So Chronicles, like Freud, is asking the big question in its May issue: “What Do Women Want?” Appropriating the Good Doctor’s question, Chronicles is also replicating his breathtakingly stupid approach to answering it.
Freud talked at length to his female patients, ignored salient parts of their answers (when he listened at all), and triumphantly dumped his own desires, fears, and obsessions all through his case studies. Not surprisingly, all that he learned was a lot about himself. Chronicles‘ current issue offers a series of men pontificating about women. Granted, it is yet another opportunity for you boys to get some much-needed self-knowledge. But why drag us into this exercise in narcissism? Save some time and space and cut out the middle [wo]man.
If, on the other hand, by some chance, contrary to centuries of prevailing practice, you actually want to stop talking about yourselves long enough to consider, however briefly, what the other half of the human race wants, you might just try a real revolutionary tactic. Ask women the question. Just for once, listen to what women have to say.
Note the plurals. For starters, we want the question “What Do Women Want?” permanently recycled into compost. It’s misstated and therefore misleading. Because “Women” is not a monolithic category; no one person can speak for women. Lesbian women, for example, may not want exactly what heterosexual women want, and individual lesbians may not want the same things that other lesbians want. Drag queens like Margaret Thatcher and Christina Hoff Sommers, victims of spousal abuse or the glass ceiling, secretaries, astronauts, subsistence farmers, doctors, lawyers, Indian chiefs (oh yes there is: Wilma Mankiller is currently Chief of the Cherokee tribe)—women around the world in offices and nurseries, on kibbutzim and construction projects—they probably don’t all want the same things.
To find out what women want, then, you can’t just ask a spare woman or two. Particularly not one of those female house-pets that the conservative movement keeps around for window dressing to prove that it represents somebody other than angry white men. You need to ask a lot of women, from various places, with differing viewpoints and experiences. And even then you’ll have only the beginning of an answer. But at least you’ll know just a little bit about something other than yourself.
In answer to the question, then, one thing women want is to be treated as the individuals that we are. We’d also like to be respected enough so that we would be allowed—nay, even encouraged—to speak for ourselves. Some genuinely interested listeners, too, would be a real treat, although we wouldn’t think of asking for so much. Nor do we really need to. Because you see, the conversation is going on anyway, across the country, around the world, whether you boys decide to participate in it or chose to continue ignoring it. Women are talking to each other, evolving our own approaches and our own answers to the great issues of our time. It would do you good to listen. At best, working together, we might just save the planet. At worst, you’d get a break from your own endless monologues.
But back to the wish list. Above all, what I want—and what most of the women I know want—is peace in our time and the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness equal to those of white males. We want to be free to do anything for which we meet the standard qualifications, whether it’s childcare or combat. One woman acquaintance of mine can tear the Boston phone book in half. In a war I’d much rather she waded ashore under fire than most of the men I know; our nation would be safer. Granted, this woman isn’t typical, but even so, why should her sex consign her to the kitchen?
Conservatives direct an unending stream of recklessly incendiary rhetoric against women’s rights to control their own bodies, and then arc shocked, just shocked and amazed, that those whom they incite firebomb women’s clinics and murder doctors and staff. Conservatives attack “Welfare Mothers,” as if reproduced by parthenogenesis. Conservatives plan whole magazine issues around their answers to our questions. And then conservatives wonder about the “gender gap.”
Congratulations, Chronicles, you’ve textualized it. Even if you had made the prudent decision to throw in an essay by a token woman or two, your plans reveal the basic mentality at work. And it’s that mentality that the women I know really do not want.
Like Chronicles, Freud had ample opportunities to get good answers to his famous question. He ignored them, like Chronicles. Is this similarity because of shared conservative values, which, far too often, both in Freud’s Vienna a century ago and in the later 20th-century United States, require ignoring the actual concerns of real women?
—Martine Watson Brownley
Women’s Studies Program
On Crime and Race
Steven Goldberg’s honesty (“Black Murder,” January 1995) is much to be admired, but it does not penetrate nearly far enough to the causes of racial disparities in crime. What is yet to be acknowledged is the race/crime relationship that is common worldwide. The matrix found within the United States, with Asians being the most law-abiding, Africans the least, and Europeans intermediate, is also evident in other multiracial countries like Britain, Brazil, and Canada. I have published several sets of data from recent Interpol yearbooks showing that African and Caribbean countries consistently average double the rate of violent crime (an aggregate of murder, rape, and serious assault) than European countries, and three times more than countries in the Pacific Rim. Whatever the causes of the racial pattern in crime, it is clear that they go beyond American particulars.
One neurohormonal contributor to crime is testosterone. As I review in my book Race, Evolution, and Behavior, studies show 3 percent to 19 percent more testosterone in black college students and military veterans than in their white counterparts, with the Japanese showing lower amounts than whites. Sex hormones go everywhere in the body and have been shown to activate many brain-behavior systems involving crime, personality, and sexual behavior. Statistics from the World Health Organization and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveal greater sexual activity, higher fertility, and greater rates of AIDS in African than European and East Asian populations. Race differences in crime do not exist independently of these other variables, and they cannot be understood without taking into account biological and neurohormonal processes and ultimately genetic and evolutionary explanations.
Professor of Psychology
University of Western Ontario