The Why and Wherefore

The Lady is a Tramp?

Posted on: May 10, 2008

I may have to give up one of my favorite mildly guilty pleasures: Slate.com’s advice column Dear Prudence, written by Emily Yoffe. It’s been my regular Thursday midmorning snack break for a couple of years now, and though I’ve found her a tad socially conservative for my taste on some issues, hey, I’m not an advice columnist. To each her own.

But her column this week actually had me shaking mad. It appears that Prudie has either a) been kidnapped and replaced by Phyllis Schlafly, or b) started writing her columns from the 1950s.

In the first question of the column, Yoffe sides with a judgmental grandma who describes her 30-year-old daughter as a “slut” for dropping her kid off and going out for a couple nights on the town with a girlfriend while her husband was on a business trip. There’s no question the daughter in the article was inconsiderate for treating Grandma like a paid babysitter, but I was astonished to see Yoffe calling the daughter’s behavior “trampy” and claiming that she clearly had marital and/or substance abuse problems.

My first response was, “Are you KIDDING me?” This relatively young mother, who probably hasn’t had a night to herself in god knows how long, goes out with a girlfriend for a couple of nights and is automatically a slut or a tramp? With substance abuse problems? What an astonishingly sexist assumption to make.

As someone who’s done her share of barhopping, I can unequivocally state that most of the men out there trolling for babes are easy to resist when you’ve got a good one back at home (hell, most of them are easy to resist even when you don’t). Going out drinking and dancing with the girls is one of life’s great pleasures–and that doesn’t make us whores.

I was stunned that any woman in this day and age, much less an advice columnist for Slate, would take the grandma’s brief description of a girls’ weekend and assume that it involved infidelity and alcoholism. Grandma wrote only that they ‘stayed out very late and came home drunk,’ which could certainly mean staggering in at dawn with vomit on their clothes–but, more likely coming from someone who cited her own mother’s definition of ‘slut,’ means they came home at midnight after a bottle or two of wine.

Without knowing the details, Yoffe’s response illuminated an attitude bordering on misogyny: that women who go out drinking with girlfriends are clearly not in control of themselves, and not to be trusted. I half expected her to take the next step and claim that, if they were dressed too inappopriately, they would be “asking for trouble.”

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1 Response to "The Lady is a Tramp?"

I’ve been reading Dear Prudence for a couple of years now, thanks to an LJ snark community called “Childfree Abby,” in which we evilly mock the columnists or the questioners, as the case may be.

You’ll find, I’m afraid, this is par for the course for Yoffe. Her predecessor, Margo Howard, was pretty modern, but among “Yoffe’s Great Hits” are informing a pregnant woman that she’s wrong for not wanting strangers to put their hands on her belly, and responding a couple who’ve chosen not to have children and want advice on how to stave off all the annoying YOUGOTTAHAVEABABY! arguments by making an annoying YOUGOTTAHAVEABABY! argument. And those are just the two that really stick in my mind!

To give the columnist the benefit of the doubt, if we assumed it’s not an ingrained misogyny, I’d say she suffers from another ailment common in narrow-minded people: “The way I live is what makes ME happy, therefore it must make YOU happy, and if it DOESN’T make you happy, well, there’s something wrong with you! And if you DON’T live the way I live, you’re obviously not happy, because I wouldn’t be.” Rather odd attitude in an advice columnist, but your guess is as good as mine as to how they get the job in the first place!

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