Philobiblon: What Do Women Want? The Women's Library Offers An Answer

Monday, November 28, 2005

What Do Women Want? The Women's Library Offers An Answer

"What do women WANT?" It is a classic question asked by an anti-feminist bloke, usually with a stagey layer of overlaid sarcasm, implying that half of the human race is unreasonable and impossible to satisfy. And if they are unhappy, it is neither this man's fault, nor any other man's.

The Women's Library has the perfect answer, in its exhibition titled simply What Do Women Want?" Drawn entirely from its collections, covering a span of around 150 years, it comes to the conclusion that women over that time have wanted broadly the same things - access to decisionmaking in public and private spheres, safety, opportunity, respect .... and they've had to keep fighting for them, because they have often not been delivered until decades of campaigning, and even when delivered, they've been continually under threat.

As is usual with Women's Library exhibitions there is a strong interactive component, developed here through an innovative design. It looks a bit odd at first glance, but it grows on you. Each section of the exhibition has its own "tower", from which accompanying artworks - created for it - are strung, while it also forms a desk where visitors are invited to write their comments. These contributions take up one whole wall of the exhibition, and as usual make likely reading.

Housework, and why it is still seen as a woman's job, is the scene of one of the hottest debates. Comments range from a joyous "hurray, don't do it", to a despairing "because it is crap work", to the sarcastic "because men don't do it 'properly' ... clever boys". Read more


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