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Good girls and bad girls ... the same girls?

Published September 01. 2012 09:02AM


In the Sixties, when I was a fraternity "man" at Franklin & Marshall College, we brothers dated one of two kinds of girls. Some of us had serious relationships with young women who proudly wore our fraternity pins. The rest dated "pigs." A pig "put out." Picture the Muppets' Miss Piggy. You might want to imagine those frat boys with snouts, too.

While the Greek fraternities were pursuing this hoary double standard, the times were a'changing under our piggy noses. Along with the Civil Rights Movement and the anti-Vietnam War protests, a sexual revolution was in the making. The boys embraced it because it promised more and easier action. The girls had more complex, mature motives.

Helen Gurley Brown, who died two weeks ago at age 90, set the female agenda with her 1962 bestseller "Sex and the Single Girl." She spent most of her professional career embellishing her theme as editor of "Cosmopolitan." Following her lead, young women took control of their sexuality, insisting that they could be both the girl next-door and sexually liberated. Without "Sex and the Single Girl" there could never have been "Sex and the City." The line of descent is crystal clear.

Brown declared enthusiastically that women could, and should, have it all: "love, sex, and money." Feminists and family-values advocates found a rare ground for agreement in condemning Brown's unabashed advocacy of the "Cosmo" woman. All the same, when she stepped down as U.S. Editor in 1997, "Cosmo" was sixth in sales on newsstands and numero uno in campus bookstores. College co-eds had embraced Brown's philosophy and aspired to her lifestyle.

According to Wikipedia, season one of "Sex and the City" established the premise in 1998 that drove the narrative for its six seasons: "Carrie Bradshaw lives in Manhattan and writes a column called 'Sex and the City.' At a birthday party for Miranda, Carrie and her friends decide to start having sex like men, meaning without all the emotional attachment, which sets the tone for the series." The sitcom "Friends" (1994-2004) espoused a similar theme.

Both shows came under criticism. For instance, Journalist Tanya Gold of the "Daily Telegraph," a UK newspaper, commented in 2010, "Sex and the City is to feminism what sugar is to dental care. The first clue is in the opening credits of the television show. Carrie is standing in a New York street in a ballet skirt, the sort that toddlers wear.

She is dressed, unmistakably, as a child. And, because she is a sex columnist on a newspaper, a bus wearing a huge photo of her in a tiny dress trundles past. 'Carrie Bradshaw knows good sex,' says the bus. And there, before any dialogue hits your ears, you have the two woeful female archetypes that Sex and the City loves woman as sex object and woman as child...."

Helen Gurley Brown's Cosmo Girl came under the same sort of criticism. But, just as Brown's magazine was number one among college co-eds, despite the feminist attacks, "Sex and the City" was successfully syndicated in some 50 countries, including incredibly the Middle East. Why? Because, while we boys wanted to sort the girls into two distinct groups white and black the girls instinctively knew they each embodied both sides and had every right to fly their freak flags when they felt like it.

I'm not sure my generation has ever quite gotten used to that. We may still feel as if we were ambushed.


My dad has always said that men are romantic and women are practical, and I have to agree. Sure, we typically see women as the stars of all the wedding TV shows, and women are always depicted as "chasing the ring," but I think that's misleading. The media would have you believe we're all romance-obsessed Bridget Jones clones, just bumbling through life in search of our one true love. The real facts are: women plan the weddings because no one else, much less the groom, is going to do it for them, and not all of us are necessarily all that interested in getting married in the first place.

Back in the day, a woman was considered a "spinster" if she wasn't married by the age of 25. Women had limited options when it came to making money, and most spent their days as homemakers and mothers; it's only natural that getting married would be a necessary part of life for a woman. Furthermore, women had to be picky about who they chose; they needed a husband who could support them and any children they might have, and who would be stable and loyal. Men, on the other hand, could afford to be a little more romantic about choosing a partner, simply because they didn't rely on a wife for their very livelihood.

But things have changed. Women are getting married later in life, or often not at all. We have our own jobs and different priorities now, and marriage is not the panacea it once was. In fact, with today's economy, marriage is sometimes detrimental to a couple, and with Obama's Affordable Care Act, there may soon be far fewer marriages of convenience (i.e. getting married to obtain a partner's health benefits) in the future. Women are the still the practical ones, only now it's often more practical not to get married.

Clearly, many men are still daunted by the not-so-newfound independence of woman, as evidenced by the many laws being proposed right now, laws that essentially aim to keep women "in their place." Laws that force women to be seen as nothing more than vessels for bearing children do just that it's misogyny and fear cloaked in a "pro-life" cape.

But why? Why are some men so scared of women having their own lives, separate from them? I think it has something to do with the fact that, despite many women working just as much as their male counterparts, women still end up doing the majority of the housework, childcare, and cooking in a heterosexual marriage because many men simply don't know how. They were never taught, it was never expected of them, and thus women are left to pick up the slack. Studies have shown that while a man's happiness goes steadily upward after getting married, often having gained a partner who makes more for dinner than frozen pizza, a woman's happiness plateaus much more quickly because she bears the brunt of having a second person in the household.

Don't think I'm some sort of man-hater, though (I only hate one by one, at least). I'm just saying, men can complain as much as they want about their "ring-chasing" girlfriends, but we're onto you: it's all a bit of reverse-psychology, and you're going to be sorry you put up such a fight when women stop accepting your proposals.

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