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March is Women’s History Month, a time to respect and appreciate women of all types and the contributions women have made and continue to make. 

In 1968, Virginia Slims cigarettes were introduced.  The cigarettes were “much narrower than ordinary cigarettes” and were “marketed to young professional women using the slogan, ‘You’ve come a long way, baby.’”

The appeal of the marketing of the cigarettes to women supposedly included: “independence, liberation, slimness, attractiveness, glamour, style, taste, and a contrast to men’s cigarettes.”

A Surgeon General’s report alleged that this marketing led to an increase in smoking among teenage girls. (Wikipedia) When considering the current warnings about smoking being “dangerous to your health,” the slogan “you’ve-come-a-long-way-baby” in reference to women smoking is an oxymoron. 

Because it is Women’s History Month, television stations will air programs/documentaries that focus on various women of note and the history/development of women’s rights. The 19th Amendment to The Constitution of the United States gave women the right to vote in 1920, which was after black males were (theoretically) given the right to vote through Amendment 15 in 1870.  Women have “come a long way,” but they still have a long way to go.  Even during the Civil Rights efforts, women complained about not getting the power or recognition that men got.

Sadly, many movies and commercials project/promote images of females as drudges or sex objects.  There used to be a commercial that said to women down on their knees cleaning the floor: “Up off of your knees, girls.” 

However, the “girls” only got up to clean with something that they could use while standing.  I recently saw a commercial for an intimate female clothing store that would have made me think it was a commercial for a “house of bad repute” had I not recognized the name of the store and know that the store sold lingerie.

History shows that women (and men) have fought (and continue to fight) for women’s rights and to show that all women are not mindless sex objects. Unfortunately, too many people embrace negative images of women and in so doing, challenge the statemant, “You’ve come a long way.”

Peggy Tarr

Peggy Tarr has been a columnist for the Evanston RoundTable since its founding in 1998. Born in Bruce Springsteen's hometown of Freehold, New Jersey, she graduated from Rutgers University with a degree...