Sometimes Bwog can’t get enough feminism. And by that, we mean generally speaking insofar as feminism means being a DSpar fangirl and Bwog’s role within the walls of a women’s college. On occasion, Bwog does find some feminism on the other side of Broadway. On Monday, Bwog’s resident Columbia feminist Roberta Barnett checked out a Transatlantic dialogue between France and the United States as to how women might balance a career and family.
With the publication of Lean In and Wonder Women and countless articles regarding how women and society might change to lead more fulfilling lives, a World Leaders Forum event on the topic was certainly overdue. Co-sponsored by Walls and Bridges, a 10-day series of performances and critical explorations uniting French and American thinkers and artists from social science, philosophy, literature, and the arts, the discussion took place in a mixture of both French and English (fear not– I have included no French in this piece!). “The Balancing Act: Women, Work, and Family in the United States and France” was a discussion between French Minister for Women’s Rights Najat Vallaud-Belkacem and President of the New America Foundation (and author of the 2012 article in The Atlantic “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All”) Anne-Marie Slaughter.
Given the nature of the dialogue between two countries, both women noted the structural and political differences between the United States and France that allow for different attitudes and policies regarding gender. Belkacem noted, “In France the State is more interventionist. It’s not the job of women… or men… it’s the job of institutions to provide the equality.” She went on to cite French policies of mandatory paid maternity and paternity. Slaughter went on to point out that in the United States, the government is a lot more limited in what it can do (whether this be because of constitutional differences or simply bi-partisan gridlock, she did not say). Therefore, her argument centered more around changing values than changing policies. “I am convinced that we have to start with… work, family, and humans,” she said.