What’s wrong with this picture? Anne-Marie Slaughter is a professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton, and was formerly its Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. She is an academic, a foreign policy analyst, and a public commentator. Slaughter served as Director of Policy Planning for the U.S. State Department under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton from January 2009 until February 2011. She is an international lawyer and political scientist who has taught at the University of Chicago and Harvard University, and is a former president of the American Society of International Law. Anne-Marie has two sons. And while she worked at the State Department in Washington on weekdays, her husband, also a professor, took responsibility for the kids on weekdays. She just wrote an article that appears in the July/August issue of The Atlantic entitled “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.” Evidently, Professor Slaughter doesn’t believe she has it all.
We think that there is a fine line between having it all and having everything. There’s an old joke that goes like this:
A man takes his first-class seat next to a woman on a plane. They engage in conversation. He glances down at her hand for a moment and comments, “That’s some ring!”
“Do you like it?” she responds.
“I’ve never seen a gem that large.”
“That’s the Klopman diamond.”
“But it comes with a curse.”
“Really? What’s the curse?” He asks.
While Professor Slaughter worked in Washington for two years, her 14-year-old son, an eighth-grader, skipped homework, was disruptive in class, failed math, and was “tuning out any adult who tried to reach him,” periodically necessitating her dropping everything to hop a train back home to Princeton.
Slaughter appeared on last Tuesday’s PBS News Hour with two other guests, discussing the issues raised in her piece. And while she admits the article is aimed at a particular demographic – namely, “highly educated, well-off women who are privileged enough to have choices in the first place,” she acknowledges that millions of other working women face much more difficult life circumstances. These include single mothers, those trying to find work, and those whose spouses are unable to find jobs.
Ms. Slaughter makes the case that she wants women to have the opportunities for having it all the way men do. What she fails to understand is that men, too, rarely get to have it all. Let’s put the Brad Pittses and Angelina Jolies aside for the moment. They have it all, at least apparently, for the time being. What “normal” man gets to follow the career path he wants and have a wife who brings in an adequate income and gets to spend all the time he would like with his kids, hmmm?
Having kids is a choice. The world, as we point out in our book Enough of Us, does not need more of them. They threaten the ecology of our fragile globe as well as their very own sustainability. And for the most part, parents are not even sure why they wanted the kids they have. So if the people in Slaughter’s demographic decide to reproduce, work out the game plan before you go out on the field. Make sure you have a husband with an open mind. And whatever you do, don’t ever get divorced. Because if you do split, it’s going to throw both a monkey wrench and chewing gum into the works.
In the second installment of this post we will explore some of the criticisms of Professor Slaughter’s article.