Why Women Can’t Have It All; Why Development Can’t Have It All

27 Jun

The hot debate that recently erupted in feminism from Anne-Marie Slaughter’s problems with  “having it all” may have reached closure with this new piece by Lori Gottlieb,

There’s No Such Thing as ‘Having It All’

Ms. Gottlieb self-mockingly notes that her revolutionary insight is that there are TRADEOFFS between work and family (for both women and men)

I am curious how admitting tradeoffs got to be anti-feminist.

Development people will recognize a familiar theme. Anyone who points out tradeoffs between AIDS prevention and treatment hates people with AIDS.  If you point out tradeoffs between health and other development priorities, you might as well announce you want more children dying. So economists, who of course build their whole field around the concept of tradeoffs, have gotten the image of the  Gestapo accountants of development.

Perhaps the “debate” on the  existence of tradeoffs (undeniable! really!) is just a secret code that hides the real issues. Advocates see those who point out a tradeoff as having an agenda against one of the things being traded off. Advocates deny the tradeoff as a way of asserting an absolute right to the thing that you allegedly don’t have to trade off.

There is a valid debate hiding there somewhere, which could make more progress if the debaters just spoke more … honestly.