Liberal Feminism in “What Men Want”


Written by: Kayla Bell

What Men Want, starring Taraji P. Henson, peers into the private thoughts of the opposite sex, poking fun at the ways men and women come up short when it comes to understanding one another.

Ali Davis (Taraji P. Henson), a sports agent to female athlete Lisa Leslie (Lisa Leslie) is skilled at succeeding in a man’s world and is one of the most hardworking and determined agents at her company. However, after a great deal of confusion and anger over her efforts not being recognized, she gives the executives an ultimatum – that if she signs the number one NBA draft pick, the company will have to deliver on her demands, or else.

Ali’s struggles demonstrate the inherent conflicts of Liberal Feminism – generally defined as gender equality and opportunity (Minow 2019). She is a woman of color in a profession dominated by men and finds herself constantly reminded to stay in her lane. She is also tested and challenged by the limited rewards received for her hard work and dedication.

While Ali is deciding how to complete the task, she gains the ability to hear men’s thoughts, thanks to a magical tea prepared by a psychic at a friend’s bachelorette party. Ali then uses this new talent to benefit herself in every way possible – not only to sign the number one pick but also to seduce attractive men.

Female athletes and sports is a more recent phenomenon of the feminist movement, but these events have not always been as abundant and/or profitable as those of their male counterparts. So then it’s that much more interesting for this film to take on the sports industry where men are often more valued than women – showing them taking on bigger roles in the workplace, as Ali steps up to take her career to the next level.

What Men Want addresses a society currently keeping women down, as in the case of Ali, who is African American. SPOILER ALERT! But at the same time it portrays cooperation between the sexes and defying the status quo, as she learns how to communicate with the men in her field without the help of her super power. Ultimately, the sports agent realizes that her determination and character are actually responsible for her most noteworthy successes.

Feminism must continue evolving to address the most important problems our society faces. What Men Want takes on some of these issues indirectly and entertainingly – offering up approaches for improving male/female relations, opening up opportunities, and breaking down barriers.

Women’s advertising clubs, such as the Philadelphia Club of Advertising Women, ~ were formed in reaction to women excluded from the male dominated ad agencies.


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