You’ve not come a long way baby

In 1968, the Phillip Morris Company launched a memorable campaign to sell Virginia Slims, a new brand of cigarettes targeting women, itself a new phenomenon. It had a brand-new slogan: “You’ve come a long way, baby.

As a thoughtful piece by Ruth Rosen in today’s edition of Le Monde explains, “The company plastered it on billboards nationwide and put it in TV ads that featured women of the early

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twentieth century being punished for smoking. In all their advertising, smoking was equated with a set of traits meant to capture the essence of women in a new era of equality — independence, slimness, glamour, and liberation

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“As it happened, the only equality this campaign ended up supporting involved lung cancer. Today, women and men die at similar rates from that disease.Still, women have come a long way since the mid-twentieth century, and it’s worth considering just how far — and just how far we have to go.

Once upon a time

“These days it may be hard for some to believe, but before the women’s movement burst on the scene in the late 1960s, newspapers published ads for jobs on different pages, segregated by gender. Employers legally paid women less than men for the same work. Some bars refused to serve women and all banks denied married women credit or loans, a practice which didn’t change until 1974. Some states even excluded women from jury duty.

“Radio producers considered women’s voices too abrasive to be on the air and television executives believed that women didn’t have sufficient credibility to anchor the news. Few women ran big corporations or universities, or worked as firefighters and police officers. None sat on the Supreme Court, installed electrical equipment, climbed telephone poles, or owned construction companies. All hurricanes had female names, due to the widely held view that women brought chaos and destruction to society.

“As late as 1970, Dr. Edgar Berman, a consultant to presidents and to Medicare, proclaimed on television that women were too tortured by hormonal disturbances to assume the presidency. Few people ran into women professors, doctors, or lawyers. Everyone addressed a woman as either Miss or Mrs, depending on her marital status, and if a woman needed an abortion, legal nowhere in America, she risked her life searching among quacks in back alleys for a competent and compassionate doctor.”

 

Complete story at: http://mondediplo.com/openpage/you-ve-come-a-long-way-baby-or-have-you

 

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