June 23, 2016 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
I’ve written about Anne-Marie Slaughter a good bit. That’s partly because she’s a fairly prominent person, Princeton academic and former adviser to the Obama Administration that she is. It’s also because the public persona she projects is that of the “reasonable feminist.” Unlike so much of feminist discourse, Slaughter’s prose isn’t shrill or misandric, at least on its face. And she often encourages society to give men a break by accepting a greater role for fathers in caring for kids.
All that sounds reasonable enough, but any sort of in-depth look at Slaughter’s articles and interviews reveals, as I did here, here and here, that she’s really thought very little about the issue of men’s and women’s roles, whether they need to change, how that might happen, why it’s not happening and the like. Frankly, I’ve always believed that Slaughter’s main problem is an inability to put aside her many feminist misconceptions and think about her topic using known facts as her guide.
In brief, I think that, if daycare for kids were amply subsidized and paid parental leave established for new parents, we’d never hear another word from Slaughter on the issues of men’s and women’s roles. That’s because she sings the usual feminist anthem that (a) women want most to be more involved in paid work and (b) our “oppressive” society prevents them from doing so. Therefore, if every mother had handy and inexpensive daycare available to her, she could do what she really wants, i.e. join the corporate rat race.
As I’ve said before, that looks to me like a benign-seeming way to cut fathers out of children’s lives. After all, if little Andy or Jenny is safely ensconced in daycare, why would Dad need to be part of the picture at all?
Whatever the case, suffice it to say that I’ve always had my doubts about Slaughter’s profession of concern for men. That brings me to this article (The Federalist, 6/20/16). Slaughter recently tweeted,
Happy Father’s Day! Let us all commit to expect fathers to be equal caregivers & just as competent in the home as mothers are in the office.
Yes, that’s the way Slaughter chose to celebrate fathers on their special day. Fortunately, she got slammed for doing so, which prompted her to claim,
I’m not really. We’re just coming from very different places on this. I’m PRAISING men. But enough; happy F Day
That’s praise? She sure had me fooled. To me it looks like standard, off-the-shelf dad bashing that we see every Father’s Day. Whatever the case, a couple of months ago, I wanted to find out more about Slaughter’s commitment to equality for fathers, so I emailed her to find out if she supports a presumption of equal parenting in divorce and child custody cases. She never got back to me. I then checked to see if she’s a member of Leading Women for Shared Parenting. She’s not.
The Federalist piece meanwhile points out some of the contradictions between what Slaughter says and what she does.
The first half reads: “Let’s all commit to expect fathers to be equal caregivers…” Except that Slaughter hasn’t.
Slaughter’s husband, Andrew Moravcsik, is their family’s “lead parent,” her term for the parent who takes the lion’s share of responsibilities at home and with the children. He admitted to such proudly in his own essay in The Atlantic, “Why I Put My Wife’s Career First.” Yet, as both pieces clearly state, her husband wasn’t just the equal caregiver, but the “lead” caregiver, since she chose to pursue her career first (a decision she reversed when her children were in their teens).
Right. Far from pursuing the equal roles she calls for in her articles, she simply opted for the usual dad role while her husband became Mr. Mom. Given that, what if they’d divorced while their children were still in the nest. Would Slaughter’s embrace of equality have extended to paying child support to her ex while seeing her kids only, say, 25% of the time? Somehow I think I know the answer.
She also assumes every mom (and dad, I suppose) wants her children’s father to be an equal caregiver, and this is simply not the case. A 2014 Pew Research study found more moms are choosing to stay at home in recent years—around 30 percent do—and 60 percent say it’s best for kids if at least one parent is at home focusing on raising the kids. A 2015 Gallup poll found a majority of mothers would prefer to stay home with their kids.
And those aren’t the only data supporting the conclusion that everyday people, both here in the U.S. and every country of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, aren’t so sure that men and women being interchangeable parts is such a great idea. From an evolutionary standpoint, that’s not how we got here, it’s not how human beings achieved success beyond anything that might have been predicted. No, a fair look at the many datasets bearing on the subject pretty much forces the conclusion that most people are happy to hold on to traditional gender roles when they can. The great majority of men and women stepping out of those roles do so because they have to, not because they prefer to. That of course is reflected in the final sentence from the Federalist piece quoted above.
The second part of Slaughter’s tweet reads: “And just as competent in the home as mothers are in the office.” This assumes fathers aren’t competent at home, while mothers are quite competent in the office (and at home).
But of course there’s nothing whatever to back up the assumption that, in some undefined way, fathers aren’t “competent” at caring for kids. As before, that’s more of a line from some feminist narrative than anything to do with reality. The Federalist piece agrees.
Yet much of Slaughter’s writing, including that Father’s Day tweet, reeks of statistically unsupported sexism…
Can you imagine the response if a man tweeted: “Happy Mother’s Day! Let’s all commit to expect mothers to invent products, build companies, and to be as competent as presidents, CEO’s, and world leaders as we are at home changing diapers.” Achieving a work-life balance is an admirable goal, but doing so while backhandedly bashing one’s supporting partner doesn’t seem like the best route.
Exactly. It’s that last sentence that I think gets at the heart of why we should be suspicious of Slaughter’s claims to be a gender-equality warrior. She’s asking us to take that leap of faith while bashing men for being inadequate fathers. That’s anti-egalitarian on its face and encourages no one to embrace fathers as the fit, loving and above all needed parents most of them are.
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