"It’s no coincidence that the vast increase in female workforce participation has coincided with the reappearance of something that the more egalitarian America of the early 20th century did not have, and that is a servant class."
People are always more likely to believe a lie if it’s plausible. The lie that women can have it all has as many adherents today as it does because it’s not obvious why it should be a lie. Have a career and a family: why not? There are enough hours in the day. The challenge of refuting the lie that women can have it all—that is, that they can prioritize career and family equally—lies in the fact that the trade-offs that make it impossible are hidden, not obvious, because mathematically it’s not something that should be impossible.
If only employers would do more to accommodate working women, if alternatives could be found to fulfill duties at home that mothers used to do for themselves, like childcare and housework. But the more you start thinking about those accommodations and thinking not just about what it means for any one woman to have it all, but for society to be restructured around women having it all, the more impossible those trade-offs start to seem.
Obviously there are women today in America who are trying to have it all, and many appear to be doing so successfully, at least insofar as they have both demanding careers and children. But look more closely at those households, and almost invariably you’ll see that behind every woman who is balancing work and family, there is an army of low-paid labor, immigrant cleaning ladies, nannies who are paid cash under the table, Door Dash delivery men who deliver the meals that mom never had time to cook. It’s no coincidence that the vast increase in female workforce participation has coincided with the reappearance of something that the more egalitarian America of the early 20th century did not have, and that is a servant class.
America today is more prosperous than it was 70 years ago, and yet it is no longer possible for an ordinary worker to support a middle-class family on a single income. The story of how that happened is bound up into a lie that has become gospel today, which is the lie that women can have it all. Undergirding that lie is a further lie that the Republican Party can have it all. The GOP has very much hitched itself to the idea that it can be the party of stay-at-home moms and girl bosses equally. Again, superficially this seems like it ought to be possible. Live and let live, it’s a free country. But this bargain is unsustainable in practice. We only have to look at the last 30 years to understand why.