Passionate discussions on what women have, or don’t have, or can’t have, have erupted online following the release of the July/August cover story in The Atlantic, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” written by Anne-Marie Slaughter. According to magazine spokeswoman Natalie Raabe, the magazine article has attracted more visitors to The Atlantic website in a 24-hour period than any magazine story the site has ever published. “Clicks were approaching 450,000 uniques” she said.
The tired old phrase about not having it all, belies the complex web of issues that make equality and power for American women so elusive. No wonder this story has taken off, coming on the heels of the onslaught of legislative battles across the nation, including the “vaginagate” uproar in Michigan. The repeated attacks on the “freedoms” women supposedly won in previous decades, makes the escalating economic and workplace issues all that more painful. If it is not obvious already, we have not really confronted the fundamental issue of what is thwarting equality for women in our society.
The heated debate all over the web including the New York Times and Salon, reveals the enormously difficult situation women find themselves in, whether they are accomplished policy advisers at the state department or young women looking ahead with hopes to create a full and balanced life. Women feel a deep dissatisfaction about their choices and encounter significant opposition to even modest change. And what of ordinary women’s choices, when the highly educated, wealthy, and privileged women, make their public pronouncements that it is not possible, and they have to “choose” to return home? Women in power are leaving in droves it seems. Slaughter writes:
“I am hardly alone in this realization. Michèle Flournoy stepped down after three years as undersecretary of defense for policy, the third-highest job in the department, to spend more time at home with her three children, two of whom are teenagers. Karen Hughes left her position as the counselor to President George W. Bush after a year and a half in Washington to go home to Texas for the sake of her family. Mary Matalin, who spent two years as an assistant to Bush and the counselor to Vice President Dick Cheney before stepping down to spend more time with her daughters, wrote: “Having control over your schedule is the only way that women who want to have a career and a family can make it work.”
When the highest-placed women of America, say that it is impossible, who is to blame? Is feminism really to blame, as Slaughter states, for promoting a fiction to the newest generation? (She states the young women feel assaulted by women her age and older.) Equality is proving much harder than we thought. It requires more than just a few well-placed women in high places. Women should be demanding our half of the sky. We are the 51%. Equality requires real representation.
American women have not managed to dislodge the stranglehold the male power elite and the unjust economic system has on our institutions. We have not been able to define our society, and that prevents the few women who manage to make it from remaining in the positions of power. This is true across the board, in all industries and in government. If we do not have the numbers, if we only have tokens, we can not define the economic problems and solutions in terms of how they impact women and their families, we do not have sufficient power to create the change that needs to be made. Slaughter concludes:
“Only when women wield power in sufficient numbers will we create a society that genuinely works for all women. That will be a society that works for everyone.”
I encourage my readers to join the critiques in the media. America needs your ideas on what equality really means. Now is the time to speak up, join hands, and get involved in sufficient numbers. What do you want that you cannot have right now? It is up to us to define the solutions, and no woman can do it alone.