July 19, 2012
How should a person be?
Late in June the Internet was possessed by one of its periodic tizzies, this time over an article in The Atlantic called “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” by Anne-Marie Slaughter, former Director of Policy Planning at the State Department, professor of international affairs at Princeton, and, as she makes a point of insisting, mother of two sons. Slaughter drew on her privileged experience to revisit the classic problem of balancing motherhood and career, suggesting that what’s needed is a package of European-style, family-friendly workplace reforms.
Though her argument was not terribly original, the response was visceral – amassing over a million views in just a few days, the article swiftly rose to become the most-visited in the magazine’s online history. Most of the debate was mired in the shallows, ripping on the “feminist-baiting” title and back-to-the-past cover image (a coy baby peeking out of a briefcase). Other critics misconstrued Slaughter as “blaming feminism” rather than patriarchy. A few marginalized voices cried that “having it all” depends on the have-nots hired as nannies and maids.