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Author Lauren Groff Had the Best Possible Answer for the Inevitable “Can You Have It All?” Questions

lauren groff life work have it all sexist

No matter how antiquated the idea may seem, women are rarely invited to discuss their professional accomplishments without, at some point in the conversation, being asked to frame their professional lives through the lens of their families. When women–especially women who already have children–are interviewed about their work, the question of how they manage to “have it all” will inevitably come up.

In a recent interview with the Harvard Gazette, author Lauren Groff was asked how she, as a successful writer and mother of two, manages life and work? Groff’s response was perfection.

She responded, “I understand that this is a question of vital importance to many people, particularly to other mothers who are artists trying to get their work done, and know that I feel for everyone in the struggle. But until I see a male writer asked this question, I’m going to respectfully decline to answer it.”

This is such a wonderful answer. I love that she addresses the hypocrisy of the question while acknowledging its importance. It’s not that raising a family while writing a book or tackling any other professional undertaking isn’t impressive and absolutely worth discussing. It is, especially for others who aspire to do the same.

But the question is only asked because women are still subjected to outdated societal expectations that we bear the majority of a family’s domestic responsibilities. Even if we work full time, we are asked about our “sacrifices.” Which would be fine, if men who worked full time were also asked about theirs. (And why do we also assume that a man’s decision to work full time or pursue time- and energy-consuming projects don’t leave him feeling like he’s made sacrifices in his home life? This double standard isn’t fair to anyone.)

As long as women are the only ones being asked about the balance of their home and work lives, the question itself will only perpetuate the idea that that balance is in some way unnatural.

Kudos to Lauren Groff for finding a great response for this over-asked (but still important) question.

(via Refinery29, image: Bank Square Books / flickr)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.