Sexism From The Back Seat: What Women Want

At least no one said "thigh gap".

At least no one said “thigh gap”.

While driving with my children this morning we heard an obnoxious morning radio program ask a trivia question for listeners. “What do forty percent of women wish they had?”

My kids – my kids, who live in the epicenter of media literacy, critical thinking, and gender equality – began yelling out their guesses from the back seat.
“An engagement ring!”
“A husband!”
“A nice kid!”
“Coffee! Tequila, probably, if they have kids.”
Ummmm…..what? I wondered why these were their answers. Did they really think this is what women coveted, or did they think this is what women would probably answer? Would those have been their answers had the question been about men? Probably not, and I wanted them to think about that. 
Then the callers were put on air with their answers: husbands, bigger boobs, lose weight, shopping spree, better hair, etc.
“What total, sexist crap,” I said as I flicked the station.
So I shouted out my own answers:
“Diversified stock portfolio!”
“An executive position and house husband!”
“Equal pay for equal work!”
“Win IronWoman!”
“Sell off a successful business and travel the world!”
“An all-female government!”
“A Woman Card-toting sparkling UNICORN!”
My unamused ten-year-old said, “Okay, okay you’ve made your point.”
“Thank you, 1956. You had me worried there for a moment. Marriage and kids are nice, if that is what a woman chooses for herself, but these days women can dream about things beyond being a wife and mother,” I replied.
Gender stereotypes creep up everywhere, all the time. It is not unnormal for your child to repeat them, whether or not they are reinforced at home. They are influenced by society just like we are.
When you hear stereotypes, you need to redirect them. Even when your kids don’t readily agree with you, (hello, parents of four-year-olds) your comments will challenge their thinking and lay a foundation for them to question the gender binary and stereotypical boxes we place people in.

Melissa headshot 1 fb sizeMelissa Atkins Wardy is a speaker, media consultant, and the author ofRedefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, from Birth to Tween”. She is the creator and owner of Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, a company that has been offering empowering apparel and gifts to Full of Awesome kids since 2009

Find her at You can connect with her onFacebook (Pigtail Pals Ballcap Buddies) and Twitter (@PigtailPals) and Pinterest (Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies).


  1. Pamela says:

    OMG! I had a similar experience with my 5-year old (boy) who made a comment about his 7-year old sister’s friend (who is a boy) who has long(ish) hair and whose favorite color is pink…he responded “is he a girl?” Then he went on about what was a “girl thing”….man was I floored!! I felt like a failure…I mean I’ve been saying “there’s no such thing as girl/boy, books, clothes, colors, toys, etc.” since their birth! Some of me feels like he’s just trying to get a reaction but another part of me feels like he’s getting these messages from somewhere; BUT he also goes to a super crunchy school that doesn’t really enforce the cultural gender norms either so..I’m at a loss! Never a dull moment!

  2. I agree with you that your kids and the announcers were sexist, but I think you were very limiting as well with your answers. I feel like the question is wrong. asking what women want is making it a gender based thing. People will answer with gender specific things, and I think that’s the issue. What do women want? What do men want.

    I mean all-female government? I’d hope no one wants that. That is where people get the idea feminists hate men, we don’t. I mean if a man told his daughter that Men want an all-male government, you would call him sexist and being a bad father to a young girl. The same here. Whether you realized it or not, you just discouraged your son from becoming a politician, and that’s sad. Also, the idea women need to be go-getters is a new push toward masculinity I always found weird. Success! Status! Wealth! Dominance!

    Take it from someone driven to succeed and was never happy til I slowed down. That drive has a lot of the toxic strains we rail against with over hyped masculinity. Never mind telling boys that women are driven can also make them feel they should not be. Whenever we declare “truths” about gender there’s an unspoken proclamation that one is more like this then the other.

    What do women want?
    They want to be happy. They want some pals to hang around with. They want to have fun. They sometimes want to have time alone. They want to have a good life, women are too varied to get more specific beyond that.

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