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Anne-Marie Slaughter: Can Women–and Men–Have it All?

Anne-Marie Slaughter speaks on the need for government to encourage local, self-organizing social action, rather than excessive strategizing

“Let’s make the feminist revolution, a humanist revolution. As whole human beings we will be better caregivers and breadwinners…the revolution for human equality is happening…how far and how fast is up to us.”

In the Ted Talk below, Slaughter expands her ideas and explains why shifts in work culture, public policy, and social mores can lead to more equality—for men, women, all of us.

You may think that the privileging of work over family is only an American problem. Sadly, though, the obsession with work is no longer a uniquely American disease.”

Career-wise things were shaping up for her. She was offered a larger job on public policy, but she suddenly realized that she needed to be there for her son who she was afraid wasn’t making enough good choices. She felt she needed to be there for the last five years that they were there. She turned down the job. “The woman I thought I was would have said yes,” she says.

She knows now her decision was the right one, but it was still a hard one.

“Think about it, breadwinning and caregiving are equally necessary for human survival. At least if we get beyond a barter economy, someone has to earn an income and someone else has to convert that income into care and sustenance for loved ones. Now most of you when you hear me talk about breadwinning and caregiving instinctively translate that into men’s work and women’s work and we don’t stop to question why the men’s work is advantaged.”

Juggling work and family aren’t women’s problems, they’re family problems.”

“Millions of men and women have to be both breadwinners and caregivers. If breadwinning and caregiving are really equal then why shouldn’t a government invest as much in an infrastructure of care for a healthy society as it does for physical infrastructure as the backbone of a successful economy. The governments that get it–no surprises here–Norway, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, provide universal childcare, support for caregivers at home, school and early childhood education, protections for pregnant women, and care for the elderly and disabled.”

Those governments that invest in infrastructure the same way they invest in roads, bridges, and tunnels trains. Those societies also show you that breadwinning and caregiving reinforce each other. They routinely rank among the top 15 countries of the most globally competitive economies. But at the same time they rank very high on the OECD better life index. In fact, they rank higher than other governments like the U.S. or Switzerland that have higher average levels of income but lower rankings on work-life balance.”

Really it’s men who don’t have the fundamental choice to be either a breadwinner or a caregiver, as women now do. Men still have (the need) to prove their (self) worth by providing. A woman is not necessarily viewed differently (or attractively) whether she provides income or not.

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