The Kept Woman Mentality

Leonard Lauder, president of Estée Lauder (the cosmetics company), in an interview with Gloria Steinem once said that his company was selling a “kept woman mentality” and anything that countered that was something they (Lauder) wouldn’t support. At that time, Steinem was asking Lauder why they wouldn’t advertise in her feminist magazine when their demographics showed that products associated with her magazine sold better.This line found its way to the College of Mass Communication, where several progressive Media and Society teachers, like Ms. Jo Santos proclaim Steinem’s account of Lauder’s hypocrisy as one that not only demeans women, but as a perfect example of how media and business perpetuate patriarchal standards and keep women at a low level just to perpetuate their business interests.

I thought this as traditional anti-imperialist feminist rhetoric, and nothing more. Surely, I thought (quite naïvely, too) that women reading these magazines would be able to see past the manipulation and the artifice that these products sell.

I’m obviously not a big fan of makeup.

***

Yesterday, I found myself sitting on the toilet with nothing else to read except Cosmopolitan Magazine’s Pinays and Sex special (the one with Katie Holmes on the cover, I forget what month and year). One of the articles in the magazine not only made my stomach turn, it made me feel sad for the “liberalized” Filipina.

The article characterized “liberated” women as nothing but gold-diggers who went after men only because they could afford to buy them their fancied Manolo Blahniks, their (insert designer label here) bags, and whatever else that they may fancy in the latest fashion magazine. When the author asked her friend, who was seeing a man several decades her senior on whether she loved him, she said that she could learn. At least it was better than being with someone who would only make her starve (which I read to mean that she couldn’t live beneath the life of debauchery to which she had become accustomed).

At that point the author makes a realization that she’d rather die for love than marry someone who’ll just give her diamonds and pearls. However, she makes this in the same breath that she says that she can’t live without spending a small fortune on her shoes.

It was as if the economics of being a free spirit came with a price: to sell your soul to the best indecent proposal you could find.

***

The Discovery Channel’s been running a special all week on mistresses.

The producers of the show argue that having a mistress is something that transcends time and space, that human relationships are not by nature monogamous. They also theorize that adulterous relationships are more appealing because they’re forbidden (someone should tell that to Kris Aquino. Maybe she’ll get it this time). This is probably why there is no adultery among Mormons (no offense, really).

At any rate, I have a friend who used to see a Mormon (technically, they’re still together) but she can’t bring herself around to breaking up with him because he’s too nice. So instead she sleeps around with men who pass her standard (it’s pretty high, but some people make it).

Go figure.

As for me, I haven’t cheated since I got married (which is like saying I haven’t touched myself since I started writing this article). I cheated on my wife twice when we weren’t married, once for love and once for the sex.

Both were complete disasters, so I can say with some degree of certainty that I won’t be travelling down that road again.

To quote Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt, if I should tell a lie, I’ll cross my heart and hope to die.

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