Undead sexist cliches: What women want is a mystery beyond any man’s comprehension

Sigmund Freud once started that for all his experience in plumbing the depths of the human mind, he still could not figure out the answer to the question, “What do women want?”
Astonishingly, people are still asking that question in the 21st century, usually in the same baffled tone. Women. So contradictory and illogical and confusing. Who can figure them out. How can any man know what they want?
You’d think in all that time, it would have occurred to more people what an astonishingly stupid question it is.
It’s no more possible to figure out what women want than figure out “What do Americans want?” Or blacks, Jews, gays, Italians, Latinos, Roma, Russian immigrants. Okay, we can figure out the obvious: Pretty much everyone wants to live another day, not be homeless under a bridge, not suffer wasting diseases, not get raped or mugged. We can safely assume all women want their SO not to abuse them, just like gay teens want not to be bullied in school.
Beyond that, anything goes. Even in relationships, there’s no hard and fast rule. I know women who stayed virgin into their thirties and women who lost it in their teens. I know women who long to get married, women who won’t go any further than serial monogamy and women who are recluses. Women who want kids, women who want a closer relationship with God, women who want to become president.
The question sticks around, I think, because the assumption that gender trumps everything sticks around. It’s the basis of lots of relationship and sex-difference books (Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, for instance): Women’s nature (whatever the author imagines that to be) is fixed and innate and universal. It trumps everything: All women, regardless of wealth, power, race, sexual orientation, etc. have this in common.
While part of that is marketing (it’s much easier to give advice about something if you make sweeping generalizations and ignore inconvenient details), I suspect part of that is the distinct spheres into which society has shoved the two genders for so long. If women exist in some completely alien sphere of housekeeping and childcare, it’s that much easier to imagine them as well, unimaginable.
And part of that, of course, is the stereotype of women as emotional creatures, ruled by their feelings (unlike us oh-so-logical men) and their hormones. Of course you can’t figure out what women want: They’re too crazy.
There’s also the problem of what happens when you know what they want and just can’t accept it. Freud assumed women who wanted anything but motherhood were driven by a jealous desire for a penis and needed to get over it. Ditto the stereotype of the guy who gives a woman everything she’s supposed to want and can’t figure out why she wants something else (likewise the idea that women have all the power they need because they rule men——why would they want to be equals when they’re really in charge?).
In the end, of course, it doesn’t matter what “women” want. All that matters is what the women you’re with wants.
In other undead sexist cliche news:
•The popular argument that men are hard-wired to favor a specific waist-to-hip ratio? Not so.
•Republicans who scoffed at charges Herman Cain was a sexual harasser are shocked that he might have had a consensual affair.
•Echidne dissects an argument that women cause their kids’ autism because they have too much of a male mind.


Filed under Politics, Undead sexist cliches

3 responses to “Undead sexist cliches: What women want is a mystery beyond any man’s comprehension

  1. Pingback: Undead sexist cliches: Women are so dumb. So emotional. Also: Girls. « Fraser Sherman's Blog

  2. Pingback: Undead Sexist Cliche: Heroism redux | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  3. Pingback: Texas abortion law (and other sexism links) | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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