Sunday, March 8, 2009

"Here's looking at you, with your permission, kid".

I know, I know. It's International Women's Day and I should be out ceremoniously burning my bra (Lord knows it's seen better days anyway) or moaning about the fact that women do two-thirds of the world's work but receive only 10% of the world's income. But I am not. As the decades-old Virginia Slims cigarette slogan says, "You've come a long way, baby." We most certainly have – and we have a long way to go – but heaven help the man that calls any of us "baby" these days. I have to say, I find that sad.

I am a single Mom, hopefully raising my son to be a gentleman, and a feminist. But I grew up in the 60's with a man who brought home the bacon and admired beautiful women. My Dad was no Ward Cleaver, but even Ward knew a beautiful gal when he saw one. I remember when I was about 11, walking with my Dad in New York when an attractive woman walked by. My Dad smiled at her and said quietly after she passed, "what a beautiful broad". It was not intended in any way to be hurtful or perceived as lecherous. She was pretty and she smiled back. It was a compliment from an admiring member of the opposite sex. It was a Wall St. version of a construction worker's whistle, but it was not intended to degrade or harass.

Ironically, just a few blocks over, Gloria Steinem was letting fly a few cat calls of her own – publishing the first feminist magazine, Ms. It was 1972, and I bet you lunch at the Pierre that Ms. Steinem would not have appreciated my father one bit. And visa versa. In 1998, Steinem was inducted into the American Society of Magazine Editors Hall of Fame alongside Hugh Hefner of Playboy. My Dad would have had a chuckle about that.

While the feminist movement has done wonderful things for women, I do believe it has taken the Bogart out of courtship, flirting and romance. The "gentleman" taking care of the "lady" has gone the way of the American auto industry. (Maybe that fine gentleman, Obama can help bail out the romance industry as well.) Today's men are so confused about what is acceptable and what women want, they don't know what to do – and who can blame them?! A simple act of chivalry, or an admiring glance can add up to one big, fat sexual harassment suit. I want my son to give up his seat on the bus for a woman of any age. I just don't want him to be beaten up for it.

So call me a female chauvinist pig, but I like it when a man helps me with my coat, or opens the car door for me, or does that sidewalk switch manoeuvre my dad used to do, so he would be on the dangerous curb side of the road. All of that makes me feel, briefly, like a beautiful broad.

Happy International Women's Day, ladies and gentlemen.