When I hear about a person “having it all,” I think of someone who is accomplishing everything and has all the fields of life tended to and bountiful. Powerful, leader-qualified, successful in career and family; no role ever compromised; no project ever neglected.
In my experiences, this “having it all” term has most frequently been applied when comparing the standards of men and women; when the status of women and their accomplishments are analyzed and more times than not, compared to those of men.
So, I wasn’t necessarily surprised to be reading an article in The Atlantic about the PepsiCo CEO, who is a woman, discussing this saying. In fact, she responded directly to the article question: “What’s your opinion about whether women can have it all?” But I was surprised that the article centered on the phrase and how the PepsiCo CEO had experienced or not experienced its truth, rather than concentrating on the CEO’s experiences themselves without measuring them against the standards of “having it all.”
I find it interesting how certain phrases or sayings are used, perpetuated and potentially normalized in our culture without first taking more care to acknowledge what they actually mean. Not that I identify and am aware of using certain phrases all the time in my own everyday life. I think our language and culture is full of them…..but it’s still interesting. Interesting to the point that an interview is based on a saying and in effect, further empowers that saying with validity, merit and truth.
For me, the real story is about how a phrase that perpetuates only a method of thinking, culturally imposed standards and judgements, becomes the wide base of a socially charged discussion. Why is “having it all” used so casually in the first place to direct our perception? Is it habit? Can a repeated, normalized phrase evolve to a perception that influences or constructs the boundaries of how we think about our selves and what our options are in life?
“Having it all” – this seems to me a circular, subjective argument. The “it” is undefined in the phrase, or maybe the “it” has been defined by someone elses standards rather than mine. Is it a cultural necessity to define standards of accomplishment and success for everyone else? Maybe this is what we have become comfortable with. Maybe it is easier to live up to given, set standards, rather than figuring out our own standards for what we want in life. Or maybe without the set, goal driven structure of “having it all” we would be left to spin out of control as greedy insatiable creatures who could never have enough.