Saturday, June 23, 2012

Have You Read This?

No matter whether you consider yourself a feminist or feel that the feminist movement doesn't speak to you at all, "Why Women Still Can't Have it All" by Anne-Marie Slaughter in The Atlantic is a fascinating article. Slaughter addresses the changing attitudes regarding work and motherhood and how far we still need to go to become family-friendly in the workplace.

She has much to say regarding the lack of women in high-power positions and why many women choose family over career. Some of my favorite quotes from the article:

" do seem more likely to choose their job at a cost to their family, while women seem more likely to choose their family at a cost to their job."

"When I described the choice between my children and my job to Senator Jeanne Shaheen, she said exactly what I felt: "There's really no choice." She wasn't referring to social expectations, but to a maternal imperative felt so deeply that the "choice" is reflexive."

"Why should we want leaders who fall short on personal responsibilities? Perhaps leaders who invested time in their own families would be more keenly aware of the toll their public choices - on issues from war to welfare - take on private lives."

"Workers who put their careers first are typically rewarded; workers who choose their families are overlooked, disbelieved, or accused of unprofessionalism."

"No parent would mistake child care for childhood."

These quotes, of course, are all taken out of context here, so it's hard to get a sense of the article.

Slaughter comes down squarely on the side of family and supporting women (and men) who decide to make time for family a priority in their lives. She doesn't address the tired stay-at-home mom vs. working mom argument, but instead explains why many women pick careers that are not on the fast track and why they take time out of the work force for family. 

The truth is, parenting is a hands-on job. You can't do it if you're not present. So many articles on feminism and women's careers completely ignore children's needs as irrelevant and mock women that choose family first. This is the first article I've read on the issue that says it's important and valid to choose family, while also respecting the fact that many mothers have to work outside (or inside) the home to make ends meet. Perhaps it's not women that need to change, but feminism and societal expectations.

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