What Women Want

by Belinda Munoz on March 7, 2011

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It’s likely that the title of this post will make some eyes roll, or at least, be greeted by guttural groans. Believe me. I know. What do women want? I hesitate to bring up this unresolved and hugely manipulated, misunderstood and distorted subject with those whose sympathy for women is yet to be determined.

WHAT WOMEN AND MEN DON’T WANT

I’ve made that mistake too many times. In the past, I have naively broached this subject with men — men whom I’ve given the benefit of the doubt for showing signs of enlightenment, honesty and openness. It’s taken me a while to realize that a lot of men are simply not comfortable with this subject and therefore unable, or perhaps unwilling, to transcend the stereotypical definitions of beauty, femininity and gender roles relating to women and girls.

Then there are the women. It’s taken me even longer to accept that a lot of women are just as unwilling to explore this subject as the men are. True, women are subjected to numerous stereotypes of how we should look, behave, dress, move, speak, laugh, think, react, sneeze, etc. And in an already complicated, modern world, it is sometimes easier to conform and many are only too willing to do so.

WHAT WOMEN AND MEN NEED

But these stereotypes are dangerous and so I get over my hesitation and broach the subject once again. Women and men, together, need to:

1. Talk.
The cosmetics industry generates $170 billion a year worldwide. The diet industry selling temporary weight loss is worth between $40 – $100 billion a year. Who’s benefiting? Who’s being corrupted? Without engaging in real discussions about who sets the standards of beauty and thinness that many are only too willing to uphold and what these standards are doing to our population, we’ll never know if we possess the power to make a change and thus, never see profound transformation.

2. Learn.
Sixty-five percent of American women and girls have an eating disorder*, likely as a result of the pressure to adhere to standards of beauty perpetuated by the media, the cosmetics and diet industries and the Hollywood and Princess cultures. Our society’s obsession with thinness has reached a disturbing level. When a group of children who were interviewed on 20/20 were asked if they’d rather be fat or lose an arm, they unanimously answered that they’d rather lose an arm.**

3. Connect the dots.
We count. Of course we do. But the world is so much bigger than just you and me. More than 900 million girls and women are living on less than a dollar a day.** You spend your money how you want just as I spend my money how I want. But the goods we buy and how we acquire them take on a whole new meaning when we note that an estimated one hundred million girls are involved in child labor worldwide.** Who made my makeup brush? Will she be one of half a million girls below the age of eighteen who will fall victim to sex trafficking this year?** If so, I’d like to know.

4. Know that we can change the status quo.
By raising awareness, by refusing to buy in to stereotypes that are demeaning to women and girls, by teaching our daughters and sons that what they truly want comes from within and not dictated by expensive ads and commercials, by supporting organizations like V-Day, Global Fund for Women, Women for Women International and Vital Voices to name a few, we can effect social change at the fundamental level.

WHAT WOMEN WANT

The women I know are independent. They think for themselves and do want they want. They know their rights and privileges and no statistic, factoid or blog post can make them do what they don’t want to do. This is how they want it and, as long as our legislators are willing to put up the fight to preserve these rights, this is how it will be.

WHAT I WANT

Me? Like the women in my life, I have my rights and I exercise them. I have so much and for these, I am thankful.

Still, I want more. And what I want right now? What I want is for all women and girls — regardless of who they are, where they are and what color their skin is — to have the same rights as I do. I want them to be able to say no and be respected for it, not repeatedly violated and punished because of it. I want them to never ever have to do anything they don’t want to do, just like the women I know.

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If you’re a woman, what do you want?

If you’re a man, what do you want for the women and girls in your life?

I had the pleasure of being in the presence of Eve Ensler twice last week. Eve spoke about the unspeakable truths that women in Haiti and the Congo continue to endure. Another thing that I want? I hope that you will take a moment to reflect on the importance of International Women’s Day, March 8th and, if you’re a woman, I hope that you won’t hesitate to follow in the footsteps of those who have come before us to make history.

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*source: Miss Representation
**source: I Am an Emotional Creature

Image by jurvetson

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

1 TheKitchenWitch March 7, 2011 at 5:26 am

Okay. That thing you said about losing an arm? I got goose bumps and had to leave to put on a sweater. So. Damn. Crazy.

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2 ayala March 7, 2011 at 6:01 am

An inspiring post Belinda. Those unspeakable truths are something that everyone should think about and attempt to provoke others into action for change. Thank you, for this post!

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3 Rudri Bhatt Patel @ Being Rudri March 7, 2011 at 6:56 am

This post and your continuous effort to raise awareness is why I am honored to read your words Belinda and why I love your pieces. You get it. Thanks.

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4 brian March 7, 2011 at 8:51 am

i want the same for women…we all should have certain rights to respect and diginity that carry across gender, race and culture…i also agree on the streotypes…it sucks the abuse women (and now many men) put themselves through trying to fit the picture that media sells…

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5 The Exception March 7, 2011 at 9:43 am

As I read this, I thought about the women I know – and they would agree with those kids… being fat, going without their make-up, not having their lifestyles… These are unthinkable to them. I know women who are raising their girls to be the same – to put everything above integrity and personal fulfillment… to be afraid of using their voices and making a difference if it means less money, looking differently etc. These are well educated women with well educated and privileged girls. It is interesting to consider this environment and to know that these women don’t care where their clothes come from or their make-up brush is made. They don’t think twice about the lives of those who work in the factories. How can we ask them to care or to think twice or even to shop differently or risk those things they value?

I say this and yet I know women who are just the opposite. They are aware of their connectedness and the power of their voices. They make choice accordingly.

Yes, we are women with voices and minds of our own… and yet we continue to put imagine first, status symbols first, lifestyle first (insecurities first?) – choosing to perpetuate the cycles even when and if we know the impact of our choices.

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6 Tracy March 7, 2011 at 9:44 am

Choice and Confidence. My wish for all women is to have same rights and opportunities as their male counterparts across the globe: rights to vote, own property, have access to education, hold political office, etc. But also, the confidence to make the right choices for their own lives…whether that choice is to work, to be a stay-at-home mom, to farm a field, or whatever. I posted about that very point today.

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7 Patty - Why Not Start Now? March 7, 2011 at 11:19 am

Brilliant, Belinda. What I want most is the first thing you mention: Talk. Dialogue. Communication. Until we stop resisting the urge to deny and start talking about this stuff, both at the macro and micro levels, then I doubt things will change. Engagement and collaboration are beautiful things; polarization, not so much.

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8 BigLittleWolf March 7, 2011 at 2:16 pm

The statistics on eating disorders – after all these decades – still so alarming and appalling.

Rights? So many basic human rights violated – for men and women both. But a right to feel at home in our bodies, as they are? Wouldn’t that be something?

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9 Talon March 7, 2011 at 4:16 pm

I always wish there was a way to make the interior as intriguing as the exterior. Who we are is so much more than what we look like…that always troubles me when I read things like the 20/20 survey. This preoccupation with appearance is soul-killing and truly tragic.

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10 Cathy March 7, 2011 at 9:52 pm

I want the world’s population to stop increasing. I know this doesn’t have anything to do with obsession with appearances. But the forecast for 50 years from now is not good when they discuss food supply.

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11 Mama Zen March 8, 2011 at 9:50 am

That 20/20 interview is horrifying. I want my little girl to grow up to be a woman that knows that she is much, much more than what she looks like. I want that for all of our little girls.

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12 Tess The Bold Life March 8, 2011 at 4:23 pm

Belinda,
Thank you for bringing this into the light. I’m shocked that 65% of women and girls have eating disorders. I had no idea it was that high. I want what you want and know it’s possible and not to much to ask for.

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13 Ben March 9, 2011 at 6:48 am

Those are some pretty staggering statistics. I had no idea that those sorts of things were going on all around us. Confidence and freedom would be an amazing thing for the women of the world. Even in our own society, as you mentioned, it’s so difficult to stand confident against the barrage of societal pressures constantly being applied to women. Great post for Women’s Day.

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14 Belinda March 9, 2011 at 11:46 am

Ben, thank you for joining the conversation and for seeing the big picture. It’s difficult to fuly grasp these statistics. We hear them and yet many of us become desensitized or numb because the reality is too much to deal with. I hope all the women adn girls in your life bask in the confidence and freedom they deserve to have.

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15 Justine March 9, 2011 at 9:29 am

Thank you for continually opening my eyes, ears and heart to so many unspeakable truths that are happening all around us. Bravo to you and your effort in raising awareness. I hope more will listen, see and feel. And more importantly, that they will act.

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