The Mad Men Primary

Leonard Pitts Jr. writes that the anti-contraception rhetoric of the Republican presidential primary sounds like something straight out of the 1960s, in his column, “Returning To The Past:”

“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.

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