Friday, February 20, 2015

Sorry Brethren, You Don't Own Us

At the April 2007 semi-annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints the Prophet, Seer and Revelator, Gordon B. Hinckley, advised:
"Husbands, love and treasure your wives, they are your most precious possessions."
This was in the seventh year of the twenty-first century, over one hundred years after the Mormons stopped practicing polygamy and almost ninety years after American women got the vote.

Also it was over forty years after Lesley Gore first sang "You Don't Own Me."

Whenever I hear the song I envision Aqua Net-coiffed teenaged girls in sweater sets and knee-length pencil skirts gathered around a radio - maybe after church - and belting out the lyrics in defiance. Just like the straight-haired, bell-bottom clad girls of my day did to Helen Reddy's feminist anthem, "I Am Woman."

Of course, the Brethren, who think they do own us, consider such female role models to be tools of Satan. If that's so, I invite the Prince of Darkness to send up more of his "tools." They have an uncanny knack for being on the right side of things.

Lesley Gore died this week, too young, at the age of 68. But she left behind a legacy. She was among the most successful female solo artists of the 1960's. She was an actress as well, appearing on Broadway and, memorably, as "Pink Pussycat," Robin's love interest in the old Batman TV series.

Who could forget this scene?
Robin: How 'bout a little smooch, you're my kind of dame.
Pink Pussycat: …I'm not the kind of girl to kiss a boy on the first crime. 

She led a life that mattered. At the height of her popularity Gore insisted on completing her education and earned a degree in English and American Literature from Sarah Lawrence College. She was a feminist, and after coming out as gay in 2005, an advocate for LGBT rights, hosting episodes of the PBS series, In the Life. She is survived by Lois Sasson, her partner of thirty-three years. Also by a couple of generations of empowered female fans.

Sorry, Brethren. It's now the fifteenth year of the twenty-first century and fifty years after Lesley sang it and you still don't own us.

You can cry if you want to.


  1. I knew of a couple of Lesley Gore's songs. my mom used to sing. "You Don't Own Me" she used to sing around the house when she was a stay-at-home mom and probably feeling especially under-appreciated and unimportant. She held multiple doctorates, and the idea of being looked upon as "just" a "stay-at-home mom" must have given her ego something of a beating. It wasn't that she didn't want to be a mother: she had lost premature twins nearly two years before my bother and i were born, and says that she would never have fely=t complete without us. She also said she couldn't trust anyone else to do the job she should be doing while we were toddlers and preschoolers, and that she knew a decent job of some kind available once we were ready for school.

    I doubt her identity crisis was really my dad's fault. While i cannot truly know what was going on inside their marriage then, nor do I really know now, he always seemed to considered her his equal if not superior intellectually, and was never one of those "Throw a shirt in his wife's face and say , "Here! Iron this! I need it in five minutes." Still, society looks upon stay-at-home moms a bit differently than it views those in the more prestigious segments of the working world.

    I would like to hope my mom knew and still knows that she was doing the most important job that she could have been doing at the time, and what a terrific job she did at it, but still, spending one's days with twin toddlers must be a bit stifling in an intellectual sense when one is accustomed to having many employees who answer to her and in unilaterally making important decisions on the job.

    She initially sang "You Don't Own Me" as sort of a lament, but as I began to imitate her as she sang, she went through all the motions, teaching me moves to go with it and began to the song with considerably more gusto,

    Another of Gore's songs my mom sang on at least a semi-regular basis was, of all things, "Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows." (I believe it was from one of those "ski party" sorts of movies.) My twin brother must have been getting in touch with his softer, more feminine side when he asked for this song to be sung repeatedly. I'm not sure where he heard it in the first place. He liked the Spiderman and Underdog themes as well, and a few typical childhood songs, but he said "Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows" made him feel "warm inside." My mom must have rued the day he initially heard to the song, although she says it now brings back happy memories of when Matthew was tiny.

    I didn't really know anything about Ms. Gore's personal story. Thanks for sharing it.

  2. What a lovely tribute to a lovely and empowered woman.

  3. Thanks AT and Alexis. Alexis, it makes me feel good that your mom had that song to sing on trying days. I stayed home with my preschoolers and don't regret a single minute of the wonderful time I had with them. Sunshine Lollipops and Roses was composed by Marvin Hamlisch.

  4. I applaud her independent spirit. Hinckley can shove it!

  5. Cheers to Lesley Gore. I don't remember Lesley Gore but I do remember Helen Reddy very well. I still belt out 'I Am Woman' at least once a week. Thanks for the tribute to Lesley and introducing me to her life.

  6. Don't tell me what to do, don't tell me what to say...

    1. And when I go out with you, don't put me on display...

  7. Thanks for that. I was a fan back in the 60's, but had forgotten about the Batman appearance. My brother was a big fan and had her early records (probably still does). It bothers me that so many people I admired when I was young are dying off at a rate that seems too fast and some, like Ms. Gore, at too early an age.

  8. I love those songs! I wonder if Hinckley's daughters ever sang to this song -quietly so daddy didn't hear.

  9. Jono, I know, it's a chilling reminder of our mortality. I read that, in addition to her partner, Lesley was survived by her brother and mother. Seems like she should have gotten another 20+ years herself.

    Heather, I'll bet Hinckley's kids did sing along-and then got married. Sigh.

    1. I remember doing a lip sync years ago to, It's My Party, at a RS function. Such a fun memory! I had no idea at the time, that so many of the Church's doctrines stemmed from polygamy. The idea of a wife being a possession, being a stay at home mom, having so many children, getting married young, the eternal family being central to all your life's decisions. Although, not all bad, I love my family, but I never felt I had any choices because God wanted me to be a stay at home mom. He wanted me to support my husband, to be a helpmate to him. I'm not saying its all bad, I've had a happy life, just wish I could have made a few decisions on my own without the Church directing me into one way of thinking, one role for my life. It's madding to discover how duped you have been. I guess that's why we blog, it's our turn to have our say. Good post. It was fun watching the videos!

    2. Indeed it is good to be able to blog. In a recent interview Lesley said that there was something very satisfying about standing on a stage and belting out, "Don't tell me what to do."