Finally, the dust has settled over Anne-Marie Slaughter’s controversial article in The Atlantic on why women can’t have it all. So the moment has come to stand back, get a grip and ask why such a firestorm occurred, and what it implies for the struggle for gender equity.
The situation begs for explanation, because neither the problems Slaughter described nor the solutions she proposed are in any way new. The facts are, in fact, frustratingly familiar. Her personal difficulties in reconciling a high-pressure position in the State Department with a family life in Princeton, N.J., are one more variation on a well-worn theme. An accomplished lawyer who recognizes that she can’t do everything well gives up the job. So, too, the correctives for work-family conflicts that Slaughter advocates have been on the feminist agenda for decades: quality day care, flexible schedules, less insistence on face time, more coordination between school and workplace schedules and more accommodation of interrupted career trajectories.