Apparently, there was a bit of sexist crap over at Jeopardy! this week. One of the categories was “what women want” – you can imagine how well that went over.
Today, there’s a good article over at The Atlantic which gives a really good history of the birth of that phrase “what women want”.
Its an interesting article. You can trace this phrase back to at least the early seventies. As the article states, this is, ironically, around the time of second-wave feminism and the Women’s movement reaching some popularity here in the US. Think about that for a minute – as soon as women started to make waves that maybe they wanted more than just the right to vote, and the sentiment became popular enough to be a movement, people started to ask ‘what women want’ about a whole ton of things.
I am a child of the seventies and eighties – I was born in ’74 and started high school in ’88. I was born at the end of bra burning and began my journey into womanhood when the ridiculously masculine trends in clothing made one think we were supposed to look like men. Women were breaking glass ceilings and all the dishes in the kitchen. (and please don’t forget that our grandmothers and great grandmothers had also been sent from the home to the factories back to the home again – surely this had an impact on what women wanted, didn’t it? ) No one knew what the hell to do – do you cook dinner for your family or do you go to work and try like hell to be an executive of a company and bypass family for a while? Or…do you do both and hope for the best?
Look at the ages of some of the women who have written the popular business books recently – Sheryl Sandberg was born in ’69; and Marissa Mayer was born in ’75. For all the crap they’ve received because of their books by women who may or not call themselves feminists, what the hell does anyone really expect? These women are like me. They are born when our cultural icons were the fully dressed Madonna (who didn’t really start getting naked until the 90s), we had Cyndi Lauper (who was more than dressed with layers upon layers of clothes), Cindy Crawford, Cheryl Tiggs, Twiggy, Prince, Boy George, and Michael Jackson. And then…we had Madeline Albright, and Margaret Thatcher.
What a list!
Also at this time, some of our nurturing moms were having to work because of the recession in the early ’80s – oh and let’s not forget divorce rates started increasing in the late 70s. It should be of no surprise that both Sandberg and Mayer have gotten flak from anyone. Our moms taught us to be business-oriented; they taught us women wanted the same things as men; they taught us you can have both the family and the job.
And here I am, turning 40 this month, not having any damn clue what I want as a woman. Hell, I don’t even know what being a woman means to me. My grandmother worked (and to hear my mom tell it, she was born a generation too soon as far as her views on what women wanted), my mom worked, my parents were divorced and my dad was a bit mysogonistic. I joined the military, because it was forward-thinking and they’d just opened up a whole lot of jobs that didn’t require sitting behind a desk. I wore a uniform, I tried to fit in with the guys and I did my very best to work as hard as any of them. Then, I worked hard in corporate america because I thought I was supposed to because women fought really hard for me to have that right. And come to find out, it wasn’t what I, as a woman, wanted. None of it, really.
And you know what makes me feel most like a woman? Being maternal to my partner’s kids. He and I co-parent when they are with us; I have developed wonderful relationships with the kids and sometimes I see my maternal teachings reflected back on me…and THAT is what makes me feel like a woman. There’s nothing more gratifying to my womanhood than watching my pseudo-son at the entrance to manhood talking about his female friends with great respect; or watching my pseudo-daughter who is on the cusp of womanhood being very definite about what she thinks is important about being not just a woman, but a well-rounded person.
And, the best thing…is no one told me that this was what I wanted, or should do, or that it was my god-given right. It just happened.
If you ask me, what it is that I want – I want for people to stop telling a woman what she wants – ask her what she wants. I also want women to be in safe enough environments that one can say what she wants without it being threat to anyone else’s ego. And most of all, I want us all, men and women, to realize that we are each individuals and it would be fantastic not to be classified as groups of people rather than the singular selves that we are. Because ultimately, we are all different and thusly we all require different things to be happy.
And to think otherwise is exactly what women don’t want.