Here’s another thought-provoking response to the “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All” in The Atlantic.
The Atlantic’s current cover story, headlined “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All,” depicting a toddler in a briefcase clutched by a headless woman in dark hose (whom I can only assume is Diane Keaton from 1987’s “Baby Boom”) puts me in mind of a modest proposal: Working women should eat their babies, thus simultaneously solving the problem of childcare and what to make for dinner.
No, my proposal is this: We should immediately strike the phrase “have it all” from the feminist lexicon and never, ever use it again.
Here is what is wrong, what has always been wrong, with equating feminist success with “having it all”: It’s a misrepresentation of a revolutionary social movement. The notion that female achievement should be measured by women’s ability to “have it all” recasts a righteous struggle for greater political, economic, social, sexual and political parity as a piggy and acquisitive project.
What does “having it all” even mean? Affordable childcare or a nanny who speaks Mandarin? Decent school lunches or organic string cheese? A windowed office or a higher minimum wage? Public transportation that reliably gets you to work or a driver who will whisk you from kindergarten dropoff in time for the board meeting? Does it mean never feeling stress or guilt? Does it mean feeling satisfied all the time?
It is a trap, a setup for inevitable feminist short-fall. Irresponsibly conflating liberation with satisfaction, the “have it all” formulation sets an impossible bar for female success and then ensures that when women fail to clear it, it’s feminism – as opposed to persistent gender inequity – that’s to blame.