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Scholar Puts Focus on Care at Home and Abroad

Anne-Marie Slaughter speaking at SIS

Photo by Jeff Watts

Anne-Marie Slaughter, president and CEO of the New America Foundation, visited SIS as part of the Dean’s Discussion speaker series. Titling her talk, “Revaluing Care, at Home and Abroad,” Slaughter spoke about a broad range of issues, domestic and foreign. The revaluing of care is a reference to a feminist theory called the ethics of care, whereby labor in the private sphere, such as caring for the home and children, is valued equally to labor in the public sphere.

Slaughter has moved from academia to policy and now to a major DC think tank. She is the Bert G. Kerstetter '66 University Professor Emerita of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton, where she previously served as dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. From 2009–2011 she served as director of Policy Planning for the U.S. Department of State, the first woman to hold that position. Previously she was the J. Sinclair Armstrong Professor of International, Foreign, and Comparative Law at Harvard Law School.

In 2012, Slaughter published a seminal article, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” in The Atlantic, which became the most read article in the history of the magazine and helped spawn a renewed national debate on the continued obstacles to genuine full male-female equality. She wryly remarked that, to this day, the article is referenced as "The Article" among the myriad of pieces she has authored in her academic career.

In outlining the evolution of her thinking since the article was published, Slaughter said, “I don’t think the problem alone is discrimination against women, although that is not to dismiss that as an ongoing problem facing women, especially low-income women.” The statistic of roughly 5% of women in top CEO positions and under 20% of women in U.S. leadership positions is, in a sense, baffling considering the higher rates of women graduating from college, she noted.

“The deeper problem,” she said, “that unites the many facets of the symptoms we see, is less about women per se and more about not valuing the kind of work that women have traditionally done. We don’t value care; we value competition and consumption.” Slaughter suggested that until the global economy is able to value care as much as earning an income, not much headway can be made.

Taking her care versus competition framework to a global scale, Slaughter said: “we should place an equal weight on human interest and government interest. What happens to people in a country should be of as much value as what happens politically.”

Referring to the conflict in Syria, she stated, “I have been very passionate about the need to do more in Syria.” Invoking the principle of “responsibility to protect” is relevant in the case of Syria, she argued, since it is committing crimes against humanity on its own territory. “Syria is the Rwanda of our time. An estimated 150,000 people have already died in this conflict; the entire region surrounding Syria has become majorly destabilized,” she said.

Commenting about Russia, Slaughter said that the West is playing into Russian president Vladimir Putin’s hands by treating Russia’s annexation of Crimea as a return to a world in which Russia and the United States are the principal adversaries.

The SIS Dean’s Discussion series showcases significant foreign policy actors and thinkers in conversations with the dean. In addition to Slaughter, Dean’s Discussions this semester have included Maria Otero, former Under Secretary of State Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights and former Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs, and Tara Sonenshine, former Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. Videos of all Dean’s Discussions are available on the SIS Past Events page.