Let's stop saying we all have the same 24 hours in a day

·8-min read
Photo credit: Katie Wilde - Getty Images
Photo credit: Katie Wilde - Getty Images

“If you put your mind to it, you can achieve anything you want.” “Dream big.” “The world is your oyster.” “You don’t have time, you make time.”

We’ve seen them thousands of times before. "Motivational" words dressed up in pretty Instagram squares ready to reshare, and emblazoned on mugs, T-shirts, keyrings, badges... The kind of sentiment so many of us reach for when we need a boost, when it feels like there aren't enough hours in the day. On the surface, such motivational phrases seem harmless. But when we pick them apart, are they really?

While speaking on the podcast Diary of a CEO, creative director of PrettyLittleThing and former Love Islander, Molly-Mae Hague commented that we "all have the same 24 hours in a day" and that if we want something badly enough, we can achieve it no matter what. The entire interview is about one hour 42 minutes long, but a small section of it was recently pulled out and shared on social media.

The sentiment Molly-Mae uttered: "you’re given one life and it’s up to you what you do with it" would feel right at home on one of those "inspirational" memes. But as the six-figure salaried creative director of a fashion company who were once accused of paying their garment workers a mere £3.50 an hour, when the living wage is £9.50 (something they dispute – scroll down for their statement) critics are saying her remarks are tone deaf and smack of privilege – and Twitter has gone wild.

Molly-Mae said in the clip (around 11.30 mins in): “Beyoncé has the same 24 hours in the day that we do and I just think, like, you’re given one life and it’s up to you what you do with it, you can literally go in any direction.” Her team has since defended her comments by saying that "Molly is not commenting on anyone else’s life or personal situation she can only speak of her own experience." But the intense backlash her comments have caused and the debate that's followed cannot be ignored. Because as much as we may like to think otherwise, some of us may have had similar thoughts, that if we just apply ourselves and work harder, maybe we can achieve more. But there is a much bigger picture.

The “You Have the Same 24 Hours as Beyoncé” quote first started doing the rounds on the internet about the same time as the term “girlboss” was coined by entrepreneur and Nasty Gal founder Sophia Amoruso in 2014 (when Molly-Mae was 15). On a surface level, I get it, the sentiment is to say that the most successful (AKA the richest) women in the world are also restricted by the same laws of time as the rest of us – which as Molly-Mae says is "literally true", in that yes there are 24 hours in a day.

Before we go any further, we also need to acknowledge that the likes of Beyoncé and co. have teams of chefs, trainers, nannies, assistants, drivers and managers – ultimately freeing up a lot more of those 24 hours which can then be spent on trying to achieve their career goals. And yet, even with that truth in mind, the "work hard and you’ll succeed" mantra persists – when really, it's a myth that those in power want us to cling to.

Can a single, working class mother-of-three, grafting away in a low-paid job to support her family really achieve as much in a day as somebody born into a well-off family who can afford to work in a part-time job? Who has better social connection and has been educated in a more favourable school? Can someone who is just trying to keep their head above water with minimal opportunities in a small town really be compared to someone who has exactly the same dreams, but for whom money has never been an issue? What if you have unconscious bias and racial gaslighting to contend with? As writer Evie Muir puts it: "I have the same 24 hours as Beyoncé but I spend most of them advocating for my own mental health against ableist, racist workplaces who make me cry and give me panic attacks. We are not the same." When you ask those questions, the answer seems obvious.

But, as Molly-Mae uttered those words, I saw a tiny part of my past self in her. I was also bombarded with that same message of 'work hard and you will become top dog' long before social media existed. I grew up on that notion; it's passed down from generations in the hope that each generation does better than the last. One person on Twitter said her comments were "Thatcherite talking-points dressed up in "inspirational" influencer speak." But we grew up in a country that celebrates Thatcher's legacy (one that also left the UK with a housing crisis).

If I hadn't grown up, had more life experiences and taken stock of the world around me – that wages are stagnant as the cost of living continues to rise – and I might even still believe that the "effort" we put in is the main route to success. Thankfully, I have since been afforded the time and space to unravel my privilege as an able-bodied cis white woman – and I now know I am where I am (working at a national magazine, a freelance writer, someone who graduated from a top uni) partly because of that.

A simplistic meme proclaiming "everyone has the same 24 hours in a day" can never really illustrate how our society is built on a flawed system, and that sadly, it's one that simply doesn't offer up equal opportunities for all.

It's a tough pill to swallow, as I am sure Molly-Mae is coming to realise now. Why wouldn't we want to believe that if we work hard, we'll reap rewards? It's an attractive notion, but it's also toxic and puts the emphasis on the individual, not the flawed system we live within.

And those "inspirational" memes that profess that we can all get what our heart desires if we just, well, try a bit harder? Well, they're part of the problem, they assume that meritocracy is actually a thing – that it doesn't matter where you come from, how much money you have, where you grew up, the colour of your skin, what you look like, because if you work hard, you can have everything you want. Everyone loves an underdog hero story. But it’s not true is it? And perhaps it's time we stop pretending it is?

We have to question, would Molly-Mae be where she is today without the privileged position she is in? Would she be where she is if she had a chronic illness that made everyday tasks take ten times longer? Would a young carer, who spends all day at school then looks after her sick parents be able to #Girlboss her way to “success” when she only has about half an hour to herself to take a shower? Or a mum of three kids, one who has autism, she has two jobs and barely any time to go the loo? For exactly that reason, we don't – and can't ever – all have the same 24 hours in a day. We can't all get where we want purely from how much effort we put in.

There are currently millions of eyes on her, waiting for a compassionate response, so it would be inspiring to see her fully acknowledge her privilege, but is Molly-Mae really the bad guy in all this – or just someone who is making choices within the same capitalist framework that we are all forced to exist in? Yes, she might have said something questionable but does she deserve this much vitriol for it? To an extent, she even recognises her privilege in the video in question by saying that "we all have different backgrounds" and "we do have different financial situations."

Aren't there other people in positions of power we could be turning on with the same velocity? We are all gaslit by people in power every single day into believing the capitalist myth. The reality is that social inequality means there isn't a level playing field: race, health, gender, social class, sexuality, mental health, disability and other factors mean there might never be a level playing field. Yes, we can all make choices, but let's not pretend that we have the same options.

A boohoo group spokesperson said: “Any suggestion that garment workers for PLT or any other boohoo group PLC brand are paid lower than the minimum wage is grossly inaccurate. We publish a list of all our approved UK and international manufacturers, all of whom have been audited over the last 18 months, and we do not tolerate any non-compliance with our supplier Code of Conduct. We operate a whistleblowing hotline so people can share any concerns they may have and we work with relevant government agencies to ensure the people who make our clothes have their rights in the workplace protected.”

You can read Molly-Mae's official statement here.

You Might Also Like

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting