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:
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.
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.
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.
Image by jurvetson
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