Will advertisers’ pursuit of women bolster the Patriarchy through the turn of the century?
1963, The Feminine Mystique: Betty Friedan exposes the plot to keep women in the kitchen and out of the workplace. A mass advertising campaign paired with a psycho-social post-war domestic offensive convinces women that true fulfillment in the home can be found only by purchasing enormous appliances, pink vintage spoolie hair curlers, and cleaning products with the word “miracle” in their names.
By exposing the stultifying “problem that has no name” — which later became known as First World Problems — Friedan inspired a generation of middle-class women to join her in asking, “Is that all?” A nervous Patriarchy stuttered slightly before replying, “What more do you need, sweetheart? Now bring me my slippers and have another Gin Rickey.”
1991, The Beauty Myth: Following the exodus of women from the home into the work force, women finally seem to have it all. But just as they settle into a period of unprecedented liberation, Naomi Wolf exposes the systematic program to bully women into expending their newfound financial and emotional resources on electric green hair gel, Calvin Klein jeans, and Jazzercise videos.
Shrewd advertisers play on female insecurities by pitting women against each other as if life outside the home was one big, extreme episode of The Bachelor. The plot to convince every woman that she must look like the imaginary love child of Cindy Crawford and Linda Evangelista (if one of them were a drag queen) restores male dominance. Women are again trapped in a new prison of pursuing the unattainable. The Patriarchy breathes a huge sigh of relief and then passes out from all the hairspray fumes.
2034, The Biosphere Maneuver: In the decade following Hillary Clinton’s two terms as U.S. President, millions of women are inspired to abandon the fool’s gold chase for youth, beauty, and ten-minute ab workouts. The phrase “having it all” is a quaint, antiquated relic that was replaced years ago by “having a government like Sweden with progressive, family-friendly policies.” The Treaty of Seneca Falls ended the Mommy Wars once and for all in 2029.
In the vacuum of idiotic pressure, women achieve unprecedented levels of self-acceptance, self-love, and mutual admiration. The spirit of American women can be described only as “that thing where a Lilith Fair spontaneously erupted at the Portland NOW chapter, with Helen Reddy and Malala co-headlining.” But with corporate profits and advertising revenues plummeting, can this Golden Age last?
Marci Minkoff tells the story of how nefarious advertisers step in. Sensing the weakness in a system predicated on women feeling entitled to happiness, a campaign is orchestrated to prey on women’s collective guilt. Cleverly linking women’s worth to their ability to design a biosphere roughly the size of Alaska, advertisers manage to persuade the female public that the well-being of their families depends on the establishment of a self-sustaining bubble habitat with sustainable oxygen levels. Stock prices soar on horticulture charcoal and aquarium sand.
As women compete to save their loved ones, they once again sacrifice free time, sleep, income, and freedom. The bonhomie amongst women weakens and the connection to one another wanes. With women sapped of their energy, all the progress made during the H-Clint years is lost. The Patriarchy lights expensive cigars and nods knowingly.
2047, The Geology-Bike Balance: When BiosphereXX is completed, inaugurated, and deemed a success, advertisers organize swiftly in order to prevent a social pause that might allow anyone to think deeply about what has just happened. Sherry Wechsler reports on the extensive media campaign, which establishes the idea that women’s self-worth is solely dependent on their ability to travel to the center of Earth on fold-up electric bikes.
As women gradually become occupied with yet another never-ending and thankless task, men reclaim their power and dominance. The Geology-Bike Balance is most famous for Wechsler’s plaintive battle cry, “I don’t understand. How are women possibly believing this shit?”
2059, The Uhura Monologues: After women surprise advertisers by breaching the mantle and mapping feasible routes to the inner core, the Patriarchy is truly stumped and looking at each other with furrowed brows.
Lori Fein documents how a Machiavellian campaign is soon launched to redirect all female efforts towards locating habitable planets beyond Earth’s solar system and developing the means to travel to them. Fein reveals how women are sold on the idea that they can be fulfilled only by identifying the belt around stars where temperatures are ideal for liquid water. Women are subjected to intense societal pressures to compete for precious information, such as the rate of radiation absorption on a candidate exoplanet, or the quantity and quality of its atmospheric gases.
As the campaign progresses, it becomes clear that women are increasingly isolated from one another, wary of each other, and unlikely to ever organize whilst squandering their disposable income on gossamer spacesuits and fashion telescopes. Watching from the offices overlooking the bogus launch pads, the Patriarchy is also kind of exhausted and wonders if all their efforts might have been redirected in a more productive way. Too uncomfortable to contemplate, the theory is soon dropped.
2093, The Feminine Fantastique: After pursuing women to their new habitat, advertisers launch their most aggressive effort yet by trying to convince females that their lives have no purpose or meaning unless they return to Earth where corporate profits have plummeted and the Patriarchy is lonely and learning the chords to Whitesnake’s Here I Go Again. Patty Kaplan illustrates the failure of the campaign, which was always going to be a tough sell on Kepler 78c.
2094, The Kepler Games: Patty Kaplan’s follow-up book explains how by establishing a compulsory competitive tournament intended to divide women along generational lines, advertisers unwittingly establish the first modern Olympics on a flourishing planet. It’s a huge hit.
2095, The Vacuum Vacuum: In the final installment of her historical trilogy, Kaplan describes how desperate advertisers finally seize upon an unexplored market. Blitzing the women of Kepler 78c with direct mail, bumper stickers, and neon billboards about the spiritual importance of keeping a tidy home, women are subdued into spending billions on specialized machines, instruments, and cleaning materials to render their iron oxide dwellings Spic ‘n Span.