The other day I tweeted that if I heard one more discussion about women having it all, there would be blood spatter. I take that back because I want to say a thing or two.
There are two quite separate issues here that are being misleadingly conflated. One is the real need for adequate affordable child care for all women, and a non-discriminatory workplace in which we are treated with respect and equality, properly paid and not penalised for creating the next generation who will keep the country going. I wholeheartedly support those aspirations.
But while some of us weren’t looking it seems that a particular strand of feminism has declared that Woman’s highest and most noble aspiration is To Have IT all. This has recently drowned out the real struggle for equality for all women, and focused the debate on a privileged few.
As far as I can ascertain, the IT holy grail involves building and maintaining a highly successful career while shaping your body to fit into designer suits and stilettos that create a complex ambience of sexy yet capable. When you’ve got a sure foothold in your profession you then take time to partner up, get pregnant, gestate, and give birth. Then you get back to work looking as untouched by these experiences as possible.
You then have it all. Career, partner, family, money. You will need the support of other women to enable your lifestyle. Child care workers, nannies, cleaners, the majority of whom are female, are paid far less than you, but that’s all right, you are creating jobs in your efforts to succeed at everything except the boring, unglamorous stuff other women will do for you.
Sustaining and promoting the patriarchal paradigm, the “be born, get everything until you die because you are entitled” ethic so beloved by hegemonic masculinity, is apparently the only way a woman can achieve real power in the Western world. While there may be the occasional inroad into better conditions for women who are caught up in the various levels on which this paradigm operates, the paradigm itself is not subject to real interrogation and real change. This is still a world that in the West at least, is founded on the principle of entitlement to everything, just because. That is not feminism as I understand it:
I would like to blame the patriarchy for the IT women should suddenly want all of. It looks to me like an attempt at counter insurgency operational propaganda, using collaborating women they’ve turned as agents. If ever you wanted to set up a disruptive enemy for a catastrophic fall, this is the way to go about it. Use the media to build unrealistic expectations in the female population and persuade the target audience to introject them. Bombard with images of glamorous women who have brilliant jobs, dishy supportive husbands often with their own high-powered professional lives, and adorable children and pets. Make the audience crave this, for because who wouldn’t want a life like that? If you aren’t having it, there’s something wrong with you. If you don’t want it, there’s something even more wrong with you.
The propaganda won’t work on everybody because not all women are susceptible, but it will probably work on enough of us to redirect anger away from the system where it belongs, and onto the self where it doesn’t. Mission accomplished. Feminism co-opted in the service of capitalism. System safe. Oh yeah.
What surprises me about high achieving women who are given as examples of having IT all, is that despite all their obvious intelligence and talent, they seem universally disinclined to question the IT. This is disappointing. Imagine if they got in there and started up a ruckus.IT? What is this IT of which you speak? Happiness? Contentment? A lifestyle, as opposed to a life? DEFINE THE IT!
Of course, that would be biting the hand that feeds them, and women who want it all know before they know anything else that if you can’t fight them you join them and once you’ve joined them, that’s IT.
In a bizarre sense, these women do achieve a kind of equality but I have to ask the question, who wants to be equal to that? I mean can’t we aspire to something better than “I want it all?”
There was a time when thinking you could have everything was a sign of immaturity. Adults accepted that choices had to be made. Only the greedy narcissist, frozen in the mindset of a two-year-old, thought they were entitled to everything and everyone else had to help them get it.
What seems important to me is that we keep the complaints of privileged women quite separate from the real issues facing the majority of us. They are not the same thing, they do not have anything like the same urgency, and besides, the “I want it all” creed is not going to work for the planet. I don’t believe feminism was ever about having it all. It was, and remains about equality, not matching excessive male privilege. Privilege, I might add, that the majority of males don’t enjoy either.
Feminism isn’t about “wanting it all.” Nobody has that right. The ideology is about creating a world in which everyone has a better chance at decent survival, not just a greedy few of either sex whose sense of entitlement is in danger of raging out of control, to everybody’s cost.