Since the dawn of womankind, humanity has been continually confronted by unknowable questions. Is there a God? What is true happiness? Why are we here? Just what happened in the last episode of Lost?
In the year 1999 AD, philosopher Christina Aguilera vaguely posed this question-y statement: “what a girl wants, what a girl needs, nana galala something hmm hmmm brie”. In her song she thanks a party for providing said “what” and of her fulfilled desires setting her free, but does not make explicit what “what” is. What does a girl want and what does a girl need? And so through Sony discmans, we entered the new millennia with this question ringing in our ears. For the past sixteen years we have been puzzled—nay, haunted—by Christina’s question-y statement. As stargazing, tarot cards nor oracular cave fume inhalation brought us any closer to the truth, we turned to the allure of rationality: science.
We did not undertake this endeavour lightly and prior to the conducting of our experiment, we were already recognisable voices in the scientific community. Joining forces, we used the latest in academic protocol, or what we remembered from high school biology, to identify, locate and communicate with 100 female human specimens to ask them what they wanted and what they needed. In particular, these were female-identifying students of Victoria University. The numerical rationale behind 100 interviewees was largely due to the fact that neither of us know how to calculate percentages.
Sharon “Litmus Paper” Lam caused shockwaves in 2011 by dropping out of first year med after her radical assertions that if the earth was the size of a golf ball then Jupiter was a medium-sized cauliflower and not a basketball as previously believed. Academic acclaim from herself quickly followed and her self-published book The Vegetables of the Solar System received a very good review and three-star rating from her mother on Google Reads. Today, she regularly experiments with the boundary between sleeping a lot and being legally in a coma.
- SPONSORED -
Charlotte Cudmore had conducted a groundbreaking experiment in 2008 involving carrots and water where she proved the effects of osmosis even after forgetting to weigh the carrots at any point in the experiment, by ingeniously copying Caitlin Bretson’s results. Ever since her resulting “Achieved” in NCEA Biology Level 1, Charlotte has gone on to other successful experiments, such as the observation of mouldy bread upon the human stomach and testing the limits of the supposed expiry dates of milk.
Our research approach consisted of a nervous “Hello, sorry for interrupting”, which quickly segued into both of us singing the chorus of “What A Girl Wants”, which generally garnered recognition and one Grammy nomination. After this we asked the arresting questions—“What do you want?” and “What do you need?” The one hundred answers ranged from “money” to “lots of money”, with each response diligently recorded. Here we found that women reacted and responded differently according to the size of their party. Groups were difficult to approach and yielded homogenous results, with respondents usually following the tone of the first brave soul to answer. Friendships were seen best in pairs, with responses either being deep and personal, or approachably light-hearted. When deep, the other of the pair would show support and when light-hearted, personal in-jokes often followed. We found ourselves wanting to befriend these women so that we too could be part of their in-jokes, but alas, the cold, unfeeling barrier of science meant we had to leave without so much as organising coffee in The Bubble. Finally, we made the mistake of asking the lone woman. The increasingly uncomfortable subject gave polite answers, but would be forgiven for actually “wanting” and “needing” for us to have never interrupted her study with our weirdly personal questions.
Unsurprisingly, money was the most popular answer to what women wanted and needed. Money is needed to pay rent, the train, for chance events, bail money for jail, buying houses, buying hotels, community service, hospital tax, property tax and trying to afford Mayfair. At the same time, it is difficult to come by—second place in the beauty contest only gets you $10, you can’t seem to pass Go without landing on Income Tax, and investing in Old Kent and Whitechapel Road is really not paying off at all. All is not lost, however, as we have some sage advice for all you enterprising ladies out there—become the banker! Times have changed and more women need to know that you can be the banker, it is not always your brother’s turn. As banker you will have access to a large body of funds, although stealth and discretion will be important for your safety as not all colleagues will approve of your alternative source of fortune.
There are some topics that remain sacred and cannot be mocked (such as everything else we have discussed). Food is one such topic and it is indeed essential to women—a lack of food results in death, and a lack of food for two hours results in deep sadness. Food can also offer great happiness, and the “money can’t buy happiness” myth has been disproved by the fact that money can buy onion rings. Naturally, we found that many of our respondents were quite enthused about their next meal. In particular, some favourite female items of ingestion included sushi, Midnight, Nam D, “weird chia pudding thing”, and chocolate. Personally, Charlotte’s favourite food is dirt and Sharon’s is knowledge.
Shoes, socks and shoe-related adhesives were amongst the more popular responses, suggesting that women’s favourite body part is their feet. The importance of looking after, dressing up and providing comfort for feet mean that feet have a special place in the female heart (not literally). One social movement we can link feet to is the emergence of women using their bodies, their naked bodies especially, as a form of protest. Although intended as a reclamation of the nude and as a symbol of female strength, the media’s warping of this often reverts this supposed subversion back into mere attention-seeking imagery. The importance females are placing upon their feet suggests that feet will become the solution to this how-to-correctly-use-body-as-a-political-weapon conundrum. Soon, we may see feet quite literally under the nose and in the face of The Man.
No other beverage stood out in our results as much as coffee did. The caffeinated concoction was on many female minds, offering energy and bowel movement like two coffee beans in a coffee bean pod. Many also noted that they wanted or needed more time to do things, with some respondents relating this to the possession of coffee, reflective of society’s misplaced yearning for productivity over sleep. There were no foul feelings towards coffee, despite everyone’s at least singular experience with either too much, or poorly timed ingestion of coffee. In fact, after dreamily saying the word “coffee”, some respondents even said that it would be their third or fourth coffee of the day. Because of this trend, the impending attempt by Good Charlotte to become relevant again will most likely result in the rewritten hit “Girls Don’t Like Sleep, Girls Like Coffee and Diarrhea”.
DEGREES & JOBS
This answer surprised us considering that all interviewees were sourced from a university. Both of us, while also “students”, are here purely for free VUWSA wall planners and Huge ice creams. The wall planners are especially versatile, making good material to sew clothes from, roll into a fully functioning telescope, display as highbrow artwork, and use as a bargaining chip in high-stake poker games. We had assumed that our classmates were also here for the same reasons, and so were highly confused over these “degrees” so many were after. The use of a “degree” was not made clear to us and may have to be the hypotheses of a future experiment.
Our confusion continued when many respondents replied with “job” as another popular item they wanted or needed. Jobs often offer people financial security and thus the foundation for people to achieve other things such as shelter, nourishment and access to healthcare. The way we see it, Kelburn campus’ new Bubble is able to solve all of one’s problems, including those that are often solved with employment. In fact, The Bubble has been such a successful university project that we predict that by 2020 every student at Victoria will be cohabiting inside The Bubble, and neither employment nor education will be necessary in this future VUWSA-funded utopia.
There were some results that, also due to popular musical prophesying, we had expected to have seen but were not at all mentioned. This included just wanting to have fun, our old best friend diamonds, and really really really wanting to zig-a-zig-ah. Songs seemed to have failed with their psychoanalysis of what women want and need, it also seemed like western-heteronormative-capitalist-patriarchal-societal standards had too. Body image concerns were refreshingly not raised, not even once; the desire for children also received no votes; and every woman’s perpetually acknowledged need for a partner barely made a dent.
Also mostly unmentioned was equality for women. We recognise that the circumstances of the questioning were likely to be the reason for this, with people being put on the spot and the pressure of two strangers expecting a quick-fire answer not exactly the most conducive. Answers may have been very different had there been more time, privacy and anonymity. Furthermore, the way we put forward the question was not as what was wanted and needed for women, but woman. Perhaps if we had worded it as such, concern for the gender would have been more prevalent, as it was, the answers were more an illumination of individual desires.
Nevertheless, it was kind of sad and rather telling that it didn’t appear to be implicitly linked as a want or need for women today. Perhaps women think equality has already been achieved, or perhaps all the desire for money was code for “address the gender pay gap”. We do hope that it is the latter; our societal structures still very much create and sustain systems where women are at a disadvantage. Until this changes, our money, food, coffee, university degrees and shoes will have to be enjoyed within a system of double standards, biases and discrimination.
When a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? Yes. It’s the sound of what women want and need. And what is that? Careful reading between the lines of this very article, paired with an acute awareness of societal issues does reveal an obvious, single, answer. It is what Christina crooned about in 1999, and it is what we and our female counterparts still yearn for in 2015.
Along with this enlightening and very clear answer, the path we took to get there was greatly enriching and more than just a rigorous scientific endeavour. We saw friendships, we saw delicious lunches (none of which we were offered, despite our dribbling, then asking politely, then asking rudely) and sharing laughter with strangers, surely convincing passersby that we had known each other for eons, or were at least collectively laughing out of social unease.
Regardless of the debatable amounts of awkwardness we imposed upon female strangers, we genuinely did feel a connection between us and the women we talked to, and curiosity in how people would answer. We like to think that we were able to encourage, at least briefly, a period of contemplation of just what one wants and needs, both as a modern woman and as an individual.
Finally, as scientific protocol dictates, it was important that we also had a control group (yes, we know the correct definition of a control) and so we interviewed one male specimen. His response was that what he wanted was “an ol cuppa o’ fresh brew in my swanndri upholstered lounge with my missus making me meat”, and what he needed was “my gumboots to be less muddy”.