Are we happy yet? A few years ago, in Dallas, my husband and I gave a ‘Money and Marriage’ seminar. I spoke about the brilliant Virginia Slims cigarette ads of the late 1960s. Using the advertising slogan, “You’ve come a long way, baby,” the ads contrasted sepia-tinted cheerless, oppressed-looking women from earlier decades with modern Virginia Slims women – bold, happy, often wearing colorful pants suits and liberated by, among other things, their ability to smoke openly. My point was that these ads actually gave an unspoken anti-feminist message. Women could only come a long way by behaving like men, in other words, by smoking.
With that in mind, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at last month’s report from the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute. Not only have young women achieved parity with men in getting lung cancer, they are actually getting ahead of men.
What a triumph for feminism!
In the past few decades we abandoned judgment. Instead of evaluating behaviors, the litmus test of whether something was desirable for women or not became whether groups of men behaved in that manner. Men smoked and got drunk and women rushed to emulate them. Men cursed, and you only have to read some of today’s humorous “chick lit” to see how successfully women learned to be crude as well. Instead of saying, “I don’t want to be around you if you curse, women boasted, “I can curse as well as you.”
Irresponsible men treated their bodies as purely physical entities sleeping around at will, and women, especially on college campuses, mimicked that degradation. Instead of rejoicing in their femininity and encouraging men to rise above the basest calls of their nature, women sought the lowest common ground in a race to copy all that is adolescent, immature and destructive in the male of the species. Somehow, it hasn’t produced the satisfaction it promised.
The move to, ‘come a long way, baby’, coupled with advances in birth control, encouraged men and women to ignore what is uniquely feminine, the ability to nurture and bear life. Separating sex and conception and removing holiness from physical relationships left women publicly naked, both figuratively and literally. Large numbers of American women formed “feminist” movements that focused on encouraging other women to suppress their yearning for children. They created cultural pressure encouraging the destruction of unwanted babies and along the way convinced men that wives were irrelevant and unnecessary as life partners. In other words, women gave up the privileges they should have protected including the right to respect and affection from a man who would spend his life striving to be worthy of a woman’s love.
Not surprisingly, if the goal is to be a man, men have an unfair advantage. Indeed, analyses of the cancer study cited above have the audacity to suggest that women’s bodies may respond differently to smoking than men’s bodies, making women more susceptible to lung cancer. Perhaps women need to go back a long way, baby, and try another path. One on which they utilize their intelligence and talents rather than running lemming-like over a cliff. Maybe, instead of following the worst of male characteristics, we should appreciate and encourage that which is noble and decent in men while also valuing what is worthy and fine in our own gender.