tagReviews & EssaysDear Abby Landers

Dear Abby Landers

byBoxlicker101©

Ann Landers and Abigail Van Buren did more than anybody else in the history of America to set back the cause of equal rights for women. Certainly in terms of sexual equality, these two women, who were twin sisters born in Sioux City, Iowa on July 4, 1918, unquestionably contributed more to the repression of female libidos than any other two Americans who have ever lived. Although they were born on Independence Day, Esther and Pauline Friedman, to use their actual maiden names, constantly preached that no girl or woman should ever achieve any kind of meaningful independence for herself, at least not in sexual or relationship matters.

They were both rich, successful women with careers, but their principal dictum to the girls and women of America was always that the primary duty for women was taking care of the homes of their husbands and tending to their children. Either they were unaware of the fact that many women choose to remain single and/or childless or they tried to talk such women out of it. To these harridans, being married and having children, always in that order and with the second event occurring at least nine months after the first, were the highest careers any American woman should strive for.

I never could tell the two columns apart, for they both said the same thing, so I never tried. For the purpose of this essay, I will refer to "Abby Landers" so I will always have the woman's name half correct. The fact that it's always half wrong too doesn't bother me even a little bit.

Esther was the first of the twins to begin to wreak havoc on the libidos of girls and women who were foolish enough to accept her advice. To make a longer story short, she apparently won the job of taking over an existing advice column in the Chicago Sun-Times in 1955 and did not change the name. I don't know how she was chosen but, if it was for the quality of her advice, the publisher must have been even more of a troglodyte than his new staff member. Shortly after she began giving out her bad advice, her column was in syndication.

The following year, Pauline emulated her twin sister and started her own rival advice column in The San Francisco Chronicle, and this one also quickly went into syndication. The competition caused quite a rift between them, which was a matter of some hilarity among those, such as I, who did not see their pronouncements as being the gospel. Among other things, Abby Landers piously preached against extended family estrangements, so to have these twin sisters on the outs made them into even a bigger joke than they would have otherwise been.

Abby Landers apparently believed in the Snow White/Sleeping Beauty school of thought in terms of women meeting men. Their mantra was "Don't contact men (or boys, if the writer was a teenager.)" They mostly condemned telephone calls to members of the male gender, but they also included initiating any kind of personal or romantic relationship. Perhaps they believed that Prince Charming or Mr. Right would always come along, and everything would be hunky-dory, peachy-keen. Of course, once in a while they may have been right. Even a broken clock is right twice a day. That was something at least one of them used to say quite frequently, by the way.

If a woman were to suggest she was on the verge of having sex with her long term boyfriend, the readers could practically hear their screams of outrage all the way from Chicago to Chunking. "Don't do it!" they would cry (in print, of course.) "Think of your reputation!" The fact the only person who would know of the interlude was her long term boyfriend didn't seem to make any difference to Abby Landers.

That is not to say they never gave any good advice, although most of that was no more than common sense. I remember one teenage girl writing and telling Abby Landers she wanted to become a groupie and follow a rock band around. Well, duh, anybody with as much as a tenth of a brain would have told her that was an incredibly dumb idea, and she should not do it. Of course, that's what the columnist did tell her. Was this good advice? Well, sure, but it didn't take an overrated advice columnist to give it.

Eventually, of course, American girls and women came to realize the two Iowa farm girls they trusted so much were no more than issuers of pure bullshit. The double standard, for which Abby Landers was a stout advocate, was long outdated, even assuming it might have once had some justification. They didn't really know anything, and their advice in matters of relationships was about as useful or reliable as the message in a Chinese fortune cookie. American females started taking matters into their own hands and actually talking to and otherwise treating their male counterparts as the equals they should have always been.

Thank you for reading this short essay. Whether you agree or disagree, I would appreciate hearing from you.

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