The topic of women’s emotional needs is somewhat subjective. As individuals, our emotional needs can vary depending on our emotional makeup, which in turn is influenced by our personal DNA as well as the influence of our environment, perhaps especially during our formative years, when things that happened to us left enduring psychological impressions. Further, our needs depend on our values, which are not consistent among all women, nor should they be expected to be the same.
That said, many agree the need for respect is the greatest need shared need among women today. This is evidenced by the fact that for decades we’ve been struggling for dignity and equality. In many instances, we’re sacrificed the trappings of security to venture into the world without outside support to prove to ourselves and the world that we can make a positive difference as independent and autonomous human beings. We’ve endured humiliation in our attempts at lucrative careers and suffered invalidation from our families, other loved ones, and society at large, who insist we don’t belong competing with men in their world—further, that we don’t have a chance to succeed.
In truth, ignorance and sometimes fear lie beneath the sneering doubts of sexist males, as well as complacent women with no interest in changing the status quo. They may feel it’s not in their best interest that women succeed in attaining an equal status with men. And they might say it’s because we’re genetically inferior, we don’t have a clue about business, we don’t have the strength of character, or we simply don’t deserve it. None of these myths intended to keep us in our place stands up to rational scrutiny.
Because our critics don’t stand in our shoes, they don’t understand our need for respect, which is precisely what they’ve denied us. Just like the lyrics of the Aretha Franklin hit song, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me,” our task is to stand up for ourselves and express exactly what respect means to us in every aspect of our lives. In the incentive for women’s rights and advancement, women are finding it necessary to make an emphatic case for our need for respect in the form of gender equality again and again, year after year, but thanks to our passion, endurance, and courage, we’re making some progress in the right direction.
There are men, perhaps without any malice of thought, who have been confused about what we need, because from their point of view, our needs are inscrutable and continually subject to change, almost on a moment-by-moment-basis. This is because they’ve been conditioned to think that women primarily need affection. Thankfully, there seems to have been a recent shift in emphasis in the women’s movement from a platform that decries men’s lack of emotional availability to one that demands respect and dignity for women. This has been a decided improvement in lending credibility to our stance of wanting to advance.
Men were just starting to get in touch with their feminine sides, and close to accepting roles as surrogate girlfriends for their wives and significant others who needed to talk at length about their emotional needs. While perhaps it deepened our relationships that men have become more aware of our needs for cuddling, extended foreplay, and a sensitive shoulder to cry on, I believe it’s time to put a hold on this warm and fuzzy development, while we can still experience an interesting contrast between the sexes.
But many men are still trying to placate us with affection, when we’d rather have respect. Of course, both affection and respect from our partner would be ideal, but compromising our own need for respect for a chuck on the chin, or a pat on the head feels like we’re going backwards.
Humor aside, women are complex emotional beings, and—why don’t we say it out loud?—we’re sexual beings, too. All the beautiful facets of being a woman shouldn’t need to be traded in at the cost of commanding respect and living in dignity as men’s unequivocal equals.
Mary Kathryn “M.K.” Jones
Founder of Women Who Walk the Talk™