Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Stop it with the "having it all"

If I have to hear/read another article about a woman who can or cannot have it all, I will scream.

Although my interest in genderism (or feminism, which I think is a biased term) is relatively recent, it seems like the media, even our dear POTUS and FLOTUS Obama, are capitalizing on the gender inequality that still exists despite the feminist movement starting in the late 1880s to getting the right to vote in 1869 to Equal Pay Act of 1963 to Equal Opportunity Act of 1972.

Having media and political attention on the subject is great because women are still making only 77 cents to the manly dollar. Even when the salary data accounts for similar age, education level, industry, role, experience, etc, women in the same exact position as men are only making 91 cents to the manly dollar. So clearly discrimination is still at play and equity is not achieved yet.

But what absolutely sets my teeth grinding, nerves firing, fist pounding, and foot stamping is when the phrase "Why women can't have it all?" or "Can this woman have it all?" used. I get it: it's brilliant media fodder because it's very attention grabbing for both supporters and detractors however: when was the feminist/gender revolution about "having it all"? WHO actually can "have it all"?

What does "having it all" mean anyway? Just as "happiness" is a term that is differentially defined by different people according to their personal experiences, current situation, and future aspirations, there is no consensus for the "have it all" phrase. While there is no one definition of "have it all" whenever the phrase is used it usually implied having a fabulous combination of financial wealth, power, marital/romantic/family relationship, friendship, charisma, good looks, health, amazing career, full head of hair, white teeth, sexual vigor, and above average height. That's a tall order! And more men don't even have that nevertheless women.

By saying that women can or cannot "have it all" implies that men (or least non-women entities) are "having it all." When I look around I don't see that. Even if you see a successful (often defined in our current society as having financial power) man, it doesn't necessarily imply he has a great family, marriage, friends, health, or mental state. Even if he does have most of those things, if he has a successful career usually he is not the one taking care of the kids, picking up the groceries, cooking dinner, cleaning the bathroom, and having enough energy to have sex at the end of the night. Usually his wife does it.

Yet these articles keep saying how it is or is not possible to be a wonderful mom and have a successful career in a leadership role. At what point in any of the waves of feminism/genderism was it about "having it all?" The initial waves of the movements was about attaining things that were taboo or not allowed for women but were a guaranteed privilege of men, such as the right to vote. So when goal go from attaining something that was denied to a person based on gender to now a gender having everything?

It drives me nuts when people use that phrase because no one in the universe can "have it all" unless you are a deity endowed with superpower. Because we are human we cannot "have it all" because there are scientifically and literally only 24 hours in a day, which will always limit us to certain things we cannot do unless we don't sleep, eat, get bio breaks, laugh, read a good book, spend quality time with friends and family, get our weekly Bachelor fix, ogle in amazement of superhuman strength of the winter Olympians, or go to work.

So what I'm trying to say is that while I really appreciate the increased media and societal scrutiny on gender inequality, I am not appreciating the framing and presentation of the issue. By often associating "having it all" with women (but we don't say that of men), along with the expectations that a progressive modern woman means being successful with attaining a career dominated by men who are unaware of the unconscious discrimination while still maintaining lion share of the caretaker role along with being a sex goddess, is simply unfair and unrealistic. The more we keep saying why women can or cannot "have it all" shifts the dialogue to an area that is not progressing the gender imbalance issue. Instead it holds up the conversation at fulfilling that impossible role. We should agree that NO ONE can "have it all" but that does not mean women shouldn't be given opportunities in an unbiased and undiscriminating way that men are. (This of course also applies to any other minority being treated differently because of what they are vs. who they are.)

So women can't "have it all," so what can we achieved based on what we do instead of what we look like, along with all the societal assumptions that come with our appearances? That is what we as a society need to progress beyond.