48 pages 1 hour read

Wendy Wasserstein

The Heidi Chronicles

Fiction | Play | Adult | Published in 1988

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Feminism and “Having it All”

At Lisa’s baby shower in the first scene of Act II, Denise worries whether she will manage to have children while she has time, asking, “I mean, isn’t that what you guys fought for? So we could ‘have it all’”? (211). Heidi’s chronicles follow her journey through the evolution of second-wave feminism, which focused on patriarchal social structures and misogynistic legalities that worked to hold women back, often in indirect ways. Denise’s question resonates throughout the play and continued to resonate for audiences in 1989, who were on the cusp of third-wave feminism’s rise—which has a broader emphasis on diversity, intersectionality, and the rights of women who are not straight or cisgender—after the second wave began to decline in the early 1980s with the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment. The phrase “having it all” became popularized in the late 1970s and early 1980s, placing the demand on women that if they want feminism, equal rights, and equal careers, they must manage these rights on top of their domestic duties. In 1980, Joyce Gabriel and Bettye Baldwin published Having it All: A Practical Guide to Managing Home and a Career, which offered such (seemingly incongruent) “time-saving” tips as suggesting that women paint their nails while simultaneously blowing their hair dry.