We feel a lot of pressure to be everything to everyone, but what if we redefined feminism to focus less on workplace success?
No matter what your path, there’s this idea inherent in feminism that we should have it all, isn’t there? There’s this pressure to have a stellar career, a beautiful home, an active family and social life, and look good doing it. And it’s not good for us.
As a work-at-home mom balancing demanding freelance work with caring for my toddler while also trying to somehow still see friends and spend time with my husband, this insightful TED Talk on feminism by public policy expert Ann-Marie Slaughter really spoke to me.
The idea of having it all is absolutely not limited to women, but this talk focuses on how that idea impacts women, and Slaughter makes a solid case that it affects women differently than it does men. I think she sums that up well with this quote:
I am still completely committed to the cause of male-female equality, but let’s think about what that equality really means and how best to achieve it. I always accepted the idea that the most respected and powerful people in our society are men at the top of their careers. So the measure of male-female equality ought to be how many women are in those positions […] I still think we should do everything we possibly can to achieve that goal, but that’s only half of real equality, and I now think we’re never gonna get there unless we recognize the other half. I suggest that real equality – full equality – does not just mean valuing women on male terms. It means creating a much wider range of equally-respected choices for women and for men, and to get there, we need to change our workplaces, our policies, and our culture.
Kind of revolutionary, right? Why should we define ourselves by how well we achieve typically male-oriented roles? Why aren’t typically female-oriented roles equally valued? Instead of women striving to be more like men, shouldn’t we all be pushing toward a middle ground that values nurturing and family as much as a paycheck?
Slaughter advocates changing our policy to support families the same way we support any other kind of vital infrastructure. She also calls for educating our children to value both male and female roles. She argues that we need to start valuing family, and that means being flexible in the workplace to help both men and women support their families better. I think this quote nails it:
…juggling work and family aren’t women’s problems. They’re family problems.
Check out her entire talk on feminism, conventional gender roles, and where we start to shift us closer to male-female equality: