Anne-Marie Slaughter, a former aide to Hillary Clinton, looks back on her 18 months at the State Department in the current issue of The Atlantic, and comes to a contentious conclusion: Women still can’t have it all.
Slaughter lays the blame for her conundrum squarely at the door of feminism, saying the movement misled women into believing that they could have a high-powered career and a family. Slaughter’s manifesto quickly became the most-read article in the history of The Atlantic’s website, and has sparked lengthy responses across the internet. Here are some of the most notable:
1. Feminists don’t claim that “women can have it all”
Slaughter’s entire premise is a straw man, says Maha Atal at Forbes. The feminist movement never promised women “the ability to have a completely unencumbered, full-time career and a completely involved, cook-dinner-every-day experience of motherhood without making any compromises.” The “have it all” concept “was the brainchild of advertising executives, not feminist activists,” says Stephanie Coontz at CNN.
2. Besides, “having it all” is an impossible standard
“We should immediately strike the phrase ‘have it all’ from the feminist lexicon and never, ever use it again,” says Rebecca Traister at Salon. “It is a trap, a setup for inevitable feminist shortfall.” The “have it all” mindset “sets an impossible bar for female success, and then ensures that when women fail to clear it, it’s feminism — as opposed to persistent gender inequity — that’s to blame.”
3. Men would also struggle in Slaughter’s position
Slaughter’s job at the State Department was so demanding that she suddenly has an easier go of it by falling back to being a full-time Princeton professor who writes books and gives 40 to 50 speeches a year,says Coontz. Really, her grueling government career would be “incompatible with family obligations and pleasures for men as well as for women.”