Anne-Marie Slaughter, the best-selling author and former White House advisor, says the gender revolution is stuck at a halfway point because society has not been willing to address the roles of men.
Professor Slaughter, who famously penned an article under the heading “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All”, told Lateline that women have been liberated from their traditional roles but the same has not been done for men.
“You can’t change the roles of women dramatically and say you can now be like your father and do what men traditionally did and not equally change the role of men, because you get stuck,” she said.
Professor Slaughter was the first woman appointed to the role of director of policy planning at the US State Department, a job that meant she lived in Washington during the week and commuted home to Princeton on weekends.
After several years of trying to balance a demanding job and the needs of her family – particularly a rebellious son – Professor Slaughter quit and returned to a role at Princeton University.
When she penned the “Can’t Have It All” article for The Atlantic in 2012, she was criticised by sections of the feminist movement for betraying the cause.
Professor Slaughter, now the president of the New America foundation, spoke to Lateline about what has changed since her original article was published.
We still treat our sons differently to our daughters
“I looked at my sons and I thought, you know if I’d had daughters, I’d be raising them completely differently than my mother was raised. I’d be raising them to have a career but also to invest time in their families. But my sons were still being raised the way my father was raised.
We still tell our sons, your role in life is to have a career and support a family. We women still expect our sons to be breadwinners even as we ourselves understand that we need to do both.
We have to change the way we treat the men in our life.”
Men need their own revolution
“We’ve liberated women essentially to be men, to do the work that men have traditionally done, and in the process we’ve devalued the work that women traditionally did; the work of care, the work of nurturing. You can’t have a halfway revolution.
You can’t change the roles of women dramatically and say you can now be like your father and do what men traditionally did and not equally change the role of men, because you get stuck.
We now have to focus somewhat paradoxically on men and on valuing that work of care, whether women or men do it.”
We need to support ‘strong, confident men’
“We need to be able to look at a man who has a career, who has a set of goals, but who also says my family is going to come first and see him as a strong confident man who’s willing to break gender stereotypes.
Those men are pioneers, just as much as Germaine Greer or Betty Friedan or Gloria Steinem were pioneers.”
“In the United States, childcare for two children costs more than rent in all 50 states. This is where you need public policy solutions as well as workplace solutions. I am among a very narrow band of privileged women who buy our way out of these problems.
If we focus on care, what we’re saying is that the government has to provide an infrastructure of care, just like you’d provide bridges or ports or broadband. That allows all couples or all parents to have access to paid leave and a high quality childcare and increasingly, elder care.
She wanted to retitle the “Can’t Have It All” article
I never meant to tell women that [they still can’t have it all]. I would have loved to have retitled the article because what I thought I was saying was why women still can’t have it all, meaning, here are the changes we have to make so that women can have the same options as men.
I now try and get away from the whole not having it all conversation because it’s not useful, it makes women sound selfish, it just isn’t a good way to go, but to say we still have a lot of changes we need to make until we get to full gender equality, I think that is self evident.