Jeffrey Goldberg, writing for Bloomberg has tossed his chips into the pile that has been building since Anne-Marie Slaughter wrote her widely read and analyzed article in The Atlantic. His new article on Bloomberg.com is called “Is a true work family balance still possible”
The fast take on this article is summed up well in his closing statement.
in real life, there may be no way for government officials — or for many of us — to get home each night for dinner.
However, he comes up short, managing to merely mention several important things that merit further amplification, and he shares a few opinions I’d like to rebut.
Goldberg makes an honorable mention effort at getting the focus onto men as well as women. We are always ready to give kudos for that. He shares an anecdote that is powerful but he fails to exploit it for its full empathy garnering value. He tells of a eulogy in which a young man speaks of the time he missed with his father due to his father’s demanding job.
“At the diplomat Richard Holbrooke’s memorial service,” Slaughter writes, “one of his sons told the audience that when he was a child, his father was often gone, not around to teach him to throw a ball or watch his games. But as he grew older, he said, he realized that Holbrooke’s absence was the price of saving people around the world — a price worth paying.”
While I found the phraseology of “saving people around the world” a bit overdone, I’m fine with whatever a young man feels the need to say to honor the memory of his father, and can only imagine the decades of reality behind that statement. I had to wonder, however, how many men like Holbrooke would have written an article, or even thought of a subject, like that covered by Slaughter.
Like Goldberg says as he segues into the Holbrooke story
“The most chilling image in her article — at least from the perspective of a father who never feels he is spending enough time with his children — is this..”
Plug the face of everyman into that sentence. Everyman doesn’t mean every single man, it means those who never feel cheated out of time with their families are the outliers, not the norm. But not every man is off in far flung places negotiating peace agreements and prisoner releases. Some are underground building a lining of coal dust in their lungs, others are in factories doing work so repetitious they mimic the movements in their sleep, and others work all night and have to try and sleep during the day when their kids are right there, home, and available.
He finishes his all to brief treatment of men in work life balance by saying that Mr. Holbrooke could not have very well skipped a negotiation about the Balkan war to attend a little league game. Here again, he missed a chance to bring this into the home of everyman and his family. Everyman doesn’t have Slobodan Milosevic sitting across the table, they have Mr. time clock tracking the hours for which they will be paid, and Mr. Sunshine, the foreman, glad to remind them, by the moment, that productivity needs to go up…..dammit!!!! Mr. Goldberg points out the Slaughter belongs to an exclusive demographic and that she fails to allow for that; meanwhile he does the very same thing using the Holbrooke scenario as his men face these issues too and sometimes they have really really important stuff explanation. Everyman has really important stuff too, usually it comes twice a month and is called a paycheck. In earning that he takes some solace in the fact that, though absent from the home those hours, well, there is a home from which to be absent.
Where did Goldberg get this idea:
Men, particularly those who value an active role in their family life, now face a set of choices their fathers and grandfathers didn’t.
At what point in recent history were men not sacrificing time with family to work? The contradiction here is subtle. At one Goldberg and Slaughter accept a paradigm that has scrambled gender roles from the traditional, but which also presumes a man’s absence from thew home for a workday. Otherwise how can he say that grandfathers did not face this dilemma? Was reporting to blue collar work not time away?
In this way, Goldberg fails to address anything but the present status quo in terms of gender roles. His independent variable, so to speak, is the nature of the American workforce, not the nature of gender roles, which he simply leaves as it is, perhaps even hat tips for more, not less, situations where women are faced with the dilemma Slaughter has highlighted.
She raises a whole cluster of issues about how the American workplace is structured to thwart women who seek successful careers and also want to have a meaningful relationship with their children.
See, its about the workplace structure. Full stop. Never mind there are half a dozen articles worth of material that could have shown the progression of failing work life balance along side the rapid changes in the way we perceive gender roles. One wonders if women really agree with his assertion that:
women are most often the parent of last resort. But men, too, are tortured by the lack of time at home.
Wow. Last resort, that’s tough duty isn’t it?
His final section delves into the plight of women globally, and how having women in roles in the state department has served to bring forth that plight more than all male diplomatic corps could have ever done.
But if men are indeed scared to make foreign-policy decisions informed by humane instincts, then this is all the more reason to encourage Slaughter’s campaign to get us to rethink the way we organize our professional lives.
I cannot take American feminists seriously. They have equated the U.S. with Somalia in terms of female oppression. What more must we know in order to realize they have an agenda that supersedes the plight of anyone except their sisterhood.
Dalrock and crew already did an excellent job dissecting Slaughter’s article. I just wanted to throw in and dissect and article about Slaughter’s article; one that flirted with courageously pointing out that men face this dilemma daily, willingly, and don’t write articles about it because they view providing as a role for themselves in the family, a role that carries sacrifice of time as a part.
For those reading along and thinking mine is a pitch to get women out of the workforce, you are partially correct. I believe there are circumstances for women in the workforce, for women to excel and reach the pinnacle of their field, and for women to stay home and care for kids.Balance will never be found by adjusting the structure of the American workforce, balance will be achieved by scrambling the various scenarios Ive just described with the goal not being “go girl”, rather the goal being “go family”, and if that yields a woman CEO primary breadwinner, so be it.