There is no ‘all’ to get
Every day I see another headline or story lede about having it all —
How to have it all
Who can have it all
Sometimes they switch it up and use the word balance, most of the time I notice that it’s aimed at women, even more narrowly, it’s aimed at white women, because the media doesn’t seem to care what women of color might have. Or maybe it’s that they don’t think women of color* are deserving of even the dream of having it all. One more arrow in the “let’s keep women fighting with each other and thinking they aren’t measuring up” quiver.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand on the phrase “having it all.”
“I think it’s insulting,” she told TIME’s Nancy Gibbs at the Real Simple/TIME Women & Success Panel. “What are you ‘having?’ A party? Another slice of pie? ‘All’ implies that a woman staying home with her kids is somehow living a life half-full. What we’re really talking about is doing it all. How do we help women do all the things they want to do?”
We don’t talk to men about having it all, we talk to them about what they want to have — there is neither limit nor exception. Have it, take it, it’s all yours. That isn’t the case for women.
Shonda Rhimes has talked about how often she’s asked about “work-life balance”. “The question drives me nuts,” she says, and points out that her male counterparts would not be asked about their work-life balance.
When we talk about our lives it’s complaining, when we want alone time it’s viewed as superficial. When we want to take maternity leave we’re seen as weak, when we want to come back to work we’re seen as cold. Get surgery you are shallow, don’t and you’re lazy, tired, old. These are sweeping generalizations and yet, every day I am bombarded with messages about whether or not I truly have it all or if I’ve made the wrong decisions too late.
“The choice not to have it all, far from being defeatist, is extremely liberating,” Melanie Healey, Procter & Gamble’s group president for North America.
The truth is I am tired of the articles and the sound bytes, but more than that, I am honestly sick to fucking death of my own pursuit of all and the unspoken acceptance and success acquiring it seems to symbolize.
Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook said, “Having it all is the worst. No matter how much we all have and how grateful we are for what we have, no one has it all, because we all make tradeoffs every single day, every single minute.”
Kristin Howerton said a few weeks back that she was inadvertently modeling a template of stress for her kids. I nodded as that clicked. I haven’t taught my kids that they need to chase it all, but I have contributed to the idea that they should believe that it’s their job to try and do it all.
I don’t have a clear answer on how to curb the wondering about all — having it, getting it, knowing it — short of avoiding all media and maybe even conversations with other adults.
- I tried to find quotes from non-white public figures and go figure; it was pretty hard to do. There is a Michel Martin essay that is cited, but is no longer available that is titled, fittingly enough, “What I’ve Left Unsaid” http://www.npr.org/2014/07/28/336123264/npr-host-michel-martins-own-letter-from-a-birmingham-jail