Have you read the recent Atlantic Monthly article titled Why Women Still Can’t Have It All? It is basically one high-powered woman’s account of why she left government so she could be a better mom to her teenage sons, and it’s also full of policy-making suggestions on how bosses and corporations can make it easier for women to balance their careers with parenting. In a sense, the article attempts to be a ground-breaking piece that flies in the face of feminist optimism, but I think the article itself is actually a whole lot more blindly optimistic than it seems upon first read. While I appreciate the suggestions Anne-Marie Slaughter (former director of policy planning at the State Department) makes and I think her ideas could improve work/life balance in this country for both men and women a great deal, I disagree with the way Slaughter implies that once these changes are in place women just might be able to finally “have it all.” I think these implications are extremely faulty because – drum roll, please – even with all the money and flexible work hours in the world, it just ain’t possible for anyone (whether male or female) to have and/or do it all…
First off, let me just say two words: silly me. S-to-the-I-to-the-double-L-Y me…Back in April 2011, when I wrote this post, I was under the impression that my anxieties about child rearing would somehow subside once I was married. After all, I would be fully committed to the love of my life – a man who happens to be my best friend in the whole world and loves me unconditionally for me (not for the power of my uterus) – and I thought this would provide unshakable comfort in the face of procreation pressures. Not only did I make this faulty assumption, but I also thought our move to Los Angeles would bolster me with the drive to put my career on the front burner and leave talk of children in the dust. However, even in this fitness-obsessed city where mom jeans and birthing stretch marks are considered shameful, I find myself surrounded by more messages than ever that I should be able to do it all – messages that tell me I am defective if I can’t figure out how to be both a successful artist, mom, and sex-pot wife. With these societal naggings conspiring alongside biological urges and ticking clocks, is it any wonder that family planning remains on the forefront of my mind? And, if an otherwise confident, career-oriented person like me is plagued with this anxiety, how on Garp’s green earth is everyone else out there coping with their own cognitive dissonance on the issue of work/life/family balance?
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Images of women and infants have permeated human culture since the beginning time – from cave drawings, to the Madonna and Child, to photos of the Material Girl and her very own brood. These images have whispered subliminal messages to me my whole life, but none quite so clear as the recent photos of Gisele Bundchen and her newborn son in Vogue Magazine. These photos basically scream at me (and any other girl who views them for that matter), “Motherhood is sexy, and you are not a real, sensual or whole woman unless your womb bears forth babies.” Perhaps I’m being a tad dramatic and this isn’t exactly the message Vogue was trying to convey, but why would they have renowned fashion photographer, Patrick Demarchelier, capture Gisele bra-less and caressing her own pregnant belly (and post-baby-skinny riding a horse on the beach with a bare midriff) if they weren’t trying to sexify motherhood? Not only does Vogue’s sexification of Gisele and Child stir up an array of emotions and primal urges in me, but it makes my practical side ask this simple question: are airbrushed glimpses of motherhood really what our society needs right now?