What do women want? It’s a question both women and men have been asking themselves for years. To some, the answer might be equal pay in comparison to male counterparts; to others it might be control over reproductive health. However, this week, Jeopardy, the popular question and answer style game show whose run has spanned fifty years, took it upon itself to finally answer the question that has been left unanswered for years.
This past Monday, Jeopardy included a category called “What Women Want” in its first round. The name of the category seemed innocent enough- until the clues were read aloud. While the vaguely named category could have taken many forms, it caused nothing but controversy. Instead of taking a progressive look at women, the category deferred to female stereotypes as if the year was still 1950. With answers like “Some help around the house; would it kill you to get out the Bissell bagless canister one of these every once in a while?” or “A pair of jeans that fit well, like the 525s from this brand”, women viewers were absolutely offended. Sure, some women may want a new vacuum or time to relax and do a crossword, but to say that these are the only things women want is absurd. These answers put forth the idea that women are too simplistic and naïve to want anything more than a pair of jeans and, even if they do want things like equality, it doesn’t matter because vacuums are for women and equality is for men. Jeopardy not only generalized all women, but implied that the only thing women want (or should want) is to have a pleasant domestic life and, of course, a nice pair of jeans. Never mind that 66 million women in the United States have full or part-time jobs, as well as the fact that women make up 47 percent of the workforce (Department of Labor, 2014).
Women who viewed this episode of Jeopardy quickly took to Twitter and started the hashtag #whatwomenwant to show that, despite what people may think, women want more than just vacuums. Women all over the United States called out the game show writers and let them know that they weren’t interested in just having time to relax and do some crossword puzzles. Bringing up issues like putting an end to rape culture, receiving equal pay, and recognition of female efforts inside and outside the home, women were not shy about showing how disappointed they were with the category. One Twitter user (@blondieoz) even created her own parody question to show just how ridiculous the category was: “A clean house, a satisfied husband, and lots of shoes! What are outdated stereotypes?”. Even actress Sophia Bush commented on the show saying “Jeopardy, for a smart show you just got srsly stupid” (Twitter, 2014). As of October 5th, Jeopardy has yet to respond to any of these comments.
While it may be difficult for the staff at Jeopardy to believe, women want more than time to do pilates or drink Sleepytime tea. The needs and desires of women are not the same as they were sixty years ago and have evolved to include more than just domestic matters. Jeopardy missed the opportunity to make social commentary and bring attention to the real needs of women and instead chose to defer to stereotypes. By confining women to these sorts of stereotypes, we are backtracking on all the progress feminist movements and women everywhere have made in the past several decades.
Madeline Gallegos can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org