For a long time, women’s equality has been treated as a “women’s issue,” of interest and importance, naturally, only to women. But from the HeforShe movement—which encourages men and boys to be agents of change in combating inequality—to the feminist musings of celebrities like Joseph Gordon-Levitt, men have become an increasingly vocal part of the conversation. The cynical explanation is that men have realized that they stand to benefit from gender equality: As a recent report by McKinsey & Co showed, advancing women’s equality can add $12 trillion to global growth. But there are also more personal, less tangible benefits: Just as feminism frees women from the constraints of traditional femininity, it can also free men from the constraints of traditional masculinity. It can make space for men to embrace identities, pursuits, and activities formerly relegated to the other sex. If women aren’t restricted to being mothers and homemakers, then men don’t have to be restricted to being detached, ladder-climbing breadwinners either.
In her recent book, Unfinished Business, Anne-Marie Slaughter calls this the “men’s movement,” and it’s crucial, in her view, to completing the work begun by the women’s movement. Only when men become more involved as caregivers, Slaughter argues, will women stand a chance of full empowerment in the workplace, and American society more broadly. It’s a powerful vision—but how do we make it happen? I talked to Slaughter about the challenges in building a world where men and women are full partners in caregiving.