Recently I hosted a luncheon at our home and as I was talking to my friends, I mentioned that I debated both Helen Gurley Brown and Gloria Steinem at a luncheon for Savvy Magazine. It was during the time when women were burning their bras and wanted to be “the same as men.” I, on the other hand, had just launched UndercoverWear and giving women, my famous Sensuality Test, while showing lingerie, garter belts and peek-a-boo undies. I touted that that women can in fact retain their femininity and “compete in the boardroom–but not in the bedroom.” I further gave women the opportunity to build a strong successful business based on romance and sensuality.
During the heated debate, when Steinem kept talking about how men and women should be treated “the same” because they are “the same,” I commented that “when men can have babies, they we will be the same.” Equality and sameness are very different, I explained. I took on Steinem with her–be like man philosophy. Gurley Brown had written a book called, “Having it All.” In the book, the expectations put on women to be perfect in every facet of their life, were both unrealistic and downright ridiculous. To this day, I believe I won the debate. At lunch, my peer group was duly impressed and wanted details. “Yes,” I said, “I used to be a somebody!”
My two wonderful assistants were helping me out that day. While they were busy pouring wine and helping me cater the luncheon, they overheard some of the conversation. BTW, Sarah and Ani are amazing. They are smart, educated, kind and talented. And they are willing to “pitch in” whenever needed. I am blessed.
Anyway, Ani and I started chatting about the luncheon. And as I started re-telling the Steinem/Brown story, I saw a blank look on their faces. FYI, Sarah is in her early 20’s from California and just graduated from the University of Hawaii. Ani is in her late 30’s, was born in the U.S. grew up in Saudi Arabia, went to school in Switzerland and lived in Dubai! So these gals are really SOMETHING!
When I saw their expressions, I asked, “Do you know the backgrounds of Helen Gurley Brown and Gloria Steinem? They sheepishly looked at each other and said, “No,” neither had any idea who these two formidable women were. I was very surprised. First I thought perhaps it was an “age” thing. Of course that’s probably partially accurate, but I think it is deeper than that. I found it disconcerting that these two young dynamic females were unaware of the women who were trailblazers from my generation and even earlier.
While I disliked Brown’s “Having It All,” book it was she who also wrote “Sex and the Single Girl.” In the book, she shocked early-1960s America with the news that unmarried women not only had sex but thoroughly enjoyed it. As the editor of Cosmopolitan magazine, she also spent the next three decades telling those women precisely how to enjoy it even more. While Playboy has attributed UCW (and me) to the sexual revolution of the 80’s, (not that I planned that), Brown certainly was way ahead of me.
And while Steinem is a feminist, and I never labeled myself as such, there are so many women’s issues that she and I were and still are in total agreement. She too was a moving force to have equality in the work place for men and women.
As I continued to think about the vast number of women who influenced my ability to achieve personal and professional success, the list is never ending. Women like Margaret Sanger, Bette Freiden, Mary Tyler Moore, Marlo Thomas, and even Marabel Morgan. Some did it through strength, others through humor. While I am not always in agreement with their views or actions, I am grateful to all of these women and so many more for making me think. That’s right to think–think about who I am and what I want in life. And I was equally blessed to have strong female role models within my family, who taught me that I could do anything I wanted and have everything I wanted. I have subsequently discovered that we have many options and choices and we will always have to make some sacrifices. But that’s a whole different story.
But–back to Sarah and Ani. I am not chastising these two fabulous young ladies at all. They are amazing. I just wish that every young woman of their generation was compelled to take a non-partisan course to learn about many women who fought to “break the glass ceiling” in their individual way.
And finally, did you know that, in my opinion, Eleanor Roosevelt was the original daily blogger. Her “My Day” was a syndicated newspaper column published from 1935 to 1962. During those years, Eleanor wrote the column consistently six days a week, the only interruption being when her husband died, and even then she missed only four days. The column allowed Eleanor to reach millions of Americans with her views on social and political issues, current and historical events, and her private and public life. Dealing with subjects far out of the range of the conventional first lady’s concerns, “My Day” is an outstanding example of the breadth of issues and activities which occupied Eleanor Roosevelt’s life.
Thank you Eleanor–wish you could read “Tiffany’s life-tini!”