Among CS Lewis’s impressive collection of insightful quotes is one about resistance, “You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down.” I thought of the wind when I read Anne Marie Slaughter’s recent interview on leadership style.
As many might recall, Slaughter was a senior foreign policy expert under former-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She left the State Department for a professorship at Princeton, citing her need for more time flexibility for her family.
Not long after switching professions, she wrote what became one of the Atlantic’s most famous articles, Why Women Still Can’t Have It All. As a result, most women these days know her more, for better and for worse, as a woman who advises other women on life planning than a foreign policy expert (which should underscore a bitter failure of feminism—she is a woman who has succeeded in two traditional male-dominated fields but other women see her as an expert on still unsettled women’s issues).
In her few years of slowing down for her family and speaking on women’s life plans, she has learned this:
“I really see [issues of men and women and equality] now much more in terms not of discrimination against women but rather of not valuing the work that women have traditionally done, not valuing the work of care.”
As a housewife, I agree and welcome elite acknowledgement about this problem. I suspect that reframing feminist debates about equality as debates about caregiving will become more common, but not because Slaughter identified the problem. If society only required a herald then the names Sommers, Hymowitz, Hewlett, and Crittenden would be well known and women might have moved past the Have It All debate a decade ago.
Women born in the early 70’s, that is, women raised completely in the post-Second Wave mindset of careers without limits and delayed domesticity, are passing 40 years old. Many have young children or are trying to have children. Their parents are in their 70’s. Society will hear more about the lack of value granted to caregiving because more women like Slaughter—those who followed the career first, family later advice— are facing caregiving.
And so they have discovered the wind.