In their newest single and accompanying music video Rotten Eggs, feminist rockers Bait Bag speak their truth on another uniquely feminine set of challenges. For most women born in the 80s and early 90s, raised by or around the influence of second-wave feminists, we were taught as little girls that by working hard enough and playing our cards right, we could “have it all.” This was a phrase used time and time again in media mainly centered on career women to denote managing life with a career and family – a heteronormative, cisnormative ideal unrealistic for many based on that alone.
I do not discredit the work of women who comprised the second wave of the feminist movement. What they accomplished was invaluable to the next generation of women in opening up new opportunities and making it possible for us to work toward new goals. Retrospect grants us the power to make a note of what should or should not have been done. Any present moment provides more questions than answers, and adults always interact with children from a position of authority that even they know they are not qualified to hold, giving advice based on what they learned. Change happens. These critical evaluations do not come from a place of blame.
The map laid out for us was this: get good grades in school and go to college so that by your early 20s, you will be well on your way to a stable and lucrative career. Marry your college sweetheart or at least the next guy after him. Once your career has taken off enough to be durable, have your first child and space any subsequent children out strategically to allow you to return to work and keep your career momentum from grinding to a halt in between. Congratulations, if you’ve followed these steps, your life is perfect! If you haven’t, you’ve got no one to blame but yourself. This response was, in part, affected by the rose-colored go-getter attitude of second-wave feminists as well as the short-sighted belief of American adults that the economic boom of the 20th century’s second half could last forever. We were told that we were destined to have lives materially superior to our parents. Better education. Better jobs. More stylish homes. Happier kids. Healthier relationships. More connectivity. Less inconvenience. Greater dignity for less struggle.
No one was spared from the pressure of this fairy tale, as even those from more pragmatic homes were bombarded with it on tv, from neighbors, from school, and from other relatives. As with all of the happily-ever-after stories of bootstrapping and endless achievements that we were force-fed as children, this one has not panned out for us. It has also wreaked havoc on the lives of anyone who, for one reason or another, didn’t catch onto the fact that it was a load of happy horseshit soon enough. There are a great many women whose self-esteem has taken regular beatings from the internalized belief that if they were following the steps, and it wasn’t getting them the promised optimal life, they had personally fucked up. Somewhere along the way, we have been realizing over the last few years that not only are we not going to “have it all,” a lot of us not going to have any of it.
I am strongly reminded of the part in Fight Club when Tyler Durden says, “We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact.” Though perhaps less fantastical than the projected futures of little boys of our age, the disconnect between where we are, and where we were told we should be, in 2020, is just as stark. And because anger is unbecoming of a lady, we are very, very disappointed.
For me personally, I have never wanted children of my own. I realized in my early 20s that there is just as much dignity in cleaning, preparing food, or building things as there is in having a corner office. In essence, it ultimately boils down to your personal beliefs and perspectives. I eschewed the materialistic notion that working with ones’ brain was superior to working with ones’ hands. Yet the pressure follows me in targeted advertisements, at family dinners, in Facebook comment sections. It’s in the air we breathe.
The music video features footage of many of the band’s friends and neighbors within the affected demographic, driving home the message that this is a collectively shared grief and struggle rather than an individual failing. The video was released on March 29th, a mere two days before Maine’s governor Janet Mills announced the state would be entering lockdown due to COVID-19. While many people across the country and around the world struggle with the ramifications of both the pandemic itself and the massive disruption in daily life, it is easier than ever to believe we are alone. Whatever circumstances the lockdown finds you in, whether or not you have seen posts or heard from friends in similar situations, there are others out there facing the same challenges you are. In the wake of this fresh set of changes, our understanding of the experiences we have shared during this time will become more apparent to us. I do hope that Bait Bag will be there to encapsulate the complexities of these times in their trademark catchy, upbeat style.