What women need should not be a want

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You think this is what women want? In the movies, maybe. Hipster Mum via Unsplash

Women want massages and flowers, what we need first is respect

What Women Want returned to Regina’s International Trade Centre two weeks ago, after a two-year hiatus. The trade show had vendors from across Western Canada selling products from beauty to cosmetics to lifestyle. There were tasty treats and cocktails sold and tables decorated with ornate flower bouquets sitting atop them. There were even a few critters at a couple of stations who were available for petting. The event was a nice break from reality, you got to go and shop, have a drink with a friend, and support some of the local, small businesses. The tradeshow perfectly embodies what women want – especially considering it was a safe environment for women to remain in.

What Women Want is an event where women can feel safe to hang out and shop. The same cannot necessarily be said for women conducting their day-to-day lives. The tradeshow provided a contained environment for women to have a safe recreation space. Having an encouraging and cheerful environment for women can be compared to the amount of money I have in my bank account – there is not enough. Many places can be unsafe, uncomfortable, or dangerous for women to go. There are reasons why you are told to walk with a partner at night. There are reasons why I do not leave my drink alone at the bar. There are reasons that I leave one earbud out when I go running.

What women really want is the same safe space that men have. For women, those safe spaces can be sparse. Places that can cause discomfort for women can be as simple as walking down the street. Catcalls and wolf-whistles can often be heard echoing off the buildings when you are walking home at night. Uncomfortable stares at the gym when you are trying to get a workout in can make you continue your ab routine in your room. Even the workplace can be dominated by a culture of misogynistic remarks where every time you challenge someone on their so-called “humour” you are told that you should learn to take a joke.

All these things are becoming so normalized for women that it’s an accepted belief that these are just the things every woman goes through. When you try and stand up for yourself, you are labelled a hysteric woman who lost her cool. I myself have been priced as a “bitter, social justice warrior who cannot get a grip on her emotions.” This was after I called out someone who thought it was appropriate to crack jokes about domestic violence. While some may think that these jokes are just jokes, they are proven to show how violence is normalized against women on a regular basis.

Saskatchewan is currently the leading province per capita for highest domestic
violence rates among intimate partners – a statistic that is more than double the national average. Because of the pandemic, many individuals were stuck at home, which only made domestic violence rates rise. Among many other places that women experience violence, domestic violence is most typically attributed to someone that the victim knows, or someone within the victim’s own home. Joking about domestic violence has never been an appropriate humour choice. Joking about domestic violence is used as a tool by people who are trying to disregard and invalidate the seriousness of the harm it causes. Joking about domestic violence triggers victims. Joking about domestic violence normalizes violence against women – the end.

It is always interesting when you bring up situations that acknowledge women’s issues that go against patriarchal values. Many “not all men do that” arguments begin to surface very quickly when you generalize a group of people that do something regularly, which is reasonable, and stereotypes should get called out. In fact, we know that not all men act or behave this way. The problem is that it has become such a reoccurring pattern that many men are doing the same misogynistic jokes or committing violence against women, that it has become a recognizable issue. “Not all men” is used as a defence mechanism to try and avert the attention away from the patriarchal values that have been set in stone. Honestly, I have never met someone who has used the term “not all men” who was not trying to defend a patriarchal standpoint. 

Like the pre-pandemic era, many inequities remain for women. What Women Want was one of the first “back to normal” events since restrictions lifted only a few weeks prior. The problem is that the event is not necessarily affordable for women who are living in precarious situations. Trade shows are expensive, especially when the fee to get in the door is $12, then to shop will cost even more. What Women Want was an event where you could go and enjoy a safe and welcoming environment – if you could afford it.

Often, when we look at situations where we try to help provide supports for women, we forget different geneses of women. I am not just talking about low-income earning women either, this includes women of different minorities in religions, races, genders, and ethnicities. Forget What Women Want, change it to What THEY Want. While it was a riot to attend, it is an event for privileged individuals who can afford it. We need to have no cost spaces where women can exist without being harassed, which shows how low the bar is to begin with.

I would like to say that What Women Really Want is a bottle of wine and a gift card to get a pedicure, but the state of gender-equality is far from balanced. There is work to be done to achieve safe spaces for women, whether that be at home, in the workplace, or in recreation spaces. Privileged women live at a more equal rate than non-privileged. Achieving gender-equity will require intersectional solidarity for every group. I would like to say I would really want a GoPro, but I would settle for having a safe study space first.

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