Jewish World Review Jan. 4, 2001/ 9 Teves, 5761
'What women want' in
the new millennium
FREUD POSED the ultimate question for the 20th century: "What Do Women Want?'' Mel Gibson
answers it in his new movie "What Women Want.'' Women want men to read their minds.
When his hair dryer falls in the bathtub of Nick Marshall (Mel Gibson), an aging womanizing
bachelor, he's shocked into clairvoyance. He can now hear the thoughts of every women he
encounters. Whether at work, over cocktails, listening to jazz in a quiet club, or making love, he
discovers that a woman is only happy when he performs in perfect harmony with what she's thinking
Of course, this magical talent isn't perfect for women. He can steal her brilliant ideas, make his lust
feel like love, and betray every confidence he overhears her thinking. Hence, post-modern men and
women lock in an unsettling paradox. Only men with mind-reading abilities can survive in a
post-feminist society, where women want to domesticate men without stripping them of their
It's a losing formula. A man will -- as men always do -- use everything it takes to seduce la femme
even if he has to be zapped by a hair dryer to do it.
It's a morality tale for our time. Women are achieving all kinds of recognition for excellence in public
policy (look at George W.'s cabinet appointments), in law (two women sit on the U.S. Supreme
Court), in sports (they're so good men actually enjoy watching women play), and the media (they're
all over the place). But that's only half of the equation.
Young women know they can seek a profession of their choice; what they don't know is whether
they can count on a satisfying life with a man. At holiday parties, where different generations
gathered, I was struck by the number of single women above the age of 30 who complained about
the lack of men in their lives. These were successful working women who had lived with men, or
had married and divorced at different stages in their lives, but now found it difficult to meet a man
willing to make the kinds of compromises required in a mature (read committed) relationship.
The older they are, the fewer the possibilities. Younger women are worried (if not obsessed) about
their biological clocks and resent the fact that men have no such constrictions. Older men, in the
original elegant medieval formulation variously attributed to Hugh Hefner or Elvis Presley, see no
reason to buy a cow when they can milk through the fence.
Men and women in college, as well as young adults working on their careers, agreed in my holiday
survey that post-modern men and women start out with identical aspirations in prosperous America.
Both want to have their cake and eat it, too, but as they get older, only men seem to get that cake,
icing and all.
The feminist movement has become marginalized. NOW is regressive, fighting dated political
battles, "whoring for the Democratic Party,'' as Camille Paglia puts it, fund-raising by stereotyping
conservatives as enemies of women. (There's a good analysis to be made why single women voted
for Al Gore and married women voted for George W., but that's for another day.)
NOW aside, ambitious women see little standing in the way of their careers, their goals limited only
by the amount of time they're willing to invest in their jobs. Most women prefer not to make the
sacrifices of emotional life necessary if they want to rise -- and stay -- at the top.
These are generalizations, of course, but they're rooted in fundamental differences between men and
women, even if it's not politically-correct to say so. Women who express this notion can't expect to
be idealized as role models, but they're out there in abundance.
A scene that should be played for irony (but isn't) in "What Women Want'' is a Nike commercial
portraying women running alone. They want the personal freedom to conquer the open spaces on
the footpaths of life. The commercial suggests that running alone is the ultimate high in a woman's
life. Yet the maker of the commercial knows that, although the feminist cliche is a way to sell
expensive running shoes, that's not really what women want. That's what women are settling for.
You don't have to read women's minds to confirm
01/02/01: This year, looking ahead is sure sweeter than looking back
12/21/00: Black power with a Republican face
12/21/00: First impressions of two First Ladies
12/18/00: Challenge for the 'better angels of our nature'
12/14/00: What we've lost sight of
12/13/00: Hillary in the lion's den
12/08/00: Return of the 'second sex' on campus
12/04/00: Politics as entertainment today
11/30/00: Winner vs. whiner
11/27/00: Measuring against history
11/23/00: Memories of Thanksgiving past
11/17/00: In defense of the Electoral College
11/16/00: More than one way to win an election
11/13/00: Sexual politics squared
11/09/00: A Middle East legacy
11/06/00: Filling in the dots at campaign's end
11/02/00: His own man in full
10/30/00: The Oval Office, through a glass brightly
10/23/00: There'll always be an England. Maybe.
10/19/00: The celebrity candidate
10/16/00: 'Ladies night' at the second debate
10/12/00: Gore vs. Bush: Volvo vs. Maserati
10/10/00: We weep for Rami for he is dead
10/05/00: Looking at Lieberman from inside the 'ghetto'
10/02/00: Campaigns, candidates, and kissy-face
09/28/00: Laughing and crying over Joe Lieberman
09/21/00: Targeting teenagers for money
09/21/00: Sexual politics in New York
09/18/00: Surviving the stereotypes and debates
09/14/00: Gloria Steinem runs cheerfully into captivity
09/12/00: Sex in the eye of the partisan
09/07/00: 'Sex and death' on the college campus
09/05/00: Joe Lieberman as a 'Menorah Man'
08/31/00: Rising suns of the conventions
08/17/00: Changing icons: From Loretta Young to Hillary Clinton
08/14/00: The Creator returns to the public square
08/10/00: Bursting with pride, but caution too
08/07/00: Brains, beauty and beastly politics
08/03/00: A candidate with a superego
07/31/00: The sizzling Lynne Cheney
07/27/00: The party of the aging Playboys
07/24/00 Hillary drives the Jewish wagon into a ditch
07/20/00 Conservatives gone fishin'
07/17/00: Snoop Doggy Dogg was a founding father, wasn't he?
07/13/00: When a teenager doesn't need a prime minister
07/10/00: Abortion as cruel and unusual punishment
07/06/00: Surviving 'survivor' TV
07/03/00: Independence Day with Norman Rockwell
06/29/00: Here comes 'something old'
06/26/00: Waiting too long for the baby
06/22/00: Good teachers, curious students and oxymorons
06/19/00: Wanted: Some ants for Gore's pants
06/15/00: Like father, like daughter
06/12/00: Culture wars and conservative warriors
06/08/00: Return of the housewife
06/05/00: Hillary and Al -- playing against type
05/31/00: The sexual revolution confronts the SUV
05/25/00: Waiting for the movie
05/22/00: Pistol packin' mamas
05/18/00: Journalists and the 'new time' religion
05/15/00: There's nothing like a (military) dame
05/11/00: 'The Human Stain' on campus
05/09/00: We've come a long way, Betty Friedan
05/04/00: From George Washington to Mansa Masu
05/01/00: Gore's ruthless doublespeak
04/28/00: Doing it Castro's way
04/24/00: Women's studies beget narrow minds
04/17/00: The slippery slope of anti-Semitism
04/13/00: A villain larger than life
04/10/00: When mourning becomes an economic tragedy
04/03/00: The last permissible bigotry
03/30/00: Seeking the political Oscar
03/23/00: The gaying of America
03/20/00: Pointy-eared quadrupeds on campus
03/16/00: The shocking art of the establishment
03/13/00: Sawdust on the campaign trail
03/10/00: Campaign rhetoric of manhood
03/06/00: The Amphetamine of the People
03/02/00: Elegy for Amadou
02/29/00: With only a million, what's a poor girl to do?
02/24/00: The changing politics of change
02/16/00: Tip from Hillary: 'Let 'em eat eggs'
02/10/00: No seances with Eleanor
02/07/00: Campaigning like our founding fathers
02/03/00: When neo-Nazis have short memories
01/31/00: George W. -- 'Ladies man' and 'man's man'
01/27/00: Dead white males and live white politicians
01/25/00: Smarting over presidential smarts
01/21/00: A post-modern song for `The Sopranos'
01/19/00: When personality is a long-distance plus
01/13/00: French lessons in amour --- and marriage
01/10/00: Reaching for the Big Golden Apple
01/07/00: Liddy Dole as the face of feminism
01/04/00: Hillary: From victim to victor
12/30/99: 'Dream catchers' for the millennium
12/27/99: In search of a candidate with strength and eloquence
12/21/99: The president as First Lady
12/16/99: Columbine with blurred hindsight
12/09/99: Homeless deserve discriminating attention
12/07/99: Casual censors and deadly know-nothings
12/02/99: Why mom didn't make general: A reality tale
11/30/99: Potholes on the road to the Promised Land
11/25/99: A feast for the spirit and the stomach
11/23/99: Fathers need to say 'I (can) do'
11/18/99: Adventures of a conservative pundit
11/15/99: Traveling with Jefferson on the information highway
11/11/99: Wanted: 'Foliage of forbiddinness' for the oval office
11/09/99: Eggs, art and rotten commerce
11/05/99: Al Gore, 'Alpha Male'. Bow wow.
11/01/99: Gay love
10/28/99: Lose one Dole, lose two
10/26/99: Rebels with a violent cause
10/21/99: Reforming parents, reforming schools
10/19/99: The male mystique -- he shops
10/13/99:The campaign of the Teletubbies
10/08/99: Money is in the eye of the art dealer
10/01/99: Lincoln's 'Almost Chosen People'
09/29/99: Introducing Bill and Hillary Bickerson
09/27/99: Must we wait for the next massacre?
09/24/99: Miss America meets Miss'd America
09/21/99: Princeton's 'professor death'
09/16/99: The Cisneros lesson
09/13/99: No clemency for personal politics
09/08/99: M-M-M is for manhood
08/30/99: Blocking the schoolhouse door
08/27/99: No kick from cocaine
08/23/99: Movies don't kill people
08/19/99: A rude awakening
08/16/99: Dubyah and that 'language' thing
08/09/99: Chauvinist sows -- oink oink
©1999, Suzanne Fields. Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate