“You’re lucky. You’re a millennial, a modern woman – you can have it all.”
At least, that’s what I’ve been told.
See, growing up as a middle class white girl, I was always told that I could do anything. Be anything. I could have it all.
The perfect husband – probably working in finance. Perfect children – all privately educated with a timetable of activities that would make your head spin. The perfect house – complete with perfectly manicured lawns. And of course, the perfect career – full of power suits and business brunches. If I wanted it, I could have it. I could have it all.
Having it all is supposed to be the Ultimate Goal. It’s the Big Feminist Prize – the light at the end of a really dark, patriarchal tunnel. It’s everything a modern woman could ask for.
Except, having it all isn’t really having it all. It’s having everything on a pre-determined list of socially acceptable female goals. Of course, there are the big three.The husband, the children, and the career. But there are some smaller, more easily attainable goals on the list too. Goals like ‘the perfectly toned size 8 body’ and ‘a house that is impossibly clean 24/7.’ If you’re really ambitious, having it all can also include a wildly successful blog, a ‘capsule’ wardrobe (whatever that is), and skin that never seems to age.
You can have it all – as long as it’s on the pre-defined list of Womanly Aspirations.
And that’s great, if you want everything on that list. But if you don’t, life can start to get a bit tricky.
Don’t want children? Selfish bitch! Not a fan of marriage? You need to grow up and get over your commitment issues! Would rather eat 27 bagels than go to the gym? When will you learn to love yourself and take care of your body!
See, the patriarchy has evolved beyond simply dictating what women should and shouldn’t do. Instead, the patriarchy has co-opted the feminist ideal of choice and has distorted it to fit its own nefarious purposes. It lets you think that you can do anything and everything – and that you should do anything and everything – but it quickly beats you back down if you deviate from its set of perfect feminine ideals.
What’s more, even those who do subscribe to the ideal of having it all (and I do subscribe to that ideal – even if it does make me a terrible feminist) quickly realise that the deck is stacked against them.
Because having it all is not as simple as simply having it all. It’s having it all and doing everything perfectly 100% of the time. It is cooking your husband’s every meal and doing all of the housework all of the time. It’s attending every single school play and football match, without fail – and baking cookies for the cake sale on the side. It’s working 9 til 5, plus overtime, and answering emails at 1am.
Having it all is great until you realise that having it all will probably kill you. And when it does, the world will be quick to blame you for your own failures.
“She shouldn’t have had children if she wasn’t prepared to actually look after them.”
“Well, of course she’s not been promoted at work yet – she’s too busy sewing costumes for the poxy school play.”
“Honestly, did she really expect her husband to put up with a messy house and excessive weight gain?”
See, in the game of having it all, women will always lose.