“‘Shonda, how do you do it all?’ The answer is this: I don’t. Whenever you see me somewhere succeeding in one area of my life, that almost certainly means I am failing in another area of my life.” - Shonda Rhimes
Women want it all.
We’ve heard this declaration countless times over the last decade. Arguably, it has been a mantra of third wave feminism. Yet, what does ‘all’ mean? How do we define it? Is there only one definition? Furthermore, does every woman want ‘all’ of it? What if we don’t? Lastly, how do we get ‘it’? Must we sacrifice our balance and tranquility to achieve this lofty goal?
“You can’t have it all at once. Over my lifespan, I think I have had it all. But in different periods of time, things were rough.” - Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Some argue that no matter who you are and how you measure this evasive ‘all’, it is impossible to achieve it. Life is full of tradeoffs, fluctuating priorities, and decisions. No one, of any gender, can achieve this goal. Besides, it sounds exhausting, doesn’t it?
“After women became those things anyway, then society said, ‘All right, you’re now a lawyer or a mechanic or an astronaut—but that’s only OK if you continue to do the work you did before—if you take care of the children, cook three meals a day, and are multiorgasmic until dawn.’” - Gloria Steinem
Others argue that urging women to ‘have it all’ is a misstep of feminism (or a byproduct of patriarchy, depending on your version of feminism). Why must we have it all? We have achieved positions as astronauts or lawyers, so now must we also clean the house, write a collection of short stories and raise two children?
“Telling women that some women ‘have it all’ only makes others feel less-than. I think we all have different struggles and issues…. My mother once said to me, ‘There’s a time to mother, a time to be single, a time to work, a time to volunteer, a time to pray, a time to be active, a time to be, a time to do, a time to talk to yourself, and a time to be quiet.’ …Get up, be grateful, try to center yourself, and try to do your best that day.” - Maria Shriver
Other circles argue that the goal of ‘having it all’ is actually insulting. Does that mean that being a stay-at-home mother is a life half lived? Is a working professional woman only worthy of limited praise because she does not have a family?
And what about the choice to not pursue it all; to make a conscious decision not to strive for totality in every facet of your life? Must we be a super human to be considered a successful woman in today’s day and age? That seems like a pretty high standard, and particularly difficult for marginalized women (women of colour, different abilities, low socio economic class, non-conforming sexual orientation or gender identity, etc.) to achieve.
No, we need not have it all. Of course not. We do not need to strive for this illustrious work-life-fun-community-beauty (and whatever else) balance. We need not measure our worth by what we lack in the pie chart of life.
But we do want the opportunity to have it all. We deserve to live in a society where every woman has the potential, the support, and the space, to chase this dream. If we want the sun and the stars, let us embark on this same journey.
Furthermore, recognize that no two women will share the same dream, and that is a critical part of understanding what ‘all’ of it really is. My dream and your dream will differ, yet we are both equally deserving of the opportunity to fight for our dream. And we want both options available - we want it all.
Show us all the mountains that will lead us to life’s opportunities, and we will decide on which summit we will climb.
So yes, women do want it all. We want the freedom, the opportunity, and the support to seek and achieve our goals. Then, when we have achieved our personal goal, we want society to accept that we only have some of ‘it’.
We want to have our cake and eat it too. The thing is, we want the whole cake, so then we can decide which piece we will eat.