On this Time interview Anne-Marie Slaughter, the foreign policy analyst, talks about why she left her job at the U.S. State Department, motherhood and the new feminism.
Watch the interview and say whether the statements below are true or false. The activity is suitable for Advanced students.
1 Anne-Marie Slaughter was dismissed from the State Department.
2 Anne-Marie Slaughter has been in the center of a controversy because of her situation in the State Department.
3 Femminists object to Anne-Marie Slaughter's ideas on work and motherhood.
4 The magazine that published Anne-Marie Slaughter's article sold 800,000 issues.
5 In American work culture, mothers are not considered suitable for all the jobs.
6 Anne-Marie Slaughter objects to the fact that a worker's value is measured by the time they spend at work every day.
7 Anne-Marie Slaughter understands why her professional activities don't have as much recognition as her article on work and motherhood.
8 Anne-Marie Slaughter still gets nervous when talking in front of a large audience.
Hi, I’m Belinda Luscombe. I’m and editor-at-large at Time magazine. Anne-Marie Slaughter is a professor at Princeton. She was formerly the Director of Policy Planning at the State Department. Most significantly, for our interview, she is the mother of two. Anne-Marie, welcome.
So you had a high-powered job in the State Department and you gave it up to spend more time with your family. Are you sure you weren’t fired?
I am quite certain I succeeded actually very nicely at the State Department. I won the Secretary’s most distinguished service medal, all those good things, so definitely not fired. But as you know, leaving to spend time with your children is a euphemism in Washington for getting fired.
So you have been in the news, in the center of an incredible swirl of discussion, because you wrote an article for The Atlantic in which you speak about how the American system for employment and being a mother are almost mutually exclusive. What made you out yourself at this point?
It was very hard to do. I realised when I was in Washington and I had these teenage sons and they really needed me at home that the sort of assumption that I could just do this and have the job that I wanted and be the mother I wanted to be was not proving possible, but the idea of saying it publicly that there was a problem and, as I put it, you know, that you can’t have it all, that it’s much harder than you think, felt like a betrayal. It felt like breaking a taboo, because my generation of feminists believe that you don’t admit anything other than absolutely women can do it. We need another round of conversation, feminist conversation.
You know, the article goes up online on 21st June and by June 25th almost 800,000 clicks on the article. I have heard from hundreds directly, mostly women but I’d say probably 20% men, which is pretty, pretty high, and all mostly saying ‘thank you’, but then of course other women saying you’re going to hurt feminism, you’re gonna set the cause back. Men saying you’ve validated my wife’s experience. Thank you. Men also saying I want these things too.
So one of the things that has sort of stymied thinkers, business people, CEOs, is this persistent gender wage gap that we have. Is that motherhood?
A certain percentage, and I don’t have the statistics here, is motherhood in a sense that no one says anymore that’s not a job for a woman, that may be actionable legally, but plenty of people say that’s not a job for a mother. And there is quite a lot of evidence that there is, in fact, structural discrimination against mothers. I think there’s an assumption that mothers are not going to be able to work the same, get the same amount of work done, that men do, and it may be that mothers also feel less comfortable than women in general asking.
No, I know you’re probably not in the blame finding business. But is it men who are keeping these mothers down or is it the mothers themselves?
I’m sure it’s either. I think it is the structure of our workplace and a lot of our cultural assumptions. I mean, our workplace was set up for individuals who would enter the workforce in their mid 20’s and go through their mid 60’s and never have to make any compromises for child bearing or child rearing. That is the men of the 1950’s. And it was assumed you had to be in the office, so it’s designed for a time with much less technology, and that the person who was in the office the longest worked the hardest. If a woman leaves at 6pm and a man stays till 9pm the assumption is, well, he’s working harder as opposed to looking at what did they… what was the output, not the input, what was the output? So I think there are a lot of different factors, and actually you need to tackle them one at a time.
Does it goad you that you’ve written a number of books, you know, some incredibly influential policy, something like hundreds of foreign policy papers and the article on motherhood is the one that gets you on all the talk shows? Does that?
Yeah, I’ve, I’ve definitely thought why exactly can’t I create the same kind of reaction about foreign policy and there are still not nearly enough women at the top in foreign policy, not enough voices, but I also think foreign policy is not something that touches millions of people’s lives every day. It is by definition a much smaller crowd. And what I said, and at the time I said it, more than I could have foreseen, hit a chord with people’s everyday lives. But I’m going to insist on being recognised as a foreign policy person as well as a mother.
Let’s talk about foreign policy for a while, then. I’ll give you that chance. What would you do or what do you think should be done about Syria?
So right now I would say, let’s, let’s keep doing what we’re doing, providing lots of intelligence, communications and some arms to the opposition, a lot of support. And let’s keep pushing diplomatically. Let’s give that, you know, some more time. I would say if by the fall that has not worked, I still think then we need to take more, more action, and that probably does include no-fly zones, what I’ve called no-kill zones.
You have sons. If you had daughters, what adv…, of similar age, of teenagers, what advice would you be giving them?
One thing I would absolutely tell my daughters and I tell all my young women in class, raise your hand, speak out. I was terrified of public speaking until I was 35, so much so that I didn’t dare go into litigation in law school. I make my living at public speaking today. I can stand up in front of an audience of a thousand people without notes and speak for 30 minutes without any problem. But it took determination and practise. And I’d tell them exactly what I do tell my sons, which is get out there and fail.
Anne-Marie Slaughter, thank you so much.
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