It was once said of Ginger Rogers, the frequent partner of dance legend, Fred Astaire, “Sure he was great, but don’t forget that Ginger Rogers did everything he did, … backward and in high heels.” Yes, women are wonderful, but sometimes they can be hard to understand for us men. Sigmund Freud might have summed it up best when he said, “After thirty years of research into the feminine soul, the great question which I haven’t been able to answer is: What does a woman want?” In honor of March being Women’s History Month, this blog post will be my feeble attempt to at least partially answer that question.
To me, there is nothing sexier than a strong woman – one who can think for herself and who stands up for what she believes in. I that regard, I have been fortunate to love several sexy women (although some only as good friends). My mother was a strong woman (although I’m not so much of a sicko as to consider her sexy). I credit her with instilling in me a system of values and a self-image that led me to believe I could accomplish great things. My wife is as sexy as they come and has taught me many things, not the least of which is to love, respect and defend anyone and everyone who might be different from most of us. I fear I am still way behind her in that. And I have had the privilege of working with many smart, talented women who taught me you don’t have to be a man to succeed. I credit one of those women as the inspiration behind my writing efforts.
So how is it that women have had to fight so hard to be recognized as equal to men? For centuries, women have been considered not much more than the property of a man. Maybe we can blame a wrong interpretation of the Bible for that. Most people picture Eve of the Garden of Eden as either weak-willed in connection with God’s commandments, or worse, downright evil. But I imagine Eve differently. I see her as an equal partner in the creation of humankind. Part of the negative stereotype of Eve comes from Genesis calling her a “help meet” for Adam, which we often misunderstand as being synonymous with a servant. But the dictionary defines “help meet” in part as “even with or equal to.” The English words translated from the original Hebrew go even further. Those words mean “equal” and “to be strong,” as a “savior.”
So what do women want? Let’s start with the basics. Women want the same rights as men. I find it incomprehensible that women were not granted the fundamental right to vote until 1920 in the United States. This change in the Constitution happened so recently my mother experienced it. And the struggle was not easy. Here is a clip from the movie Suffragette[i] that illustrates the struggle to secure this basic right in Great Britain:
Again, it is remarkable that only in the last century we changed the laws so women could vote and own property, and even more recently, made pregnancy a medical condition deserving of health care coverage.
Women don’t necessarily want advantages over men. They just want the same opportunities enjoyed by men for years. Although admittedly more about racial discrimination than gender bias, I love this scene from Hidden Figures[ii]:
The title of the movie says it all. Why have we kept so many intelligent, talented women hidden for so long?
Poet and civil rights activist, Maya Angelou, said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Laws have finally started to catch up with the injustices we have heaped on women for centuries, but many of us men still need to change how we make women feel. And what do women want to feel? As someone of worth, of value, as our equals. Sadly, as men, we often think we treat women as our equals, but as the author, Carol Lynn Pearson, points out, “We may say we value women, but what we mean is we love their service, we want their sacrifice. We don’t want their wholeness and their perspectives and their humanity. … Being treated with politeness, consideration, even respect is different from being treated as an equal.” I recommend watching a great little movie out of Great Britain that illustrates Pearson’s point. Made in Dagenham[iii] is the true story of the 1968 strike at the Ford Motor Company at Dagenham (a suburb of London) where women workers walked off the job in protest over discrimination in wages:
Joseph Conrad acknowledged that “Being a woman is a terribly difficult task since it consists principally in dealing with men.” Men, let’s make that task easier for the women we love. Let’s make sure we truly value them as equals. Sadly, for many of us, that might require a paradigm shift in our basic attitudes toward women. Carol Lynn Pearson describes that paradigm shift as follows:
“Long ago, humanity shifted scientific theory from … the earth at the center of the solar system to … the sun at the center of the solar system. I yearn for the paradigm shift that moves the male-female relationship theory from the patriarchal system (the male at the center of the universe with female orbiting around him) to the partnership system (male and female dancing in perfect balance at the center of the universe). No one is personally harmed by the fiction that the earth is the center point of everything, but this other fiction – the fiction that maleness is central and femaleness auxiliary – this affects the daily life of every woman and every man that it touches and leaves us disoriented, many of us displaced and disheartened, and some of us seriously abused.”
So men, the next time a strong, intelligent woman speaks to you, really listen to and value her opinion. And let’s adopt as our new credo the words of author Virginia Woolf: “Men and women are different. What needs to be made equal is the value placed on those differences.”
- Production Company: Ruby Films, Pathé, and Film4
- Director: Sarah Gavron
- Screenwriter: Abi Morgan
- Starring: Carey Mulligan, Anne-Marie Duff, Helena Bonham Carter
- Release date: October 12, 2015
[ii] Hidden Figures
- Production Company: Fox 2000, Chermin Entertainment, Levantine Films
- Director: Theodore Melfi
- Screenwriter: Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi
- Starring: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe
- Release date: January 6, 2017
[iii] Made in Dagenham
- Production Company: Audley Films, BBC Films, BMS Finance
- Director: Nigel Cole
- Screenwriter: William Ivory
- Starring: Sally Hawkins, Bob Hoskins, Andrea Riseborough
- Release date: September 20, 2010