What women want — what every woman wants is very simple. Respect.

Movies and sitcoms have glorified the notion that women do not know what they want. On countless occasions, they are shown as confused, irrational, overly jealous, and as damsels-in-distress. No surprise then that the romantic hero chases hell and earth trying to figure out what the woman wants. And typically it ends with the hero doing varying versions of the boombox-serenade-under-the-window to make undying proclamations of love. However, while this one-time proclamation is a mood booster, it underplays the fact that there are deeper, more meaningful things that women would appreciate.

And somehow this notion of no-one-understands-what-women-want has subconsciously percolated down to real life as well. Whether at home, at work, at the supermarket, at parties — basically everywhere—women are considered as mysterious beings who do not know themselves what they want. But this cannot be farther from the truth!

What women want — what every woman wants is very simple. Respect.

Respect holds individualized meaning for women, depending on who they are, their circumstances, and personal beliefs. Respect could mean different values for each woman. The boundaries of respect could be different for each woman as well. The expectations of respect could mean different things too. But, this does not mean any of those values, boundaries, or expectations of respect can be dismissed, devalued, or disrespected.

And that is really what every woman wants. Simple.

What Working Women Want

If you are at work in a meeting with a woman and she is making a presentation and falters, try not to step in and take over. If a woman is recently back from her maternity break, try creating a supportive atmosphere. She might be trying to figure out a safe space to pump or worrying about leaving the infant at daycare. If she is uncomfortable working with specific colleagues or clients, try to understand if she is struggling with harassment. If she reaches out to understand gaps in pay parity, give her legitimate reasons and not excuses.

A safe, enabling environment for women means language, tonality as well as behaviors. So it is important to avoid the subconscious urge to mansplain. It is also critical to identify the thin line between behaviors that are helpful versus those that end up being inherently condescending.

Reality Check: A McKinsey research in 2020 shows that women are dramatically underrepresented in senior leadership positions in the US — especially women of color. An ILO study in Australia reports that one in five women face harassment at the workplace. Forbes also shares that more than half the women carry the guilt of working full-time after a baby (compares to shockingly low 17% of fathers) with a quarter of women intentionally turning down promotions for childcare needs. And now due to the Covid crisis, as many as two million women are considering leaving the workforce which is expected to set women back by half a decade.

What Stay-At-Home Mums Want

If your partner repeatedly asks you to help in some household chores, try helping out in advance through thoughtful anticipation. If your think your partner might love the vacuum cleaner you purchased as an anniversary present, try not to be surprised if she gets angry. If your partner asks you to take care of the kids for a few hours to step out with her friends, do it willingly and do not call her every few minutes. If you return home from work and find her in tears, hug her and ask what might be wrong. Take a pause and think about what she might have left unsaid.

You might be earning the bucks but she might be the one turning your house into a home. So even in the harshest fights, do not question what she does the whole day as a stay-at-home mum, because you would be surprised. Instead, just ask her how she is feeling and if she needs any help. Seek out things you could do yourself to lighten her load, that would be even better.

That is all the Respect a stay-at-home mum wants — respect for the sacrifices she might have made to build your home. Respect for the constant efforts she might be making to make everything feel effortless for everyone. And Respect for her own individual identity that she has bey

Reality Check: A UN Women study shows that women carry out at least two and a half times more unpaid household and care work than men. NSSO report states that women spend four hours more on unpaid work every day than men in India. This is almost half of an entire working day if the woman was employed full-time. This number during the Covid-19 pandemic has risen to 5.2 additional hours of unpaid work every day (compared to 3.5 hours for men). To put this in perspective, ILO reported in 2018 that the 16 billion hours spent on unpaid caring every day would represent nearly a tenth of the world’s entire economic output if it was paid at a fair rate.

What Your Friend/Girlfriend Wants

If your girlfriend gets angry when you make negative comments on her choice of clothes or makeup or jewelry, try to understand that her choices are her own. If she seems upset when you criticize the few extra pounds she might have put on during the Christmas break, maybe understand that she might be feeling insecure or vulnerable already. More importantly, notice if she seems uncomfortable when you overstay your welcome at her house. And step back if she is uncomfortable when you are too close for comfort. And really just stop, if she seems scared when you are not taking no for an answer. Take a breath and think about what happened. Think about what made her feel this way instead of shrugging it under the carpet.

That is all the respect any of your female friends (or girlfriend) needs — respect for making her own life choices (with or without you), respect to not be cheated on, or forced to do things she is not comfortable with. Respect to not be victimized or assaulted.

Reality Check: According to WHO, one in three women have experienced some form of physical or sexual violence, with this scenario aggravated due to Covid. A CARE International study in 2020 found that women have experienced mental health hardships at a rate of almost 3:1 compared with men during the pandemic. Suicide rates in Japan among women spiked nearly 15% in 2020 during the pandemic, leading to the appointment of a Minister of Loneliness for the country.

Parting Thoughts

Unfortunately, there are decades of injustice done to women which need to be reversed, and perpetuating positive action is something everyone can do. But often the disinterest and dis-empathy to create supportive environments for women are shrouded within clouds of humor. Unfortunately, this gets normalized over time and generations as well.

Add to this, there are decades of generational wisdom which continue to be passed down to women making them hardwired to be caregivers — sometimes even at the risk of personal physical and mental health.The mystery of what women want might also stem from the fact that women rarely vocalize their needs, leaving much unsaid.

While this is slowly changing, but it is still a gradually evolving process. It is up to us to ensure empathy as well as thoughtful anticipation to create safe, supportive, nurturing spaces for women. There is also a need for us to recognize and question internalized biases to consciously undo them.

After all, what women ever want is just respect — as an equal, as a person, and as a human for their choices, circumstances, and actions.

This article was originally published in the publication Illumination. Picture Credits: Freepik

About The Author

Hello – I am Roselin. For more than a decade now, I have been working in the field of sustainable development, and I absolutely love it. I also love being a mom to an adorable three-year-old. When I am not juggling PowerPoints and parenting, I enjoy being a librocubicularist and moonlight as a writer.

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