In case you missed it, Anne-Marie Slaughter, author of the controversial Atlantic piece “Women Still Can’t Have It All,” responded to her critics yesterday on the Atlantic’s website. In “The ‘Having It All’ Debate Convinced Me to Stop Saying ‘Having It All’,” Slaughter discusses the conversations her piece has sparked, some places where her article fell short, and the ways in which some of her critics are missing the point.
As the title suggests, Slaughter regrets using the phrase “having it all” and asked for some alternative suggestions:
For my generation, women who came of age in the 1970s and entered the workforce in the 1980s, “having it all” simply meant that women should be able to have both careers and families in the same measure and to the same degree that men do.
But I now see that thirty years later, when so many Americans have so little and so many men appear to be dissatisfied with their lot (judging by the number of responses that essentially say “men don’t have it all either,” a better and more accurate title for my article would have been “Why Working Mothers Need Better Choices to Be Able to Stay in the Pool and Make It to the Top.” (Not sure that would have been catchy enough to motivate over a million readers to read and debate it, however.)
So let’s find a better way to talk about these issues that will produce the honesty I believe we need and still encourage women and men to stay in the game and push for change. When I asked Rebecca Traister what hashtag she would suggest as an alternative to #havingitall, she came back with: #StumblingTowardParity, #PushingForBetter, #StillWorkingOnIt, #GuysThisIsYourProblemToo, #DemandingMoreForMoreOfUs, #Feminism.
This is not to say that Slaughter regrets her piece or has changed her mind. Far from it. She continues:
As much as reframing is needed, we cannot take our eyes off the central fact that motivated my decision to speak out. It is women who are leaving the career fast track in large numbers as they have children, which is why the pools of women for big leadership jobs are still distressingly small. So let’s start right there, by giving women the all-important flexibility they need to make their work and family work together. It is very striking that two very hostile attacks on my piece, by Linda Hirshman on this site and Katie Roiphe in the Financial Times, are both from women who are themselves academics and thus who have precisely the ability to manage their own schedules that made it possible for me to juggle work and family all the way up through a deanship and again today.
It’s a short, compelling read, and a good reminder that it is indeed possible to discuss controversial issues without name-calling, resorting to personal attacks, or being a jerk. Read the rest of Slaughter’s article here.