Friday, 8 April 2016

What Does It Mean To "Have It All"?

"I think "having it all" is one of the concepts of feminism that doesn't apply to me."

"How so?"

"Cause I'm black"

I don't know why I always stumble upon things that make me think so much so late at night but I do and it happened again so here we go. Hannah Witton is a YouTube person who makes videos about everything from books and pop culture to feminism, body image, gender and sexuality and recently she started a series called 'Girl on Girl' where two women discuss one topic and the one that resonated with me the most out of the three I watched was Episode 3 (watch below) with the stand-up comedian and writer Athena Kugblenu. Now I was disappointed that this was my first introduction to Ms. Athena but I was so excited to find that she had a blog (which I can later binge-read) but for now I'm going to stick to talking about that episode because it has already triggered so many thoughts on the topic of "having it all".

First of all, the fact that she sheds light on the exclusive nature of the feminism that's primarily talked about these days is so important. I think from a personal stance, I do not wholly identify with white feminism, being an Arab woman whose culture does not carry the same "values" and "beliefs" that a "Western" culture does. However living a privileged, predominantly Westernized, middle class life in the Middle East and not having experienced the myriad of hardships/difficulties women (and people, obviously) experience all over the world makes it very easy to slip into the privileged notions of entitlement every now and again. And in order to combat that I try to keep myself reading and watching and listening to what other people have to say because anybody's experience is bound to be different to yours, one way or another. And I believe that empathy is 100% what heaps of people these days are lacking because a. they don't know anything/much about the lives of people outside of their bubble and b. they don't care because they don't have to. And that is problematic because this movement is supposed to be one that supports and empowers all individuals and when an allegedly inclusive movement is so blatantly exclusive and intersectional feminism is hardly pushed to the forefront of discussion or even acknowledgement, that's just counter-productive!!

So when Athena talked about her mother who had to support a family and said that, "You have it all because you don't have a choice", that is something that needs to be acknowledged because choice is fundamental in the discussion of having it all. As Hannah said, the notion of "you have the opportunity to have it all" that is often shoved down millennials' throats is part of the root cause of the problem. But this is a big entangled point I'm trying to break down, so bear with me. On the one hand, that is immensely positive. Yes, some people have these opportunities handed to them on a platter and if they're not going to try and achieve/accomplish everything that is within their reach (that they would want and would further their life, of course) then it is plainly stupid to not make the most of that opportunity. However, making the best of that opportunity should co-exist with the understanding that this is not an expectation I can have of the world and I do not deserve these opportunities, I am lucky to have them. This attribute or belief (that is often unjustly and purely correlational-ly) attributed to millennials perpetuates this (un)conscious entitlement that can cloud a lot of people's understanding, making them blind to the reality of the world around them. And that kind of entitlement breeds a lot of ignorance that in turn holds society back from "true" mutual understanding and the possible elimination of this discrepancy in the opportunities we hand out.   

It was immensely poignant to me when Athena answered what would having it all be for her:
"I would want opportunity to get whatever it is I desire professionally or personally"
And that was immense because of the fact that I, an individual who is very conscious of (her) privilege a lot of the time did not consciously expect that answer. Because opportunity is seen as a given. Opportunity is discussed as something you will get when it just is not. And for some people, their reality is that they will just get opportunities and that is not something we should be punishing them for. Bitterness is not the end goal. But it is something that they need to be held accountable for. Privilege is a responsibility. And by being so unaware of it, that is a misuse of one's responsibility.

There were a lot of thoughts their conversation brought up that are irrelevant in the scheme of this particular conversation but will definitely appear elsewhere in my writing as they tackle very current and relevant topics/issues in my life at the moment. HOWEVER I am going to list the thoughts here because I'm bound to forget them and I've made a habit of tangents, I might as well.

1. Men "get it" - the idea of men not being silly little idiots fooled by everything in terms of skewing their perception of women. Made me think of how a lot of the time people either underestimate men's ability to understand the situation or give ignorant individuals the justification of "this ignorant notion is marketed to you so it's okay if you're being ignorant"

2. The triangle of doom - priorities and choice - career, kids or a lifelong partner??? (+ bonus: my thoughts on childrem)

3. "My issue with feminism and the idea of having it all is that you put a to-do list on your life that actually has nothing to do with you" - this

4. A look at the structure of the show as a whole - the concept, the approach, what I'd like to see more of or less of (+ more bonus: my own desire to start a project along those lines and my recent quarter life crisis on creating and investing time into valuable projects and also what makes them valuable wow)

5. Self-discovery - that little "Eat, Pray, Love" point made (a lil commentary on the problematic depiction of "self-discovery" and the cultural appropriation that goes into that that irks me a lil)

6. Relationships - marriage, open, non-traditional (???) - everybody has their priorities but also, everybody has their own perceptions (+ bonus discussion: changing for the sake of a relationship!)

7. Many more!

Overall, I thought Athena was a brilliant guest to have on the show as everything she said just had my brain gears going and I have been trying to write something for the past month and a half to no real success, yet here I am at 2:36 AM on a Friday morning typing away furiously and not going back to read this through because I'm bound to change too much that it no longer carries its true essence.

Thank you Athena!

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