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THE DARK SIDE: Softball, women’s lib and smoking in the ’70s

David Ziemer

David Ziemer

“You’ve come a long way, Baby.”

Back in the 1970s, that was the slogan used to market Virginia Slims cigarettes to women. A black-and-white photo depicting a woman dressed in Victorian garb, being oppressed for smoking in public, would be juxtaposed with a color photo of a modern woman, smoking whenever and wherever she pleases.

I thought it was great marketing, but I’m biased. I love tobacco and everything associated with the tobacco corporations.

SEE THE VIRGINIA SLIMS COMMERCIAL

I just assume tobacco growers are the best farmers in the world; tobacco executives are the best managers; and the lawyers who defend the tobacco companies from greedy and predatory ex-smokers, tax collectors and regulators must be the best and noblest attorneys in all the world.

But while those ads ran in the 1970s, the fact is that women have come a long way since then, too.

Later this month, here at the Wisconsin Law Journal, we’re going to celebrate how far women have come in the legal professional and honor some of the most accomplished judges and attorneys in the state at our Women in the Law event.

Going on now, the Women’s College World Series also shows just how far women have come since the ‘70s. It’s an absolutely huge event, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the ratings for the World Series surpass those of the silly NBA basketball tournament going on at the same time.

But it wasn’t always so. Let me tell you how girls softball came to my hometown of Glendale.

It was 1977, and for the first time ever, two girls signed up to play in the boys softball league. The old man was one of the managers, but he had to work the night of the managers’ meeting, so he sent me instead.

The recreation department had all the players divided up into 8 teams, based on what neighborhood the players lived in, and we were told to come up and get our packets. But when I got to the table to get the player cards for my team, I wasn’t able to do that.

One of the other managers (we’ll call him Mr. R) had run up to the table first, took his son’s name out of the packet containing all his neighbors, took my name out of the packet containing all my neighbors, and switched the two.

“Here’s your team, Kid,” Mr. R said, throwing a packet of cards at me that contained a bunch of players I didn’t know. I was 10 years old; what was I supposed to do?

I soon discovered why this happened; the two girls who had signed up lived in Mr. R’s neighborhood, and he didn’t want any girls on his team.

The next morning, I told the old man what happened, assuming he would be upset. But he wasn’t.

“So, there’s two girls on the team; big deal,” he said.

The next year, the recreation department started a girls’ league, and lots of girls signed up. The old man quit managing my team to manage my sister’s. He liked that a lot.

If you’ve never coached sports teams before, let me tell you a secret. Coaching girls is way better than coaching boys. Girls worship their coaches, and even buy them presents at the end of the season. Boys don’t care whether their coaches live or die.

As you can see, as far as women had come back in the ‘70s when Virginia Slims came up with the slogan, “You’ve come a long way, Baby,” women have come even further since.

But not in every way. Unfortunately, we have reverted back to Victorian times, when women weren’t allowed to smoke in public. Except that now, the men aren’t allowed to smoke in public either.

In that respect, men and women both have a long way to go, Baby. Fortunately, the best and noblest attorneys in the world are hard at work trying to restore our rights, as well as those of the tobacco companies that employ them.

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