Earlier this summer, Anne-Marie Slaughter wrote a much-buzzed-about article for The Atlantic titled, “Why Women
Still Can’t Have it All.” The title alone can jolt knee-jerk emotional reactions from many. The “all” she
refers to is the ability to balance a career and a family without the aid of wealth or powerful connections, and while
that may not be on your radar as a student entering or already in college, the answer has enormous political, social
and economic weight. Slaughter shares her own experiences as a mother and professional and outlines the
cultural values that need to change in order for women to be able to balance a personal and professional life.
I’m neither a mother nor do I have a career. I can’t speak with the professional and personal experience of
Slaughter, but I’m a 21-year-old Wisconsin woman 14 credits away from a journalism degree, so the answer to the
question has implications for me. In Wisconsin, can women have it all?
No. That’s the short answer.
Sorry, ladies, but we can’t have it all. Not yet at least. How can young Wisconsin women expect to have it all with
less access to birth control, dropping educational quality, higher educational costs and fewer government dollars in
Gov. Scott Walker has stated he will not be implementing the Health Care Act which the Supreme Court
upheld last month, as reported by the Wisconsin State Journal. Furthermore, a spokesperson from the Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health told the State
Journal the act would lower the barriers to birth control and other necessary health care. So that’s strike one.
Planned Parenthood in the city announced that legal language in new laws concerning birth control tied their
hands on their ability to administer pill abortions, so they suspended the practice locally, according to the State
Journal. And that’s strike two.
Up to bat, we have Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin, and the abstinence-only sex education bill which Walker signed into law,
according to Education Week. Strike three, everyone. I hope you’re ready for your little brothers and sisters to learn
everything about the birds and the bees on the bus, from Jersey Shore and Law and Order.
From the “having it all” perspective, how can you actually expect to plan your professional and personal life
as a woman if you can’t control when you get pregnant? And I’m not saying that Wisconsin Republicans have
taken every pill and shot in this city and burned it ritualistically during a legislative session, but why does access to
health care to help women make those choices have to be expensive and hard to get? If a woman wants to plan
her life without fear, birth control needs to be an easy to access commodity. Integral to my successful time in college
has been an empty womb.
And then we have the perfect storm that is the state of education in the State of Wisconsin. Recently, the state
released test scores of grade school students in Wisconsin and it showed a drastic need for improvement
in reading and math, as a majority of students were falling below average in those critical subject areas, as
reported by the State Journal. Meanwhile, the cost of tuition is climbing at the University of Wisconsin, and budgets to state public schools have been snipped by the Walker administration. An anemic education system will yield
an anemically-educated workforce, which spells trouble for intelligent, career-oriented people, not to mention
So we’re not in a good place. I don’t think that the effects are irreversible yet, but the conversation
has to change. In Slaughter’s article, she said she believes modern family values and work place culture need
to evolve for a society where women can find that balance. In Wisconsin, though, that balance rests in legislative
agendas. I believe in the power of rhetoric, and I think it’s being misused in the conversation on women, the
economy, power and equality. Embellishment and hyperbole have their place in political discourse, so I understand
why the phrase “War on Women” has been floating around amid certain pieces of legislation from the Walker
administration. However, I think it’s the wrong way to describe what’s happening in our state.
Alex Brousseau, our Editorial Board chair last semester, called the “War on Women” rhetoric tasteless from a
conservative standpoint, and I must admit that it conjures imagery of bombs, guns and trenches – enough to make
even a hippie puke like myself roll my eyes. But the problem with the rhetoric is that it’s so easy to dismiss, and it
doesn’t accurately portray what’s happening: A “war” draws imagery of an explosive battle, but what’s happening
now – with rising education costs, falling educational quality, less less access to birth control and the roll back of
equal pay – is a slow erosion of the things that let women rise to power. It’s not a war so much as it is termites in
the foundation of a house, waves on the rocks on the shore. They are equally destructive, and much harder to pinpoint and stop.
The only accurate connation of the “war” rhetoric is that there very well could be a loser. And if these trends in
education and access to necessary health care continue, there will be losers: women, liberal and conservative,
young and old.
Adelaide Blanchard ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in journalism.