Last summer, I — like countless others — read Anne-Marie Slaughter’s “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All,” and had several reactions to it. Aside from the class and racial issues I had about Slaughter’s article, it did raise interesting questions about feminism and work. Slaughter had the opportunity of becoming a powerful woman leader, at the peak of a political career in Washington — but she gave it up to spend time with her kids (and, you know, remain a Princeton professor). At the time the article came out, I was interning at Beacon Press, a non-profit press that promotes equality. When talking about the article with my (wonderful) supervisor at the time, she commented, “Isn’t this a step backward?” Back at the birth of feminism, women were trapped in the housewife role and wanted real careers. Now Slaughter was claiming that women still couldn’t be the mothers they wanted while having these powerful careers? I saw my supervisor’s point.
Yet the past few months, I’ve been grappling with the conflict between feminism and my own desires. While I initially saw how Slaughter’s article could be anti-feminist, my recent struggle with feminist theory and my life have allowed me to better understand Slaughter’s claims. Feminist theory has fought against old ideas of what women can and cannot do — it has allowed women to join the workforce side-by-side with men. But feminism has now shaped what we expect a woman’s goals should be. It has created restrictions again on the definitions of a woman. Really, feminism should give women the freedom to choose their goals.
I am supposed to be one of the privileged and educated women Slaughter was addressing. But I didn’t come out with a powerful job — in fact, I’m still pretty lost as to what I would like to do. I really enjoyed my summer internship, but as it drew to a close, I had to face a looming question.
After my internship, where would I go?