Feature: What women want

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, and I’m sure we’re all aware I’m far behind in this challenge. I suspect I’ll continue to be for the next month, because my life is about to become crazy-town banana-pants, but I’ll try my best to reach 100 books by the time the year’s out. Regardless, this blog has been looking a little lonely so I thought I’d write something for you all.

Today I had a conversation with two of my guy friends about sports. I said that I felt pretty ambivalently about watching organized sporting events, and neither could believe it. Finally, Friend Y said, “Women hate sports. You know why? Because men love sports, and it pulls their attention away from their girlfriends. Women just want their men to pay attention to them, and not sports. You know it’s true!”

This was stated as if it was a proven, scientific fact. I believe some people in the feminist community call that “mansplaining.”

To my two friends, this seemed to explain my disinterest in sports completely — never mind that I’m a single woman with nary a romantic prospect in sight. Sports aren’t deflecting anyone’s attention from me. (And to be honest, I bet I could talk right over a sports broadcast and maintain most of the attention in the room…we all know I’m a loud, chatty Cathy!)

They also didn’t account for the fancy notion that maybe I, Kelsey, the individual woman, just don’t like, or don’t care about, sports.

Though I am usually pretty outspoken about stereotypes, especially those that pigeonhole women into simplistic little boxes, I decided to let that one go. I said, “Well, I don’t really go for sports-loving, jocky guys anyway. I’m kind of into the lit nerd type.” (Lit nerds, take note.)

“You don’t want that,” Friend X said. “You want a guy who’s into sports. Women want guys who like sports.” I think there were reasons behind his assertion — something about traditional manliness and that being the one and only turn on — but I couldn’t get past the fact that he’d totally contradicted himself. Women hate that men watch sports, but they want to date men who watch sports? Um…

Aside from the mind-bending contradiction, I was struck by the certainty in his comment, “women want guys who like sports.” Just where did he get his data?

I asked Friend X to explain his logic, and Friend Y, infinitely more cautious, told him that to do so would be to dig himself into a hole. I’m not going to lie: Friend Y was right. While I think both of these guys are personable, funny, genuinely kind gentlemen, neither was painting himself in a very flattering light.

For me, it comes down to the idea that men think they know what women want. It’s the concept of “mansplaining” that I hinted at before: as a man, you’re raised in a culture that tells you your opinions are right and valid and fair, whatever they are, and you should be outspoken about them. Women are taught to be quieter about their ideas and their knowledge, to defer to men, and to make men feel good about themselves. (It’s a little more complicated than that, but for our purposes this definition will suffice.) It leads to men (jerks and nice guys alike) making broad, assumptive statements about women because they think they know.

“Women want guys who like sports” isn’t, on the grand scale of things, a statement that should shock or outrage anyone, and it won’t cause much damage. But the certainty behind that statement is a problem: that Friend X firmly believes that he knows what women want, and he won’t hesitate to tell me what I, as a woman, want. It’s part of the same culture that allows privileged white men (I’m looking at you Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan) to talk with authority about the rights women should have to their own bodies, without ever having walked a day in any one woman’s shoes.

“Oh, you know what women want?” I asked Friend X, more amused than annoyed. “Tell me, then. Convince me. How do you, a man, know what I want, as a woman?”

He dug himself into a hole.

I wasn’t surprised.

– Kelsey

(Disclaimer: Friend X and Friend Y are lovely gentlemen. They are good men. But even good men should have their beliefs challenged every now and then! ;])

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