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Saturday, October 22, 2016

“You know, back in my days, they used Bayer Aspirin for contraception. The gals put it between their knees…” — Foster Friess, Feb. 16, 2012


Do you watch “Mad Men”?

If so, you know that one of the things that drama about a 1960s advertising agency does best is transport you back to the days when women still were “gals.” We think we remember what that was like. We use words like “sexist” and “paternalistic” to describe it.

But that is jargon and no amount of jargon can deliver the same visceral jolt of “Oh, my Lord” as a “Mad Men” scene where one of the “gals” in the office seeks a prescription for those new birth-control pills, but first must endure a humiliating lecture from her doctor. “I see from your chart that you’re not married,” he says. “And yet, you’re interested in the contraceptive pills.” He warns her that if he thinks she is becoming “easy” or a “strumpet,” he will take the pills away.

When a Foster Friess describes how things were “back in my days,” it is worth remembering that those are the days he is referring to.

Friess, a major financial supporter of presidential wannabe Rick Santorum, made his comment in an interview with MSNBC. Santorum quickly disavowed it. “A stupid joke,” he called it.

We seem to be talking an awful lot about women’s reproductive health lately. Not just the usual zero sum battles about abortion, but a wholly new battle about contraception, something most of us would have thought utterly uncontroversial just a few short weeks ago.

But since then, we’ve seen President Obama forced to compromise on an ill-considered mandate requiring religious institutions to provide contraception to their employees. We’ve seen the GOP convene an all-male panel to testify on women’s reproductive concerns. We’ve seen debate over Title X, a 1970 law providing free contraception to indigent women. We’ve been treated to Rick Santorum’s bizarre views on contraception, which he opposes because he says it doesn’t work (!) and is dangerous and harmful to women, to boot.

And we’ve seen Foster Friess attempt to make a funny.

You might let it go as just that, save for a nagging certainty that in a few ill-chosen words, Friess managed to capture something telling and important about the way he and other social conservatives see this country.

  • Leslie Steinberg

    It appears to be arrogant and archaic, of certain “old” men-the present day Mad Men it seems, to presume that they can make choices for today’s women. No doubt they feel entitled to their own perks. I do think, however that those of us that are angry about this attitude and feel that a woman’s choice is valid and fair and offers every woman the right to do with their body what they choose, should encourage insurance companies to also deny these Mad Men their choice of Viagra. I say Down With The Blues!!! for men.

  • myungbluth

    Pity the poor Republicans – just a little before we vote them out of office. They want to return to the imaginary past when the “gals” got your coffee and the country wasn’t yet “invaded” by Mexicans. They live in a black and white TV world that reminds one of a cheesy episode of The Twilight Zone, that is, if their vision wasn’t so entirely cynical. The old white men are starting to vanish. They’re losing their grip – becoming the past. The past was much better, wasn’t it? It was, wasn’t it? It’s getting hard to remember with their minds so clouded by anger. Why are those Republican governors we elected so unpopular? Why hasn’t the TEA party actually been able to govern? Why is there a black man in our White House? Why aren’t the mothers staying at home? So tiring. Everything is so tiring. Why?…..Why?

  • Bill Britton

    I’ve heard women use the term “gal”–younger women at that. We seem to get caught up in what’s sexist and what is not. I do know one thing: when a waiter asks a table, “What can I get you guys?” I flinch. How about saying simply, “How may I help you?” Even worse is when they crouch down to ask. Nothing worse than a head at plate level. Yet the collective “guys,” meaning a mixed group, seems acceptable. The safest bet is to drop anything with a sexist connotation and again, simply, use “you.”

  • Kingofnotsomuch

    The GOP and the tea party are very stupid people,trying to tell someone what to do.They have already lost the election,and are so dumb that they don’t realize it.You don’t make any women mad at you for what ever reason,if you do you have had a very bad day!!! I know that women should have the right to do with their body as they want to,not being told what to do by a party that is full of old men.

  • AZDora

    Where are the Bill Brittons in this country? Never mind, if they need the little blue pill – that is private! I am a “gal” who hates to be lumped together with my husband and son as a “guy” and have the server’s head at plate level. They are the ones that can’t give the right change and can’t make sense of 2 sentences in a row.
    When I see nose rings and pregnant stomachs barely covered, a quote from Dan Rather comes to mind: it is the result of the media “tarting it up and dumming it down”!! Or does it fall under the famous quote: “Civilization – what a great idea”!!??
    I know for sure that it is not the result of stay-at-home moms!

  • Judy

    Foster Friess’s speech does remind me of the “good old days”. I remember when I was asked if I had a boyfriend on my first job interview and that I had to have my father co sign on a loan for a car. Maybe they weren’t such good days after all.

  • Welsh_And_Spanish_Protestant

    As an old white man who is of the radio & WWII generation I am pained by the ageist & racist stereotypes that are regularly flung about in this space. Just because of my race & age I get sorted into the same bin as Foster Friess, Santorum, & that clump of fools. Help make things better by dropping the groupthink.

  • Don52

    I am not sure that Mr. Friess tried his own remedy but the aspirin trick works as well with men as it does with women

  • Howz 1

    All the women of this country have to do to end this contraversy is to deny sex to any partner that dosen’t support their right to control their reproductive rights.
    That will wake some people up!