MORE freelancing work. A pet rat. Swimming pools full of Kraft Mac & Cheese. Those are just a few things that this woman wants. Naturally, my wish list differs vastly from that of my best friend, my mom, and the approximately 3 billion other individuals on this grand old planet who identify as female, which stands to reason since our having (or identifying with those who have) a vagina has very little to do with our unique and varied personal preferences. Seems easy enough to grasp, right? Well, not for the folks at Jeopardy!, which holds the distinction of being one of America’s longest-running and most intellectually-respected game shows. (And also for being the show that everyone watched/watches with their grandma.) On Monday night’s episode of the televised quiz competition, one of the categories was “What Women Want,” which might have been off-putting enough because, hi, this is a trivia show, not a sleazy 1970’s era baby-making track or an equally-sleazy Mel Gibson film. The show was looking for such thoughtful gems as “A vacuum cleaner” and “Pilates classes” as answers. Why did they even bother looking for specific responses, though. “What is… BULLSH*T” would have swept the entire category clear off the board.
Although I doubt that Alex Trebek pens the questions himself, I’m gonna go ahead and place the blame on him, and not only because the way he pretends to know all the answers off the top of his smarmy head like he isn’t holding a stack of cheat sheets always bugged me. The iconic Mr. Trebek has hosted the show for thirty years; Jeopardy! is his baby — although he’d probably object to the maternal, icky, ‘girly’ comparison. After all this time quite literally running the show, I’m sure he has veto power over ideas he doesn’t condone. But is it any surprise, really, that such gendered stereotyping is A-OK in Trebek’s quiz book? This sexist silver fox is no stranger to such controversy, as he’s previously been called out by multiple feminist publications like Slate and Salon for his questionable comments about women betting less because they’re “reluctant to spend the household and grocery money,” as well as the genuine surprise he exhibits when female contestants make it to the final round. Sounds like the man’s gender politics belong with his revolving door of brown suits — back in the 1950s or, better yet, the fireplace.
And while the previous examples could be shrugged off as the out-of-touch ramblings of an old-fashioned man, other foot-in-mouth brushes with blatant sexism are far less insidious. Like that time when, while addressing a studio audience in 2010, he followed the comment “Men are just smarter than women” with that classic “get-out-of-jail-free” card of every passive-aggressive bully, that good ol’ “I’m just joking.” But now the rise of social media and (arguably armchair) activism puts Trebek in a daily double full of trouble. With stars like Sophia Bush calling him out on Twitter, he is being held accountable for his show’s offensive mishap — one that that seems, unfortunately, to mirror his own chauvinistic ideals.
Trebek, like his sexist cohorts, seems to have neglected to realize that women are people. And as such, it’s as impossible to qualify and categorize what all women want as it is to qualify and categorize what all people want. As the recent viral “Why I Don’t Need Feminism” campaign acutely (and in my singular opinion, sadly) attests, not all women are fed up with the limiting and, frankly, insulting view of women that Jeopardy! validated and perpetuated on Monday night. But a whole lot of us are. We’re fed up and we’re speaking up.
That is, when we’re not too busy day dreaming about Hoovers, right Alex?