Anne-Marie Slaughter of The Atlantic, a professor at Princeton and a former State Department official, sparked a conversation about gender roles and the current state of feminism with her piece, "Why Women Still Can't Have it All". What emerged was a closer look at the specific choices and sacrifices families make to keep this balance.
Rebecca Traister, a writer for Salon, is the author of "Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women." Her brother, Aaron Traister, is a columnist who writes about masculinity. The siblings discussed the juggling act between parenting and working, and what that struggle is like for both women and men.
"We're dealing with upending essentially millennia of one way of doing things, in which women were responsible in the domestic sphere and men were in the public sphere," Rebecca says. "We're changing that, and it happens more slowly than people believe." In her article, for example, Slaughter recalls that when she was in graduate school in the 1980's, the general belief was that gender equality would be achieved in the near future. Complete equality, especially in the domestic sphere, has continued to be elusive.
"Rearranging our expectations take so much time that it is generation by generation," Rebecca says. "My brother and I have completely different lives than our father and mother had, but then our children will in turn have different attitudes. It turns out that change is a lot slower and harder than we thought 30 years ago."
Her brother Aaron agrees. "We came from a very traditional household. My mother was totally in charge of the domestic sphere, even though she was a tenured professor."
Aaron believes that the current state of the ailing economy is actually helping to close the gender gap in the professional sphere. "I know two guys, for instance, in the last year, who have had children born with medical issues. IT became an issue of practicality for them to stay home because their wives were the ones with better health benefits." The fact that a growing number of women are out-earning their husbands is one of the main reasons that fathers choose to become stay-at-home dads.
At the end of the day, Rebecca believes, the gender gap is closing, albeit more slowly than people expect. "It is shifting. At the same time that we wring our hands about it and say, 'We need to do so much more and apply conscious thought', we also have to be aware that these things have begun to change," Rebecca says. "We have to acknowledge that we're somewhere in the middle, in the process."