The Sigmund Freud Question
illustration by randall nelson

The Sigmund Freud Question

Revisiting the age-old Freudian question: What do women want?

To: Dr. Michael Krass, President
Contemporary Freudian Society
26 Court St. Suite 1412
Brooklyn, New York 11242

Dear Dr. Michael Krass:

March was National Women’s History Month, and this issue of Twin Cities Business is devoted to women in corporate leadership, so it seems like a propitious time to revisit the age-old Freudian question: What do women want?

With the possible exception of Macduff (who kills Macbeth), all of us owe life itself to our mothers. The arc of history, as written mostly by men, seems to gloss over this seminal point. That point has not been lost on stand-up comedians like Whitney Cummings, who said “Give me the back seat of a Taurus and some Sutter Home, and I can duplicate.” That is a comedic exclamation of the fact that if you want to get a job done, and it’s an important job, get a woman.

Most of us in business, if we are being honest, agree that women get it done. And, in fact, according to a new Monster survey as reported by CNBC, 64% of women agree that they could do their boss’s job better (47% of men have the same view). It can’t be the salary, because the Census Bureau figures show a continued wage gap between men and women.

Even in Minnesota, business and political leadership has been almost entirely male. Minnesota voters finally elected a female in her own right for a major statewide office in 1975: Secretary of State Joan Growe. She was frequently mocked as running a “housewives campaign.” Similar derision was faced by women who ran for federal office from Minnesota. Cornelia “Coya” Knutson was Minnesota’s first congresswoman, elected in 1955. When she ran for reelection in 1958, she was the object of the notorious “Coya Come Home” letter, allegedly written by her husband, Andy. The letter went on to hit the usual “housewife” points, urging Coya to “make a home for your husband and son.”

Today, Minnesota is one of the very few states where a majority of its congressional delegation is female, led by our two Democratic senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith. The dean of the delegation is Democratic U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum. And the delegation is bipartisan, with Republican Michelle Fischbach representing the 7th Congressional District. Elected officials are often a reflection of our societal values, so particularly in Minnesota, we have made progress. Sports is another reflection of societal values and societal change (hence the importance of Jackie Robinson).

Fathers who are older remember their own high school days, when women’s athletics was basically limited to something called the GAA (Girls’ Athletic Association), but not rigorous interscholastic competition. Many of us, and certainly the undersigned, credit girls athletics and the implementation of Title IX with much of the reason for women’s political and business success. Baseball may be America’s national sport, but in Minnesota we are the State of Hockey. And the future of women’s hockey development in Minnesota is a societal reflection of resistance to women’s equality.

Efforts were made to get the Minnesota State High School League to recognize women’s hockey as a varsity sport. By 1987, there were 150 girls hockey teams registered nationwide with USA Hockey. One commentator remembers that the male hockey coaches, with arms folded, refused to consider the idea of competitive high school women’s hockey. In order to meet this pressure, the Minnesota State High School League recognized, for women only, the game of ringette. We won’t belabor why this was totally inadequate: The name “ringette” says it all.

Finally, on Feb. 24, 1995, the first-ever state high school girls hockey tournament in the country was held at Aldrich Arena in Maplewood. Today, the Minnesota State High School League Girls Hockey Tournament is held at the Xcel Energy Center (home of the Wild) and typically attracts between 15,000 and 20,000 fans over the course of the tournament. And, of course, the Minnesota State High School League Hockey Tournament is the largest youth sports tournament in the country.

Men know that team sports build leadership, teamwork, and the ability to persevere in competition even in the face of “unfair” referee calls. Almost any male in leadership is able to recall a team sport experience they had in their youth. And now women, and particularly women who play team sports, have the same life experiences. The undersigned once heard an executive say that they could always tell if a female job applicant had played competitive sports because that person looked them in the eye and not at their shoes.

So, this all brings us back to the Freud question. Our lexicon lacks any famous psychoanalyst, philosopher, or cultural commentator asking the question “What do men want?” That question has never been asked. And so today, in part due to women’s athletics and women’s success in the political arena, we know the answer to the Freudian question. What do women want? Never to be asked that question again.

Sincerely yours,
Vance K. Opperman, a hockey dad

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