Have It All” and What We Should Do About It

It’s possible that at some point, recently or in the past few months, you’ve taken a good, hard look at your life and realized you don’t have everything you wanted to by this time. Maybe you don’t have a full-time job, or a long-term partner, or kids, or maybe you have loan debt so crushing that achieving any of the former three things feels impossible. The much talked-about piece by Anne-Marie Slaughter in the latest issue of the Atlantic purports that this is perhaps, in part, because you are a woman. And women just can’t have it all.

To be perfectly honest, my first instinct upon reading Slaughter’s piece was “this was not written for me.” Not in a way that means I rejected it, but that it seems to address a demographic of which I am at best on the fringe of. It wouldn’t be the first time — some of the Atlantic’s other articles on The Modern Woman have included “Marry Him! The case for settling for Mr. Good Enough,” and “All the Single Ladies,” which while a fascinating piece to read focused largely on when and how to settle down with a man. Neither concern is particularly relevant to me or my community. And while reading Slaughter’s piece, and trying to digest her argument that she was let down by the “feminist credo” that women can “have it all,” I felt the same sense of disconnect. I was raised largely by a working single mother who sometimes didn’t make it home from work til 8 pm on school nights; at no point did I ever hold to be true the notion that, as Slaughter says, someone in that position could work enough to support a family while simultaneously being “the kind of parent [she] wanted to be.” Slaughter’s job was the director of policy planning at the State Department; while it’s an undeniably high-pressure job that takes long hours, for women who work more than one job, or for minimum wage, or nights and weekends, and especially those who don’t have a co-parent at home, the idea that anyone could possibly “have it all” in terms of perfect parenting may seem at best dubious and at worst ludicrous to even entertain. 

But while there’s perhaps an issue of the type of work in terms of parsing this article, there’s also an interesting question of generation gap. Slaughter writes:

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.

As a woman of a different generation, I was taken aback, because while I didn’t pursue the same career path as Slaughter and perhaps wasn’t given the same feminist advice, I had never thought of feminism as a voice telling me I could “have it all.” Just the opposite, in fact. If I had to name a credo, it might be more like “You can’t have it all, or even have very much at all, because of systemic oppression and intersecting patterns of marginalization, including the patriarchy. And it’s going to stay that way unless we work to fix it.”  Which is not to criticize Slaughter or her generation, but to note that the conversation around what it means to “have it all” and women’s needs is constantly changing, and it’s worth constantly asking ourselves what happiness and fulfillment really look like to us, and how feminism can be a tool for achieving those things.

When the Atlantic’s caption asks (as it does in the online version) “Have feminists sold young women a fiction?” the answer would seem to be a resolute no; as Rebecca Traister at Salon writes, feminism functions as an answer to the problem of women being tasked with an impossible number of social roles and responsibilities, not the cause of it. If we’re not happy with every part of our lives, personally or professionally or emotionally, it’s not because feminism failed us. Instead, feminism can be what gives us license to examine why we’re not happy, and then take charge of pursuing our happiness, whatever it is.

Whether or not one is able to personally relate to Slaughter’s life and family, she spends a great deal of time outlining what changes she feels are necessary to the modern workplace for women to be able to be “both the parent and the professional [they want] to be.” They include making sure that “women are equally represented in the ranks of corporate executives and judicial leaders,” making school schedules and general work schedules more compatible, more flexible options for working from home, more expansive corporate family policies (with a more expansive definition of “family”), and perhaps most importantly, reframing our concepts of “parenting” such that women are caregivers and men are economic providers.

This last point is an interesting one. Obviously, it’s not the answer to work-life balance for same-sex couples, who have to negotiate the same compromises about parenting as straight couples without relying on rigid gender roles. But while Slaughter’s article talks mainly about women’s relationship with work and family, it becomes clear that not being able to “have it all” isn’t unique to women.

 Bronnie Ware, an Australian blogger who worked for years in palliative care and is the author of the 2011 book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, writes that the regret she heard most often was “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” The second-most-common regret was “I wish I didn’t work so hard.” She writes: “This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship.”

The problem Slaughter is writing about is that of women giving up professional dreams to raise a family, but when examined closely, it doesn’t seem like the men in her equation have necessarily come out ahead. They’re just giving up the opposite thing. And if Bronnie Ware is right, they may end up regretting it even more. As Jezebel puts it, it turns out that no one, regardless of gender, can have it all. So while there’s certainly an issue of a male-centered professional world in which it’s hard for women to succeed if they’re not willing to give up the family commitment that men are expected to, there’s also an issue of gender essentialism being harmful to everyone. Which seems like more of a confirmation of the precepts of feminism than proof against its “credo.”

The problem Slaughter is looking at — how to be fully present for your family while at the same time providing for them — is a real one, especially in economic times when even being able to provide is often difficult. And she’s correct in arguing that sweeping changes about how we treat workers, how we treat women, and how we treat families are necessary. Possibly no one is as aware of this as queer families, who have always had to fight for recognition and for their families to exist at all. But as many (and Slaughter herself) have pointed out, even this quandary is possible because of the progress others have made before us. And in considering this issue, we’re not failing them or failing future generations; we’re also making progress, in fits and starts, for women to have happier lives, and for American families of all kinds to be better off.

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Rachel is Autostraddle's Senior Editor and the editor who presides over books and news & politics coverage. Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy."

Rachel has written 760 articles for us.

31 Comments

  1. Thumb up 6

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    I’d hate to admit this, but I’ve been disappointed by some of the articles on AS the last couple of weeks for their lack of research and use of assumptions that I would not normally tolerate for a website that I use as a source of news. However, this article has restored my faith in AS. It represents the absolutely fantastic commentary that I’ve come to expect from this website. Thank you so much, Rachel!

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      hey-o! to be 100% honest, our content wasn’t always up to our own standards earlier this month; for about two weeks we were desperately short-staffed (and short two editors) and although i’m proud of what rachel & i and many of our writers were able to accomplish under the circumstances, we were likely just as aware as you were that everything wasn’t as amazing as usual. i mention this at all because i want y’all to know that if you ever perceive a “decline,” it’s rarely an endless downward slope or a harbinger of bad things to come, but rather just part of the ups and downs inherent in running a business of this nature… our eyes remain open, i promise. anyhow, i’m glad you like rachel’s piece and i love it too!

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    Very good. Over all I wasn’t too impressed with the atlantic piece, and I think you make several good points.

    I really get tired after awhile, of the media talking about the failures, and or, death of feminism. What exactly is the alternative to it? Just because things get rough, we should maybe quit fighting to make the world fairer and more equal for everyone? Everything’s always a work in progress.

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    As someone said on the internet this week (it’s 2am here; my brain is tired) the whole debate around women having it all becomes much easier to understand once you realise “having it all” is code for “having the opportunities men have”.

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    There are so many problems with this article, one cannot begin to articulate all of the things that are flying in my head right now. You’d think I had a case of Tourette’s syndrome, but I’ll try to make it short and hopefully coherent.

    I don’t and cannot relate to Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article at all, probably because I don’t have dreams of a family nor do I have professional dreams of being a corporate slave (that’s not a dream, that’s a fucking nightmare to me, but hey, to each their own). Her “problem” is just that, her problem, it’s not universal and it speaks to a specific demographic and mindset. “Having it all” depends on what you value as an individual. Personally, the things Anne-Marie Slaughter values, is the complete opposite of what I value. I have it all and I didn’t have to balance work or family to do it and it is BECAUSE OF FEMINISM that makes it so, among other things. She also has a view of feminism that I don’t share.

    I do not understand people who look toward ideologies, credo’s, a generation, leaders and so forth as this sort of “God” where they put all their dreams in one basket and look to this specific thing as their saving grace. Then, when that thing or “saving grace” fails them, it must be that ideology, credo, generation, or leader who is the problem, surely it’s not them or their mindset, or their own choices they made! Noooooo, couldn’t be that! Yep, let’s not be accountable for the choices we make or the illusions we believe in (in this particular context), let’s put the scapegoat on feminism or some other ism that’s trendy at the moment, FOREVER ALONE IN OUR PRIVILEGE! Then we can say, “Woe is me, feminism didn’t give me everything I wanted, wahh wahh wahh!” Meanwhile, you have food on the table as you (Anne-Marie Slaughter) write this article (BECAUSE OF FEMINISM), you live in a country that has a lot more options than other countries (BECAUSE OF FEMINISM) and when you thought about conceiving, it probably didn’t dawn on you how lucky you were that you didn’t live in some Afrikan diaspora where statistics for low birth rates are the norm, due to basic needs not being met, medical and or otherwise. Oh and did I mention that this article SCREAMS of privilege? Now, I’m not the type of person to have a pissing contest especially when it comes to privilege because I think those arguments are cyclical, but the voice from Alice in The L Word kept going, “Really Papi? Is this a joke?” Yep, this article fell on deaf ears. The fat lady may be singing, but I don’t hear shit because the kid who is made of skin and bones, who barely has enough body fat to keep him or herself alive is crying a lot louder.

    P.S. – How do I bold a word or italicize it? Do I use [ b ] [ /b] & [i] & [/i]? The words I capitalized were not meant to be “shouted,” but rather highlighted if only I knew how to bold and or italicize the words. Thanks in advance!

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      I think she addresses in the article that she’s writing from a place of extreme privilege, and writing about women who are working in pretty elite positions.

      Yes, she has food on the table, yes, she has a tenured position at a very prestigious university. That doesn’t discount what she’s saying.

      Women have a harder time getting and staying in high-powered jobs than men do. That is a practical problem. It has an impact on what America decides to do about starving children and low birthrates.

      Maybe her article didn’t speak to you. Maybe it’s not about you. Does it have to be?

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        “I think she addresses in the article that she’s writing from a place of extreme privilege, and writing about women who are working in pretty elite positions.”

        Yes, she does, but I also found it really ironic too.

        “Yes, she has food on the table, yes, she has a tenured position at a very prestigious university. That doesn’t discount what she’s saying.”

        It doesn’t discount it for you perhaps, but it did for me, but then again that’s based on how you relate to her, which of course I did not.

        “Women have a harder time getting and staying in high-powered jobs than men do. That is a practical problem. It has an impact on what America decides to do about starving children and low birthrates.”

        This isn’t my issue because not every woman wants to be in a high-powered job, nor do you have to be in a high-powered job to feed your kids. Apples and oranges here. I believe she uses this as an excuse, for the choices she perhaps now regrets, etc. Feminism doesn’t get in the way of feeding your kids (which she seems to use as a scapegoat), we had food before we had feminism.

        “Maybe her article didn’t speak to you. Maybe it’s not about you. Does it have to be?”

        This article didn’t speak to my experiences, true enough, however I have a problem when she is addressing one specific gender, in this case women as a whole and stating some of the things she states, then coming from a very specific perspective to make it look like it’s all encompassing, when in all actuality it’s coming from a very narrow perspective. It is my belief that the article was poorly written and had she taken into account other factors, perhaps I wouldn’t have responded. Maybe she should of re-worded her article, “Why I chose the circus and how I balanced my family on a tight-rope, while having a demanding career that I (consciously) chose and how feminism got in the way of that because it told me that I could breast feed on that tight rope and eat a cupcake too and other elite position tidbits.” I mean really? This article rubbed me the wrong way.

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          “This isn’t my issue because not every woman wants to be in a high-powered job, nor do you have to be in a high-powered job to feed your kids.”

          True, but what are the consequences of structuring the U.S. power elite in such a way that women and their diverse needs are largely absent from the halls of government and corporate power? Or people of color? Or queers? Women like this one. Who is there merely for herself. And so long as that is the price of admission, the quality of life is not going to improve for most of us. It may not be you and it may not be me, but there are going to have to be better high powered women around, and that means MORE women, from more diverse backgrounds, not less, in these positions. I’m not sure it’s a good idea to dust your hands and say, “I don’t want the same things as her so this doesn’t matter to me.”

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          “True, but what are the consequences of structuring the U.S. power elite in such a way that women and their diverse needs are largely absent from the halls of government and corporate power? Or people of color? Or queers?”

          This is a huge question, which can be tackled from different angles, it depends on what you mean by “diverse needs,” as not everyone’s needs are the same or even equal within the same gender, especially when you account for people of color, queers, class, etc. You have to get a little more specific here, it’s too broad of a question.

          “Women like this one. Who is there merely for herself.”

          She said so herself that she had certain privileges and options within the confines of her position in the article. She hasn’t risen above the power structure that she speaks of, she became apart of the power structure by blending into it, thinking that’s what feminism is all about. No matter how “diverse” high positions are, whether they have 23532532 women to 4 men, what good do “numbers” do, when once they get to those high positions, they merely imitate the very people, behaviors and structures they are detesting and trying to change?

          “And so long as that is the price of admission, the quality of life is not going to improve for most of us. It may not be you and it may not be me, but there are going to have to be better high powered women around, and that means MORE women, from more diverse backgrounds, not less, in these positions.

          By “quality of life,” what exactly do you mean here? I’m not arguing for less or more women in these positions, I honestly do not care about these types of positions because I think these types of positions do not equate to success, from my perspective. If anything, it merely imitates what men are doing, “we” are merely shadowboxing in the shadows of men, hoping for that prize fight. For whatever reason, some people believe that these high powered positions equate to success in the guise of, “Look ma, anything you can do, I can do better, I can do anything, better than you, no you can’t, yes I can… etc.” It becomes a pissing contest and I ask this question, why are some women trying to compare themselves to men? Why is the bar set in accordance to what men can do? Fuck the men, why don’t we create our own standards and raise our own bar according to women, or more importantly according to us as individuals according to our own personal needs and values? Yes, I realize that part of the answer to this question deals with the power structure, but why keep harping on that, when those of you who can (in these high powered positions), can get beyond that? This is the bigger picture that I see and live, which Anne-Marie Slaughter fails to address. She compares her high powered position in accordance to men instead, then equates that as a problem for women under the scope of feminism, when it is not a problem for all women, just her and a select few. That is the problem I have with Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article. I do not put my faith in these power structures personally and I don’t see them as my “saving grace,” whereas Anne-Marie Slaughter seems to see it as such, then wonders why it’s not working out the way she thought, thus it must be feminism, when I think she’s doing it wrong.

          “I’m not sure it’s a good idea to dust your hands and say, “I don’t want the same things as her so this doesn’t matter to me.”

          Why is it not a good idea to say I don’t want the same things as her, when it’s true? Her idea of success, values, and dreams are not the same as mine, therefore I have every right to state that they do not matter to me because they simply don’t. Anne-Marie Slaughter does not speak for me, nor can anyone tell me what I should and should not value. If you cannot see the irony of that alone then I don’t know what to say.

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          I haven’t read the full Atlantic article because there is something about the tone that I found a bit eh, but I do think that what she is talking about has serious impacts for all women.

          While I acknowledge that the pressures that she faces that led her to choose to give up a role in the political elite for a role in the academic elite aren’t great, I don’t particularly care about them for her sake. People have to make hard choices all the time in much worse situations than she is in, so she doesn’t get very much sympathy from me for that. However, I do care about how the existence of these pressures have, for whatever reason, shaped the power structure in this country.

          Having women in powerful positions won’t by itself fix this country. I’m very happy that Joe Biden is our veep instead of Sarah Palin, and that Mitt Romney is the Republican nominee over Michele “I believe gay people can be cured” Bachmann.

          But I have a hard time believing that female legislators would censure someone for using the word “vagina” in a debate about abortion and then compare the action to putting a child in time out, would make as strong as a push to de-fund Planned Parenthood as is currently happening, or that a female campaign adviser would refer to reproductive autonomy and funding for pap smears as “shiny objects.” Personally, I would greatly prefer if the people making rules about how to treat my vagina had vaginas.

          Slaughter’s personal life story and difficulties don’t matter to me because it doesn’t affect me. The discussion about the basis of the power dynamic in this country matters to me because it affects me in more ways than I can really imagine.

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          I understand what you are saying and I agree with the points you make, however I disagree about the way in which those points can be addressed via the political power structures. I don’t think nor believe that “real” progressive changes are plausible in the political spectrum, thus I don’t put my faith in them (as I stated a little earlier).

          For every step forward, there is a step backward and for every step backward there is a step forward, that’s how I see the political spectrum, it’s a dance of tango where the men lead. It reminds me of that movie Jumanji (apologies if you do not get the reference), where once you start playing the game, you have to keep playing because you’re “locked” into it. Essentially what you have, is people playing this game and going in circles, thinking they have progressed, when really the “progress” is merely shifting power from one group of people to the next, ad infinitum. These people are really no different from each other, they are two extremes of the same coin, but you (and a large majority of the populace) believe these “extremes” are “different,” when I believe they are all the same. It’s like being on a carousel, yeah, you’re moving, but you aren’t excelling forward, you’re going in circles chasing each other’s tail because you are imitating the whole power dynamics. I want to see women (and individuals) get off the carousel, get off the “ride” and say fuck it all together and shift their power into new territories, then perhaps, I can relate, but I don’t and I know that I have a very minority perspective on this matter, but that’s what it is, in a nutshell.

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    my initial reaction was also pretty much, ‘this article is not written for me.’ I was surprised by how many female friends of mine, both gay and straight, seemed to identify with it, though none of them have kids. I feel like parenting philosophy is the crux of the issue, more so than gender roles/feminism. I mean, you cannot realistically take a job in another state, several hours away, and expect to reconcile that with your wish to be around your kid at all times. I get that her son was having a difficult adolescence, but I wasn’t persuaded by how her constant presence (when her husband was there a lot of the time) would have resolved the son’s problems.

    myself, I was a latch key kid, and both my parents had white collar careers that kept them at work a lot of the time. but guess what, I moved back home after undergrad and again after grad school, so we totally have spent enough time together by now! seriously though, you can absolutely be a great parent without being around constantly, though it’s important to recognize that kids, esp teenagers, are their own people and you can only do so much to control their behavior. I think that if “having it all” means taking a job out of state and ALSO being around your kids all the time, then duh, you cannot have it all. but there is definitely a middle ground in between, so I was not impressed with the nihilistic, ‘feminism has failed’ line of reasoning.

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      This is a really good point — people seem to assume that how good a parent you are = how many hours of the day that you’re at home. I do think it’s a shame when parents don’t see their kids at ALL when they’re growing up, because of work schedules etc., but I know a lot of stay-at-home parents who were still emotionally distant and didn’t do a great job of connecting with their kids, and working parents who did a wonderful job, and MOST parents who fell somewhere in the middle…That’s a different issue, obviously, but I do think a lot of the viewpoints expressed in this article were a little naive and oversimplified in that way, like she was struggling to come to absolute judgements about something that doesn’t quite work that way (like you mentioned, the whole ‘feminism has failed’ thing is case in point).

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    well, like you, I don’t know what “having it all” means. But in at least one recent study quoted by the NYT, the number of women conceiving around age 40 or after 40 had gone up over 50 percent. I think this rash of “you can’t have it all” articles (this isn’t the only one to crop up in the last few weeks), are panicked responses to that trend, as if an article would have an effect anyway. Because of discrimination in the workplace women have to have more schooling for a position resembling one a man gets (assuming they’re even in a position where going to college on loans for years is even feasible, and increasingly it’s not for many), so they have more debt, and it takes them longer to fully be absorbed into the workforce. So inevitably many get partners or marry or conceive later, often with degrees…leading to these shrill, dumb columnists screaming about women “trying to have it all,” when it was their own dumb discriminatory shit that started it in the first place.

    And like you say, the women and their families actually living this know that it isn’t the plum everyone thinks it is, they might get gouged like hell for child care (it’s a BIG IF in affordability) and pretty much live in terror at their 50-80 hour a week job, lest they look at all like a mommy. Women are somehow always fucked.

    And then you have this fool who was in the halls of power, as a planner no less (I know, State), who may have even had the ear of a president or cabinet member or two, and who did not even think about this trend as something she could take up, or advocate changes for. Nor apparently did she ask, “if this is MY situation, what is the situation of women NOT affluent and well connected?”

    I’ll shut up now because I have a lot of feelings about this topic because I was raised by a single mother. I don’t want kids, but I have serious feelings about this.

    There’s a new book out, Twilight of the Elites, that discusses the failure of the American leadership class to plan for its people, and the equal failures of the few elite “minorities” (women are at that high level) to effect changes either. This lady brought that book to mind.

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    “If we’re not happy with every part of our lives, personally or professionally or emotionally, it’s not because feminism failed us. Instead, feminism can be what gives us license to examine why we’re not happy, and then take charge of pursuing our happiness, whatever it is.”

    these two sentences are really doin it for me. thankyouthankyou for articulating why i know that it’s not about feminism letting me down, it’s about the patriarchy. IT’S ABOUT THE PATRIARCHY, MY FRIENDS. and i would also add that while it gives us license to examine our unhappiness, it also gives us tools. lots of ‘em from lots of different perspectives and we can pick them up and use them for different jobs, yanno? i guess what i’m getting at is that it is easy to talk about it as a monolithic thing when we only see it from a particular perspective (in the case of the atlantic article, it seems a fairly privileged one) but in fact there are many kinds of feminisms. <– obvs not my idea but i feel like it's relevant to reference here.

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    I haven’t read the original article, but by the sounds of it, I think I would have a problem with the author’s narrow perspective as many of the comments indicate. This is a great article on autostraddle addressing these issues! Thanks. It seems to me that the lesson here, for the Slaughter now and for younger generations of feminists in the future, is to make sure that you’re always challenging your beliefs and growing and changing and learning new ways of being feminist so that you don’t become alienated from younger generations and so that your feminism remains strong. If you can’t broaden and challenge your feminist thinking and beliefs, then it can’t be that strong in the first place.

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    I gave up reading Slaughter’s article because it got tediously long. I applaud her for stating clearly that she comes from a very privileged perspective, and frankly, I’ll probably become the demographic to which she is speaking.

    Now, (and I can’t believe I’m going to say this but), the Jezebel article perfectly sums up my frustration with the article.

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    I feel like what that era of feminism wanted to say, although the turn of phrase is awkward, was “you can have it _any_.” You don’t need to be stuck in the traditional domestic caretaker role – you can go do a different role if you want. But no one can have _all_ the roles!

    But then when women of that era tried to take on other roles, the caregiver expectations didn’t go away. And so in order to have an other role, they had to have all the roles! Which is pretty impossible and leads to that “second shift” stuff.

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        I think emilu purposefully said “that era of feminism,” meaning one specific (now past) time period, which is distinct from our current one for a number of ideological reasons (but could also just be considered a different generation, separated only by time). That’s how I read emilu’s comment anyway.
        Also can you elaborate on what you mean by “men do” have all the roles? Do individual men embody every single role? Or do you mean generally, as a gender, they span the whole spectrum of different work/family roles?

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    I also think part of the problem for Slaughter (and many of my/her generation) is that we bought into the promises of corporate sponsored feminism, or ads used to sell products, rather than feminism per se. I remember seeing this Enjoli ad growing up.

    I’m coming up on my 30th high school reunion and I bet if I polled the room, most of the women would remember that commercial. And have a thing or two to say about it’s realism. But if you saw those kinds of ads all the time in middle & high school, it’s not hard to see how one could mistake feminism for that, at least within a certain white, middle class demographic.

    My partner is 11 years ahead of me in school and is constantly amazed at the number of women I went to school with that are/were engineers. There was a significant shift in opportunities at the time that those kinds of ads capitalized on and I do think it had an effect on the expectations of many of us. Of course, life has a way of tempering those expectations but that doesn’t mean they weren’t there at some point.

    Wednesday is also Prince Spaghetti day and my bologna has a first name…

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    I don’t think you can have it all, at least not for long and happily, so you just have to pick which is most important to you and go for that. E.g. I think me having kids would be a bad idea because in order to parent them exceptionally you will have to make personal and/or professional sacrifices. I see how much time my mum has put into bringing up me and my brother and I don’t think it’s a trade-off I can do.

    Then again I am only 18 so who knows what will happen :)

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    I read this piece before the Atlantic article, and so I went to the original article expecting to be unimpressed. But I actually really liked it. I thought it was incredibly insightful, honest, and well-written. I’m a little disappointed in all the comments here and elsewhere from people who didn’t read the article, or only read a small part of it, and yet still feel qualified (even compelled?) to criticize it.

    Many of the criticisms have sounded surprisingly uninformed about the history of feminism. “Having it all” was, in fact, a large and important part of the discourse of 70s and 80s feminism. Slaughter points this out. She also recognizes that feminism is different now, and that women in their 20s see the world and the workplace differently from their mothers.

    She also recognizes her own privilege several times throughout the article, and she successfully straddles the line between a personal essay and a strong, well-researched, analytical article. So I don’t think it’s legit to criticize her just because her choice of topic (her experiences, her work environment) isn’t relatable to everyone. That’s the whole point. It’s about her.

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      I agree w/r/t Slaughter’s honesty and willingness to really open up about her own experience, question her own motives, values and ideas, all of which I found really impressive. Overall, I thought the article was really interesting, but…idk. I think my biggest criticism was that she couldn’t seem to decide whether to write a personal account or a manifesto. The parts of the article I enjoyed most were the stories of women she met and talked to, combined and contrasted with her own story. The second half-ish of the article I felt like I had to force myself to finish — the section headings made it seem like she had very clear, pithy suggestions for improvement, which wasn’t really the case. I think she’s still trying to think through the problem, and hasn’t really come to any well-developed solutions yet, but still wanted to offer some, and that part fell flat. Ultimately, I thought it should have been separated into two separate articles, especially if she actually wants lots of people to read and absorb her suggestions, which I thought should be rewritten in a much shorter, more to-the-point, strongly articulated style. Maybe this is too harsh, but she is a brilliant woman who was in a position of power in the white house and really did/does have the ability to speak up about these things.

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    Hmm I just read the Jezebel piece also and I think there might be disconnect between different readings of the phrase “have it all.” It seems like younger people/feminists (including myself, as a general rule), read it literally, and, being realistic and maybe cynical, say “obviously it’s impossible for any human to achieve everything they want in life without any sacrifices ever, you can’t just assume you’ll get/do/have every thing in the world.” But I think the generation of feminists in the 70s used “have it all” in a very specific, narrowly-defined sense, meaning “have children/a family and a career.” And THAT is what Slaughter is reacting to, I think, which is why she assumes every woman is struggling with the work/family balance that she mentions so many times. She doesn’t talk about women who might not want children or might not want a partner etc etc., and doesn’t really care to talk about other kinds of families, because those aren’t issues she cares about, really. I think maybe that’s why so many people on autostraddle (myself included) were sort of generally annoyed by the article, because it’s so focused on that one phrase, in a way that doesn’t really apply to a younger feminist’s view of the world and society? Idk, I could be totally wrong, but that’s how I saw it.

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