Essay About Women Rights. Why Women Can’t Have It All

In Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” she talks about the struggles that professional women with families go through. Slaughter was the first woman director at the State Department. She had a husband and two teenage sons at home. She only came home on the weekends except for the occasional emergencies during the week. After some time, she came to a sudden realization that she “…could no longer be both the parent and the professional I wanted to be” (539).

She believed that she had no other choice but to leave her job and become a part-time mom. She says we can have it all and at the same time; just not today, with how the society and economy is currently structured. I agree with Slaughter, that women are not going to be able to “have it all” until things are changed. It must change within the economy, and working-women would need to be given the opportunity to choose between working a high-profile job or being a part-time mother. I want to discuss three points that will better explain why women can’t have it all.

First, I want to start with the question of what does “having it all” really mean. You hear individuals talking about how they are unable to “have it all.” But how well do we fully understand the meaning of this phrase and the impact it can have on society? Let us start with understanding its meaning. “Having it all,” is a statement that refers to men and women being able to juggle having a high-profile job along with a family. The impact of this one statement is phenomenal and can leave women “feeling that they are to blame if they cannot manage to rise up the ladder as fast as men and also have a family and an active home life (and be thin and beautiful to boot)” (Slaughter 537).  

Jennifer Szalai, an editor for the New York Times wrote an article “The Complicated Origins of Having It All.” She states in this article that she believes that this phrase “has become akin to some malign joke”.  She points out that it used to be a very empowering statement. However, it has been used so much that it is a despised statement. If we dislike this statement so much, why do we continue to pressure women into feeling that they should “have it all”?

This is merely another way to blind women to the truth that they will most likely not be able to balance family and career, at least not until society changes their view on the roles of men and women. This is very true. The expectations of being able to “have it all” has gotten so many women tied up with trying to achieve it, they have stopped seeing what is most important. They need to choose the decision that they feel is right for them and their family instead of doing what society thinks they should do. 

Next, we are going to examine the reasons why women can’t have it all. The book “I Never Knew I Had a Choice,” written by Gerald Corey et al. talks about how “women must often balance child rearing, a career, and more” (Corey et al. 262). Therefore, when a woman wants a career to satisfy the need to do more than just take care of their family, it increases her responsibility amount dramatically. Society burdens women with expectations that they should not only perform well at work, but also be the perfect parent. Women eventually start to realize that they cannot keep up with these expectations of a perfectly balanced home and work life. Naomi Schaefer, a journalist for the New York Post wrote an article, “Study Says Women Can’t Have It All, And They Shouldn’t Want To.” 

This gives us data showing us the effects of women trying to “have it all” such as, increased stress because of the added responsibilities. It also explains the reasons why women should not want to “have it all.” Women that are wanting to gain power usually are not conforming to the stereotypes that society has given to specific genders. This can cause women to be more stressed than men, because a man working in a high position is seen as normal. Thus, they are not as harshly criticized as a woman in a high -position job. University of Texas researchers did a survey on 25,000 Harvard Business School graduates, which showed that a majority of the men expected their partners to automatically take the responsibility of caring for the children.

This survey also suggests that the crisis women are facing today, is not in other’s expecting them to perform well at work, but rather how they are expected to balance work and home life throughout their lifetime. “Equal partnership” has become a gold standard in which women start to judge both their careers and marriage. This is why, when the UT researchers did the Harvard Business School study, they found that “women are less satisfied with their careers” (Schaefer). They expressed they were not telling women to not have a career. Instead, they wanted women to understand that when others tell them they can “have it all,” they are just being set up for one big disappointment.

Finally, I want to address the arguments against the claims of why women still can’t have it all. Richard Dorment’s article “Why Men Still Can’t Have It All,” addresses that women have choices. Therefore, if they cannot achieve a work-life balance, it is their own fault. He criticizes women that said they were unable to “have it all” by stating, “Fight for it, don’t fight for it – it’s entirely up to the individual. But don’t complain that you never had this choice” (573). The problem with this statement is that women sometimes do not have a choice due to their circumstances. A reason for a woman having to give up her career could be a child or family member getting extremely ill and needing 24/7 assistance. Sometimes a woman is forced to work because of a financial struggle, requiring both parties to have jobs in order to make it. 

This being said, women should not be ridiculed for a choice they feel they had to make. In their eyes, they may not have seen any other way out of the situation. Therefore, they made a decision they thought would be the most beneficial to them and their family. E.J. Graff wrote an article, “Enough with the Daddy War’s.” It expresses that “the conflict between work and family is not gender-specific at all” (Graff). He points out that unless we stop seeing it as a private problem and start seeing it as an American family problem, we will be unable to solve them. He states that this is a war between humans trying to stay human and not turn into “wage-earning robots” (Graff). On one hand, I agree that we need to start seeing this as an American family problem. However, this task could prove to be challenging, because society has placed specific roles on each gender and expects them to fulfill these roles. When they are unable to fulfill these roles, they are criticized for not being able to achieve a work-home life balance. Therefore, if we want both genders to stop seeing this problem as a private one, we first need to let go of the expectation’s society has placed on men and women. Until we do so, this will continue to be a vicious cycle of gender specific problems. 

In conclusion, women should stop trying to “have it all.” This is because women have been so caught up with stereotypes society thinks each gender should follow, they do not see that how the economy and society as they are currently structured, could make it very difficult for them to achieve their dream of “having it all.” Even though it may be true women have the choice between staying at home or working a high-profile job, there are some women who do not get the liberty to choose what they want. This can be due to circumstances requiring them to have to work or stay at home, whether they want to or not.

We need to realize, until we stop making assumptions of how we feel each gender should act, behave, or what they should do; this will always be an unsolvable, private, gender specific problem instead of it being an American family problem that could be potentially solved. We need to stop criticizing women for a choice they made because they feel like she could have made a better decision. If we don’t know the reasons behind a woman saying she just could not achieve “having it all,” we cannot make an assumption based on her decision, because it could be a very misleading one.



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