Men and women have always had different expectations in society. That’s the way history has played out, and continues to play out today. As women gained more equality, doors were opened to more opportunities.
Despite the advances women have made, there is obviously more changes that need to happen. One of the many expectations that needs to change is the idea of “having it all.”
What does that mean?
It appears that the phrase could have derived from author and Cosmopolitan editor Helen Gurley Brown’s 1982 book entitled “Having It All: Love, Success, Sex, Money…Even if You’re Starting With Nothing.”
The title wasn’t Brown’s idea, and she actually hated the title. But it appears that society has ran with this idea that women should chase after “having it all.”
The first thing I want to note is that “having it all” is a phrase not directed at the population at large. It is specified to women, and women only.
I’m honestly not sure. I’m assuming because society believes that men already have it all. So someone concocted this idea that no women “have it all.” Thus, society needed to dish out advice to women on how they too can “have it all.”
But first, society needs to define what they believe all women in 2015 must have in order to truly “have it all” and have succeeded in life:
Are there women who do in fact want everything on this list? Of course.
But does every single woman on the face of the planet want all of these things?
The problem with the phrase “having it all” assumes that all women, all over the planet, have the exact same list of dreams they hope to accomplish in life in order to feel like they’ve “made it.” This isn’t the case. We are human beings. We are not one size fits all. We aren’t robots.
I believe that just like men, women should feel free to live their lives as they please (as long as they’re not hurting anyone or committing crimes, of course). We don’t see articles about men struggling to “have it all,” yet throughout the years, there have been many magazine covers like this:
All of these magazine covers are debating about what’s “right” for women’s lives. These in-depth articles explore “nontraditional” decisions some women make. These articles dissect the statistics of how many women aren’t having kids, what happens when women have a career and kids, and explores the reasons for women parenting the way that they do.
Do magazines study and write extensive articles like this about men? No. Men have never been involved in these repetitive discussions that seem to be never-ending.
My question about these debates on women’s lives?
Honestly, why does any of this matter? Should it?
My theory is that the media and society make it appear like it matters because women are still consistently judged by absolutely everyone. It’s a fact of being a woman in the world.
Our appearances, life choices, goals, dreams, and opinions are all dissected, picked apart, debated, questioned, and judged. We are judged by the media, society, our teachers, our families, churches, doctors, and strangers. We cannot escape judgement.
The problem with this is that society has made it impossible for women to “have it all” because society has a specific opinion on what “it all” is. If you haven’t checked every box on their list, then you don’t have it all according to society.
When there is a trend of women making decisions different from society’s expectations of them, like opting out of parenthood, for example, the media and society freak out like the world is coming to an end.
“Oh my gosh, why are less women having kids?!?’
“What’s wrong with these women?”
“How can we change their minds?”
“Are women who don’t have kids selfish?”
Women still have narrow expectations in society today, even in America. When we travel our own paths and make our own choices, there is an absolute frenzy from, well, everyone. Women are still expected to check every item off the list of the “To Do List of Every Woman on the Planet,” and when women don’t, there are debates about why not.
Newsflash: It doesn’t matter.
If women aren’t hurting anyone, who cares if some women don’t have kids?
Or don’t get married?
Or don’t go to college?
Or don’t have a perfect career?
Women are human beings, too, and not all women have the same brain, the same values, or even the same interests. Shocking, I know. Women are (GASP!) free to make choices. Just like not all men have the same ambitions in life, neither do women.
This idea of women “having it all” seems to give women the message that they can never have “it all” because it’s impossible. Evidently they are saying, “It’s possible for men to have a college degree, get married, have kids, and have a career, but women, you just can’t do that. Sorry!” It’s the assumption that all women everywhere want all of these things, and that it’s automatically an impossibility.
My version of “having it all” may differ from another woman’s version of it. Also, I don’t even believe in the phrase “having it all” because I believe that the phrase is just agenda pushing. It’s pushing the message that women are set up to fail and that they should be fighting their entire lives to achieve “it all.” It’s just forcing women to continue being “good girls” and following what society expects from them. Men are judged slightly for not achieving these things as well, but not even close to the degree women are judged. Women are judged so harshly it’s fulled worldwide debates.
As everyone continues to debate if women can “have it all” (or if “having it all” should even be discussed anymore), I hope that more people start coming around to the idea that women can make individual choices and that the only thing that should matter is that women are happy and fulfilling their own personal dreams.