Friday, April 03, 2009

What Do Women Want?

The top story on right at this moment is “At Least 12 Slain in Binghamton, NY,” about yet another lone-gunman nutcase who took a bunch of people hostage (for who knows or cares what fucked-up reason), then killed them, as well as himself. Without a doubt this is news and the senseless murder of a dozen innocent people should not be glossed over or ignored.

However, buried deep on the site in the Times’ news blog, The Lede, is a post entitled “Women Erased in Israel, Flogged in Pakistan and Restricted in Afghanistan,” which details three appalling incidents. This story comes on the heels of two news stories last week, one of which got quite a bit of attention: about new studies regarding women’s sexuality, and one that came in under the radar: about the increasing incidence of “corrective rape” in South Africa, which is the rape of lesbians (usually gang rape) in order to “turn them into real African women,” in other words, not gay.

While we here in the USA celebrate the freedom and advancement of women in our society – if you don’t count rising domestic abuse, date rape, and the obstacles many women face in getting contraception and abortions – the world at large is still an unsafe and unequal place for women. In some instances, like the stories reported in The Lede today, women are still living in the Dark Ages. And given the shocking worldwide levels of female genital mutilation, rape as a tactic of war, honor killings, sex slavery & indentured servitude, and a general lack of basic human and civil rights all-round, hundreds of millions of women are living horrible lives simply because they are women.

That age-old question men ask – What Do Women Want? – is not a brain-teaser. The recent sexuality studies show that women are more flexible than men in this regard, that we are willing and able to express a greater range of attraction and feeling. English translation: we’re less likely to be 100% straight, 100% gay, or an even 50-50 bisexual, but rather, embrace a world of combinations in-between, often with different sexual and emotional phases in our lives. This will not come as news to most women.

The answer to What Do Women Want? is easy to explain, but enormously difficult to obtain. We want love, passion, affection, connection, and (as a rule) fidelity. Many women want children, some don’t, but virtually all women would like to have control over whether or not we have them, when, by whom, and how many. We want to live lives of freedom, equality, mobility, and opportunity. We want to grow, to study and learn, to work, and in many instances to make good homes for beloved families. We want to be respected and treated decently. We don’t want to be “protected” so much as we just don’t want to be endangered and victimized. We want to speak out, to be socially/politically involved, to have the same autonomy as men. We want to make a contribution and a difference. We’re tired of being limited and controlled. We want to get out of poverty and ugly relationships. We want to live.

Why this is so hard for some men to understand, and for all women to achieve, is the core issue of contemporary feminism (such as it still exists). And this is for sure: women will never get what we want until the world community confronts the clash between “culture” (that combination of law, tradition, poorly-interpreted religion and male fear) and equality, and agrees to a single, common standard for all people everywhere, that ensures freedom from abuse and restriction. It would also help if women’s stories, women’s issues, and women’s news were not marginalized, but rather were put forth front and center. Women are almost never the lone-gunman nutcase, but we’re often his victims. Women are being grievously hurt, kept back, and often kept hidden, all over the world in staggering numbers. That should be a page one, above-the-fold story – and it’s a sin against humankind that it isn’t.

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