Monday night's Jeopardy! had a "What Women Want" category, but instead of featuring things women actually want—paid maternity leave, to finally adopt the ERA—it had herbal tea and good-fitting jeans. (It wasn't even a celebrity edition.)
Over at Mashable, Neha Prakash rounded up some of the offensive answers in question. The answers:
and this hilarious little gem:
The answer-questions are, of course, Levi's and the crossword puzzle and THE VACUUM CLEANER. There is another one about Sleepytime Tea:
(The clue: "Before bed, a cup of this herbal tea from Celestial Seasonings; that's the logo, seen here." The response: "What is Sleepytime?")
And one about wanting time to exercise with an answer about the creator of Pilates. Prakash wrote, "It was like we were tuning into a replay of an episode from the 1950s."
Fact: The average Jeopardy! viewer is 64 years old. Sixty-four! If you are 64 years old you were born in 1950. And hey, it's possible that if you were born in 1950 that the "What Women Want" category doesn't seem especially sexist; it is simply How Things Are/Were. Not so much now. Prakash posted some initial reactions from Twitter:
And since then, #whatwomenwant has been percolating like a steamy cup of Constant Comment on a chilly-boyfriend-sweater kinda day:
Not all is lost, though. Prakash tells us that a (probably) jeans-loving, herbal tea devotee took home the winning spot:
The small silver lining to the episode was that a woman, Elisa Korn, took home the win for the evening. Hopefully the $26,400 will be enough money to buy Elisa all the Levi's, tea and Pilates classes she wants.
Not if she doesn't squander it on plastic surgery or a premenstrual shopping spree! Save those receipts, Elisa.
In all seriousness, stuff like this is considered pretty harmless, grand-scheme — why sweat the little sexist assumptions when there are bigger things to be won (whatever those might be? Jeopardy!? Anyone?)? But little shit matters, because stuff like this — how we reflexively think about gender when no one makes us think even a tiny bit harder — reveals our biases. It proves that many people don't recognize that there ARE bigger issues for women than how they look, how tight their Pilates game is, or where the tea is, and that it even matters when you reduce them to such trivialities.
Imagine a men's category version of this — "What Men Want" — that involved, I dunno, sharper steak knives, a new grill, a cold beer, a quiet house upon returning from a hard day at work, a nicer tie. A threesome! Even as equally surface as that list sounds, it's actually still quite serious compared to the stereotypical list for women. Even at his worst, a man's stereotypical "wants" will still involve earning some peace and quiet and deserved indulgence after contributing, whereas the women's stereotypical list depicts the gals as passive biological creatures always chasing a better figure or more pleasing appearance, ostensibly to be good enough for a man.
Part of taking a person seriously is seeing more than the packaging, but for most of history, women have been little more than their packaging, and for many women, that's still as essential as their skill set. That we hardly think of women as seeking beyond the self, or the self as it appears to please men, is a part of the problem of regarding women as ambitious, leadership types who should be paid as much, or elected as often, or promoted at all. It is all connected! Don't let anyone tell you it isn't.
Unfortunately, this is not shocking stuff, but it should be. And what should be truly shocking to Jeopardy! is asking itself when it will join the current generation, and when exactly it turned into Family Feud.
Answer: What is a hot, raging load of bullshit?
Image via Jeopardy