The great thing to remember about the 1960s and 70s is that even as the world was changing rapidly, some people were still walking around innocently as if their brains were frozen in time.
The book Exchange and Production, originally meant as an introductory economics textbook, is one such reminder. The textbook shares its publication year with the Woodstock, but has the sexual politics of a fraternity house that’s already kicked the keg.
In a discussion of rationing and allocation, authors Armen A. Alchian and William R. Allen discuss a scenario in which they must set up a system of dispersing tickets to the Rose Bowl. They write,
“If the authors of this book could set the rules, we would ask all applicants to send pictures, preferably in bathing suits. (Males need not apply.) We would select the prettiest 300 – using our own standards of ‘prettiness’ – and ask them to appear in our offices for interviews. Of these we would then select the most personable 200 using our own standards of ‘personality’.” Gross. For those of you worried I accidentally cut and pasted something smutty from the wrong side of the internet, hang in there.
Their odd-ball fantasy is interrupted by a lingering insecurity no doubt left over from the memory that the pretty girls never liked them in high school. They ponder, “What is to prevent the prettiest girls from handing the tickets to the handsomest boys?” Because boys like football, and all girls like boys, pretty girls are willing to be sexually objectified and/or exploited to give their boyfriends tickets to see the big game. This makes sense since women don’t work or have access to credit, therefore they must think of creative ways (i.e. a little leg) to obtain material goods, that will also satisfy male needs. Got it.
Now, ladies, this is the important part, so listen up: your appearance is of utmost importance. In fact, in this world, your life literally depends on it. As the authors write, “… if beauty were rewarded, the beauty of women would increase – because women would make deliberate, conscious efforts to improve their beauty, and because the more beautiful would be more likely to survive.” Now I feel like I am reading some sort of Survivor-inspired beauty magazine that is greasing the wheel for selling me a lifetime supply of anti-wrinkle cream.
Ridiculous, right? Well, at the risk of bursting your progressive bubble, I’m here to tell you that a similar type of rationing happened only a few weeks ago in a radio show that auctioned off a free breast enhancement surgery. Listeners sent in pictures of their little lady lumps, and the producers picked the most “deserving” woman to be the recipient of the free plastic surgery. So maybe the world hasn’t changed that much since 1969, after all.