It seems that no matter how much change is begotten by the multiple feminist movements, the trying conversations we are subjected to with those who are enamored with traditional gender roles, or when women demonstrate the capacity to be a boss in their work and their personal lives, we are still expected to question whether women can have it all.
I staunchly believe that we can as women have everything that we set our mind to. I continually find women who inhabit numerous roles and are able to take on every challenge, in the home or in their careers, with ambitious confidence. I also know women who question their choices in life and whether where they are now is where they could have imagined themselves 10 years ago. They struggled with men to accept that younger generations are happy to work for futures without husbands or without children. Not every young woman out in the world who imagines herself in a domestic role wants a powerhouse career either. As part of the millennial generation we have a whole new set of ideals and possibilities where we often find that what is conventional or expected rarely leads to the road of personal success.
However there is also an overwhelming anxiety that comes with toting the millennial title. The great strides in technology and communication that was not accessible to previous generations has infiltrated every aspect of our lives from Instagram to LinkedIn. The fields of marketing and design have seen an enormous boom in interest garnered from youth that has led to innovative social artistry and change. Individuality has become more attractive than the collective whole and widespread tendencies to conform have been disregarded in favor of demonstrating the benefits of exploring your own identity.
I was fortunate to grow up thinking that I could be anything I wanted to be if I put enough effort and time into what I wanted to accomplish. There were many doubters and skeptics along the way but I chalked up their discontentment with my goals to the basic ignorance that can be expected from rural communities. Originally I fancied the idea of being a professor and a mother with five children in a New England home where I could pour over academic research during the day and have dinner in the oven by six at night. I vaguely assumed in this fantasy I was married, however the real draw was a corner office with books and raising kids. As many young women find at university, conversations about feminism are prevalent. I debated daily about what wearing makeup has to do with being a feminist (absolutely nothing) and whether I could really be happy at a certain point in my life as a stay-at-home mother. Soon it became apparent that if I struggled with an empty schedule it was doubtful I could personally be fulfilled with one singular role at any age.
Most people would describe me as a 23-year-old woman trapped inside the mentality of a 60-year-old anarchist. Rarely do I find the energy to spend nights out at the club or talk about frivolous topics of conversation. The young women like me that share the trials and tribulations of not fitting in with their age group are intense and wickedly smart. They also take on heavy workloads with their families and careers but often they are also creating social profiles that elevate their personal marketability. They take photos on vacations, update their statuses, tweet Congressmen about legislation, and are vocal on group messages while orchestrating bridal showers. I have a hard time believing anyone is on pins and needles waiting to be updated about my search for the perfect Christmas candle or pore over pictures of a pie I made in the morning. People have better things to do and I can save any anecdotes I’ve gathered to charm others over drinks or co-worker luncheons. Then I see the millions of jobs that request social networking experience which has become a valuable and sought after commodity in the workforce. I panic. I see that my peers take on unpaid internships at large corporations or institutions that look brilliant on their resumes. I can’t afford to work full time without pay and I panic. Then I see their brunch Instagrams where they are stylishly ensembled in Topshop’s newest trends and I have a nervous breakdown in my generic flannel shirt. I try to compete by giving off the illusion that my shit is together when in reality it’s very close to splitting at the seams. There are days when I believe I’ve got it handled and others where I’m very sure that everything is falling apart.
It never serves anyone well to compare themselves to others but it’s unlikely to stop anytime soon. Young women in the media are doing wonders at an early age to change perceptions of gender and sexuality. They fight for the education of girls, contraceptive care, Planned Parenthood-where all their bases are covered and their impact through advocacy is apparent to the masses. Someone once jokingly reprimanded me by saying I have as many hours in a day as Beyoncé. That’s bullshit. First of all because I’m sure that she has at least 10 assistants and she recorded “Partition” in a basement recording studio in her pajamas. I could have it all and do it all too if I could work from home in my bathrobe, have assistants feed me information relevant to keep me abreast of the news, and I could probably be incredibly thin if nutritionists blended and hand delivered smoothies to my doorstep every three hours. This isn’t the reality though when there will never be enough hours in the day to be everything to everyone at any given time. Yet this is the societal weight on our shoulders that we’re not living up to our roles as women unless we can have it all and do it all without dropping dead from exhaustion.
Men are rarely asked whether they can have it all and do it all. Millennials seem to show that they can have it all and do it all while young women across the spectrum are still trying to figure out how they can do feminism proud and be successful before losing the advantage of being in our twenties. We’re making life choices based on cultural climates and misogyny that perpetuates if we’re not earning salaries based off our skills or successfully marketing our interests we must not be doing enough. No one has the ability to do it all and there is no way that anyone can have it all without accepting their own humanity. We’re all flawed and even if we can’t always remain grounded in this universal truth at least we can try to be easier on one another when plans fall through.