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Have we really come a long way …. baby?

Posted in Aging, Life & Love, and Relationships

In the late 60s Philip Morris ran an advertising campaign for their brand Virginia Slims. The ads – full of modern, hip looking chicks – bore the pay-off line: “You’ve come a long way baby”. The idea being: as you lot are now equal to men – you should have your own cigarette. That’s not to say women weren’t smoking before the ads: it’s just that VS made a celebration of it, and rather cleverly, used the word Slim in their brand name. Yes the cigarettes were straw thin. But add it all together and you’ve got a slice of subliminal genius. Fat was still a feminist issue. And Nicotine suppresses the appetite.

So we lit up in droves: we may die – but damn, we’ll be thiiiiiiinnnnnn!Virginia-slims-ads

Virginia Slim was able to sustain their campaign well into the late 80s. They weren’t the only ones: Marlboro, Silk Cut and Camel had us all (me included, especially after a few drinks) puffing our way into the heady world of mouth, throat and lung cancer. But we didn’t care – we had fought for our right to party. We inhaled openly – secure in the knowledge that the efforts of our suffragette sisters had brought us to this hallowed place. We belonged! What we didn’t know was these femme cigarettes were even more poisonous than the regular versions – the flavouroids, scents, menthol and fast burners in the skinny filters were lighting up our lungs like Christmas in Kansas.

But I am not here to lecture about cigarettes. We all know how that story ends.

Before Christmas I was in the Lego store – checking out potential gifts for the Nans – and I was amazed at how the packets of bricks were branded. There were two distinct themes: pink, silver and purple sparkliness for the girls, brave, bright-coloured adventures for the boys.  Of course you could buy whatever you liked for the kid under your tree, but the packaging was pretty clear as to whom they were targeting. It annoyed me right out of the store.


I remembered this ad from when I was a kid and tracked it down. What the hell has happened since it came out in the early 70s? Have we allowed ourselves to go backwards as feminists? Have we let our equality rating slip? It seems so …the girls were twizzling around a signpost the other day at the beach – pretending to be pole dancers. Apparently they saw Rhianna doing it in one of her videos – and thought “it was cool, plus its really good exercise”. On the way home we passed a billboard picturing a woman sucking off a Magnum Ice Cream: “why’s she eating her lolly in the bath?” asked Riley. Who the hell knows, baby. Perhaps she doesn’t want it to mess all over her.

I may be channelling Archie Bunker, but Ladies, it seems we’ve been backsliding. Scuttling into the cave at the first sign of a man with a mink pelt and a big club. Or have I got it all wrong and this is modern feminism? Are we so secure in our place in the world that we’re putting it right out there, like we’re all for sale?

If that is the case – I am glad I am my fifties. I just could not be assed to compete. I know how it would end and the reclamation of our rights would just feel like covering lost ground. But I do know one thing for sure, excellent workout or no, I will see to it that my nieces never end up on the pole. Unless, of course, that pole is the Arctic.

(All images found in the public domain.)

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  1. silvia

    Triple yes! Great video the Goldie Blox.
    It’s nonsense what marketing managers are doing these days. They are always one step behind. They are blind to what reality already is.
    It seems they want to confine the feminine gender to their old little territory. And I’m not only referring to children.
    These people should become aware for instance that within CERN – the European Organization for Nuclear Research, it’s a woman the person who’s in charge to run the division responsible for one of the most important discoveries of our times – the Higgs boson.
    And who’s at the head of the International Monetary Fund? Ops a woman!!!
    And I could go on and on.
    But I understand it’s easier to plan a marketing strategy that is comfortable and reassuring about male and female roles.
    So I wonder whare are those smart, intelligent, vibrant female marketing managers out there who could make the difference? Maybe a few are trying hard, but very often it’s difficult to raise their voice especially within corporate/profit mindset.
    Is it possible that a colour – pink, sorry I hate it – still today can define who we should be and potentially influence our talents?
    Towanda Sisters, towanda!

    January 30, 2014
  2. Maybe feminism skips a generation. Maybe it’s OK now to have little pink Lego blocks. I don’t know.
    I doubt that young women are aware of the history, though, and that’s our fault. (Although you’d think hearing politicians talk about “legitimate rape” would ring a few alarm bells.)

    January 30, 2014
  3. PS

    January 29, 2014
  4. To steal from Ottominuti above, “I personally am disturbed by the trend”. What ever happened to just buying toys or clothing for a particular age group and not being dictated to by color? This pink for girls or nothing and blue for boys or nothing, seriously disturbs me…..

    January 29, 2014
  5. So funny, I have been meaning to write about this too. Good that you went first. It is actually pretty scary that at the same time that we discuss “leaning in” and we praise women at the top of the corporate ladder we also create ghettos for little girls and teach them about their supposed difference. I was discussing this with a friend and he said that if Lego makes Hello Kitty pink bricks it’s because the market asks for them. I still believe that customers don’t really know what they need till they are surrounded by it. Had Lego avoided the genderization of bricks, little girls would have happily played with the original thing.
    Personally, I am seriously disturbed by this trend.

    January 29, 2014

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