July 5, 2012 - Issue 479
A Few Good Women:
Response to “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All”
Represent Our Resistance
By Dr. Lenore J. Daniels, PhD
BC Editorial Board
As a modern female proletarian, the woman becomes a human being for the first time, since the [proletarian] struggle is the first to prepare human beings to make a contribution to culture, to history of humanity.
-Rosa Luxemburg, “The Proletarian Woman” (1914)
In her day, Marxist theoretician and activist, Rosa Luxemburg, was criticized for not defining herself as a “feminist” and advocating exclusively women’s suffrage. She attempted to explain her refusal to be identified solely as a feminist by arguing that, as a committed Marxist thinker and activist, she wanted to see the end of oppression for all people, women and men like - universal freedom, beyond the electoral process, full human rights for all. “Every day enlarges the hosts of women exploited by capitalism,” Luxemburg writes, (“Women’s Suffrage and Class Struggle”. (The Rosa Luxemburg Reader, 2004). Until women recognize that following the path of the worker’s struggle, rather than joining bourgeois women’s movements, inequality and injustice will remain and capitalism and its facilitators (bourgeois women included) will profit from “exploitation and enslavement” of the masses of women and their children.
“Bourgeois advocates of women’s rights want to secure political rights in order hen to assume a role in political life.”While I am reading Anne-Marie Slaughter’s “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” in the cover story of The Atlantic, July/August, issue, I am asking myself, what world does this woman live in? But then I know.
“I am well aware that the majority of American women face problems far greater than any discussed in this article. I am writing for my demographic - highly educated, well-off women who are privileged enough to have choices in the first place.”
Slaughter is writing for the women who seek leadership positions, who pursue and maintain “their place on the highest rungs of their profession,” preferably the political profession, and who assumed, unlike their mothers, that they, women born in the 1950s, would be able to “have it all.”
Have all of what?
Let me back up and list Slaughter’s complaint. Certain ambiguous women, highly educated and privileged, born in the 1950s, are, like Slaughter, having to give up their dream jobs in high, prominent positions alongside their male counterparts because, some, like Slaughter, have at least one or more teenage at home already exhibiting a “pattern of skipping homework, disrupting classes,” while failing math, and tuning out any adult” who tries to reach him or her. Apparently the nannies cannot do it all either. The husband, in this case Slaughter’s, spends more time with the children, but it is not enough. A “foreign-policy dream job” of leadership and power, “a rise up the ladder” job, and job in which she struggled to balance family and work as the “first woman director of policy planning at the State Department under Secretary of State Hilary Clinton had to come to an end after just two years.
If only the “system,” “the American economy and society,” would allow these women to have it all, they would be able to help out those poor sisters working at Walmart! Really! Not as equals but as leaders, of course,--we could “create a better society...for all women” if we could just “put a woman in the White House” so we are able to “change the conditions of the woman working at Walmart.” Yeah, wow! One less woman in a “leadership” position, so the rest of us are in deep shit with one less leader, particularly those of you women working at Walmart! Slaughter still believes, “strongly believes,” that women can “have it all,” but the “system,” the “American economy,” “society” needs to reform its ways!
Before I return to what it is we women, or only those highly educated and privileged women, want, let us briefly consider the “genuine superwomen,” according to Slaughter, in “leadership” positions. Well, of course, there is Hilary Clinton, wife of Bill, mother of Chelsea, lawyer, former First Lady, former candidate for president of the U.S., and now Secretary of State in the Obama, drones-dropping-on-womenand-their-children administration. Who can forget Condoleeza Rice. But, as Slaughter tells us, Rice’s success comes with a cost. She was the only “national security adviser since 1950s not to have a family.” Woe! Well, Condi Rice still managed to overlook a certain memo about apossible attack on the U.S. just prior to September 2001, and she went on as Secretary of State to help plan and enforce Bush II’s foreign policy, which included that little business of “shock and awe” drama in Iraq. Some people call it a war!
Then there is Ambassador Susan Rice, good ole’ Susan at the UN who, in March attended an AIPAC conference to echo the commitment of her boss to Israel’s “safety”: “Not a day goes by -- not one -- when my colleagues and I do not work hard to defend Israel's security and legitimacy at the United Nations” (Huffington Post, March 6, 2012). Along with Susan Rice, we have other “genuine superwomen” such as Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, Michelle Gavin, Nancy-Ann Min DeParle,” all Rhodes Scholars. And then there is Samantha Power (of Rwanda and other political intrigues) who “won a Pulitzer Prize at age 32” - how are younger highly educated, privileged women with choices to measure up to the standards of “these very talented professional women,” Slaughter asks. “Such a standard sets up most women for a sense of failure.”
Never mind that these women nod and agree with and represent the U.S. Empire in exploiting and enslaving workers, women, and children, and whole populations of sovereign nations. Slaughter does not mention Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security, great at her job of following policy and deporting mothers, fathers, children. As of this month, however, Obama’s regime, visionaries, recognize the need for the Latino vote this coming November, not to mention future engineers, techies, drone operators, and plain old ordinary combat soldiers.Today, with more women “leaders” finding the exit door and returning home to families and less demanding jobs, these would-be super women are confronted by the “genuine superwomen” and the leader men who blame them for not working harder!
“Let’s briefly examine the stories we tell ourselves, the clichés that I and many other women typically fall back on when younger women ask us how we have managed to ‘have it all.’ They are not necessarily lies, but at best partial truths,” writes Slaughter.
It is possible if you are just committed enough! But we are, writes Slaughter. But there are these “trade-offs and sacrifices; these children, particularly teenagers who need us; these planes to catch, conferences, and meetings. “Dry cleaning,” “hair appointments,” “Christmas shopping,” along with “children’s sporting events, music lessons, family meals” have to be done on the weekends, for heaven’s sake!
It’s possible if you marry the right person! Well, Slaughter did and it still does not matter because having a “high-powered” career means she misses the experience of caring for children. It is not the same for men like the former diplomat Richard Holbrooke whose “absence” from his family “was the price of saving people around the world - a price worth paying.” Yes! There are omissions in Slaughter’s narrative that have to gloss over the reality that Democrats are equally warmongers, committed to sacrificing truth on behalf of the Empire’s interests. In case you do not remember Holbrooke, because Slaughter will not tell you, she has an agenda and she assumes she is writing for that highly educated and privileged crowd and maybe some young college wouldbe women “leaders,” this is the same Holbrooke of Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, U.S. foreign policy of bringing democracy and saving the “little people” of the world; the same Holbrooke journalist Robert Scheer wrote of in his article, “Speaking Ill of the Best and the Brightest,” Truthdig, December 22, 2010, shortly after
One of ‘the best and the brightest’ died last week, and in Richard Holbrooke we had a perfect example of the dark mischief to which David Halberstam referred when he authored that ironic label. Holbrooke’s life marks the propensity of our elite institutions to turn out alpha leaders with simplistic world-ordering ambitions unrestrained by moral conscience or intellectual humility. Holbrooke was “successful,” in Vietnam with the pacification program that, as Scheer writes, “herded peasants off their land into barbed-wire encampments” while the U.S. Empire bombed surrounding areas. He was “successful,” indeed, “infamous” as an operator with the CIA Phoenix program, also in Vietnam before the Obama regime sent him off to do his thing in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Once he was near death he muttered to physicians that the U.S. needs to end the war in Afghanistan.
This Holbrooke, for Slaughter, saved lives, period! But she has a problem with this “ethical framework” - not Holbrooke’s so-called “leadership.” Slaughter asks: “Why should we want leaders who fall short on personal responsibilities?” Yeah!
“Workers who put their careers first are typically rewarded; workers who choose their families are overlooked, disbelieved, or accused of unprofessionalism.” Would it have something to do with giving the U.S. Empire 110% in the task of saving lives, bring democracy and freedom to the world by way of the IMF, UN troops, Monsanto, Exxon Oil, and an assortment of high-tech weapons and air craft? Let us not go there; Slaughter does not, cannot. The material reality of a capitalist economic regime must not enter this narrative!
Moving on: It’s possible if you sequence it right! That is, have the marriage and babies when you should, when you can devote all your time to the business of Empire as did “Madeleine Albright, Hilary Clinton, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sandra Day O’Connor, Patricia Wald, Nannerl Keohane” who got those babies born and in the hands of nannies while Empire’s women “leaders” were still in their 20s and early30s.. With babies all grown and on their way, these women were able to take advantage of the “freedoms and opportunities” that came their way. Today, you are too old at 40 to jump aboard the Empire’s train and you are at ripe age in your 30s, but now you have these little ones at home. How are your weekdays, starting at “4:20am on Monday” and ending “late on Friday,” weekdays “crammed with meetings” and “a never-ending stream of memos, reports, and comments on other people’s drafts,” to include children?
Woe to us trying to be women leaders!
“I would hope to see commencement speeches that finger America’s social and business policies, rather than women’s level of ambition, in explaining the dearth of women at the top,” writes Slaughter. And what is up there in these high-powered positions? Power! There is an entire structuring of social relations based on this power. Hierarchal, to be sure! Every rung on the ladder consist of people to conquer, conflicts and wars to promote for the good of “democracy,” of course. Slaughter implies what an Alter Net article seems to spell out - that the Democrats are good, saving-lives-people unlike those Republicans, conservatives, right-wingers, who, for example, employ the highly educated, privileged law graduates “to expand on their scholarship as private consultants,” (see the June 18, 2012, Alter Net), which suggests that only Republicans, conservatives, right-wingers “develop procorporate strategies in papers and are far better paid than their liberal
counterparts.” Obama, the constitutional lawyer has done his share of contributing to the development of banking institutions and corporations, has he not? Slaughter’s immediate boss, Clinton, and their Commander-In-Chief, Obama, expanded the drone program. Under his regime, there has been more suffering in this country and around the world, yet Slaughter wants to see more women at the top, more women, preferably Democratic women, at the top, wielding power - just tweak whatever might be “America’s social and business policies.” [T]he responses heard from my peers and associates prompted me to write this article. Women of my generation have clung to the feminist credo we are raised with, even as our ranks have been steadily thinned by irresolvable tensions between family and career, because we are determined not to drop the flag for the next generation.
She does not want to “drop the flag.” The race to the top is not over! Slaughter feels guilty for lecturing young women, not all women - just those ambitious young women - that “if they cannot manage to rise up the ladder as fast as men,” and have families and “be thin and beautiful to boot,” then they are to blame! (“Why Women”).
If we question what might motivate the highly educated and privileged women to “leadership” positions in government, academia, corporate, banking, and other spheres in which they wield the power of the Empire rather than the power of the people, we would have to concluded, given Slaughter’s account, that these women mean to begin in partnership with the Patriarchy of Empire, an equal lion’s share of positions of authority and an equal distribution of wealth. If these women are not successful at reforming the system from within, then begin the movement to bring about the domination of women, predominately white women, bourgeois women, to power.This drive to be included in the Patriarchal structuring of humanity, to join rather than challenge the injustice experienced in Black, Chicano and Indigenous communities, forced Black, Chicano, and Indigenous people to break from “feminism” in the late 60s and early 70s to develop feminist theories that spoke to their particularly heritage, social, political, and cultural issues. Still valid, these theories have, since the 1990s, been marginalized, if not silenced by what Slaughter offers as the best hope for “women”: “to close the leadership gap: to elect a woman president and 50 women senators.” Women must be “equally represented in the ranks of corporate executives and judicial leaders.”
Only when women wield power in sufficient numbers will we create a society that genuinely works for all women. “That will be a society that works for everyone.”
Sounds familiar? This is Slaughter’s trickle down “freedoms and opportunities” theory, I suppose. Wait on these highly educated, privileged women, predominantly white women, running the race to the top for us women, for all of society! They will save us just as Richard Holbrooke did! For Slaughter and her cohorts in “leadership,” working class Black, Chicano, Asian, Indigenous, Arab women ALL agree with this insane logic - even if we were not asked - and dismissed as subjects (sisters) within Slaughter’s article.
We have plenty of this dehumanization and marginalization from Patriarchal Empire as it is now, and the leadership we seek calls for striking down the power of Empire to benefit from the destruction of our lives and the lives of our children. Instead, Slaughter and her cohorts of women “leaders,” in marginalizing the true nature of their work within, on behalf of the Empire and the work of the Empire itself, marginalizes by omission the history of the masses of women and their struggle against the “leadership” of capitalist and corporate rulers. We have yet to experience a feminist movement, thanks to these betrayers of feminism!
Slaughter’s article does not purport to prepare for the rise of human beings who contribute to culture, or to history; unfortunately, it urges the indoctrination of a new generation of women, a few good women, highly educated at corporatized colleges and universities, (preferably at the top Corporate Leadership Cloning Factories, the Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and University of Chicago), privileged, predominantly white American women and colored imitators, to lord over the working class Black, Brown, Yellow, Indigenous, Arab young women who do not fit the bill and wait to be saved from your misery.
Follow those who KNOW!
Bourgeois women are nothing if not “co-consumers of the surplus value their men extort from the proletariat,” writes Luxemburg (“Women’s Suffrage and Class Struggle”). “As long as capitalism and the wage system rule, only that kind of work is considered productive which produces surplus-value, which creates capitalist profit” - capitalist wars. But do not expect an anti-capitalist, anti-corporate, anti-war campaign from these ambitious women who are more in “love” with Patriarchal power than they are their own children.
Have all of what?
More of the inhumane and insane! Slaughter is not speaking of “freedom and opportunities” for all, but more patriarchal women engaged in the exploitation and the enslavement of the working class!
BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member and Columnist, Lenore Jean Daniels, PhD, has a Doctorate in Modern American Literature / Cultural Theory.