having it all

Eight Things We Learned on Anne-Marie Slaughter’s Lecture Circuit

Photo: Denise Applewhite/Princeton University/AP Images

This week in midtown, Anne-Marie Slaughter of the Atlantic’s meme-a-licious “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” sat down with Salon’s Rebecca Traister to discuss the very topic. Sponsored by the New America Foundation, approximately 60 women — with flexible enough schedules to allow for a two-hour lunch — and at least one male Norwegian social scientist gathered over Diet Cokes and veggie sandwiches for heady conversation to watch Traister interview Slaughter. Between their conversation and our own chat with Slaughter, we learned the following:

1. Honestly, They Were Just Selling Magazines
“The Atlantic and I went back and forth about the title,” Slaughter said. “I really wanted to call it ‘You Can’t Have It All Yet,’ but they thought that was a little too close to ‘The End of Men,’ and they had already been publishing stuff like that. So we went back and forth and I agreed on the ‘still’ because I thought ‘you still can’t have it all’ would communicate that, ultimately, you can. In the first place, it didn’t. And most people leave that ‘still’ out, so I’ve inadvertently become a poster woman for the idea that’s you can’t have it all, which is exactly the opposite of what I was trying to do.” (Her forthcoming book on the topic won’t use “having it all” in the title.) “I was saying women can do it, but we’ve got to make changes,” she told the Cut.

2. Marissa Mayer Can Have It All
“I am routinely, now, for instance, cast in opposition to Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Mayer,” Slaughter told the Cut. “Are you kidding me?” [Editor: Heh.] “I am cheering for any woman who makes it to the top,” she continued. “This is not a debate between people who think women can’t do it, and people who think women can. It’s a debate about how. And it’s about what we need to do for men, too.”

3. Hillary Clinton Can Have It All in 2016
Though she hasn’t spoken to her former employer about 2016, Slaughter suspects Clinton would make a “fabulous” president. What about Hillary’s work-life balance? “She commuted back and forth to see her husband every weekend, but she’s at a point in her life where she would give her all to the presidency just as much as any man would.” No whining here.

4. We Could Use a Fatherhood TV Network (Starring Ben Affleck?)
“If we could only do for fatherhood what we’ve done for cooking,” Slaughter quipped. “Once cooking became something guys did it became, you know, part of being a talented guy. If we could somehow shift that norm, because I think we have shifted it around cooking.” (Other solutions: paid family leave, daycare, and flex time.)

5. Anne-Marie Slaughter Is Still a Feminist
“I think of myself as an ardent feminist,” she told Traister. “I see myself as calling for the next round of change.”

6. Millennials Love Her
“Pretty much anybody under 35 is almost uniformly positive. They are grateful, they are positive, they want to have this debate,” she told the Cut. “Anybody over 35 — and certainly, I’m almost 55, so 55 and up, really — very different response. I meet older women, and their jaws tighten. I meet younger women and they greet me with open arms.”

7. Maybe We Ask About Female Happiness Too Often
“We are constantly taking women’s temperatures in terms of how happy they are, post-liberation, and then we are inevitably dissatisfied for very real reasons or for more minor reasons,” Traister noted. “It is inevitably then used against us to say, ‘See? it hasn’t made us happier.’ And I don’t feel we’ve done the same type of testing for men, ‘Are you happy? Are you happy now? Are you super happy?’ For men and women there is gonna be a degree to which, when more doors open up and we have more choices in front of us, there’s going to be more regret. If we continue to measure liberation on a happiness meter we are for being constantly hit over the head with how liberation has made is deeply unhappy.” 

8. Tomorrow, Try Doing This
“Talk about the fact you have kids, and when you make the tradeoffs for kids, you are very open about it,” she advised the audience. “Ask for what you need. And the last thing I would say is it is about expectations. Why should the career track be straight up, and why shouldn’t we incorporate our personal lives as an important factor of who we are, when in the workplace?” 

Eight Lessons From Anne-Marie Slaughter’s Talk