In 1968, cigarette maker Philip Morris launched a brand of smokes just for women. Marketed with the provocative slogan, "You've come a long way, baby," Virginia Slims offered an elegant profile and an image that suggested freedom, empowerment and equality.
Unfortunately for women, "Skinny Ginnys" were not a cultural or political statement, they were just cigarettes. The brand caused nicotine addiction and lung cancer but also was responsible for a rapid increase in smoking among teen girls.
Nonetheless, sales of Virginia Slims made buckets of money for a whole lot of savvy men in sales and marketing. Chalk one up for the boys in the backroom.
Turns out women still haven't come a long way. In this election year, they continue to be manipulated with tactics that make them feel good, even if the result will be bad.
According to the latest data from the Pew Research Center, women are ready to return President Obama to the White House later this year by a margin of at least 20 percentage points over either Republican candidate Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum.
This is a drastic change since February, when both potential Republican candidates were running about even against the president in tracking polls.
Then, in a bizarre — almost surreal — turn of events, the fight against an insurance mandate that violates tenets of Catholicism became a controversy over whether Republicans want to ban contraception. (They don't.) What should have been an all-out battle to protect our nation's heritage of religious liberty has become a phony "war on women."
Some women may believe Democrats are looking out for their best interests, but they ought to remember the old saw, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on the Democrats."
Oops. That's the new saw.
Just as Virginia Slims used savvy marketing tactics to foist an unhealthy addiction onto a generation of unsuspecting and gullible women and girls, the political left continues to manipulate women with strategies that make them think their "issues" are being addressed and their interests are being protected.
Thus, the hysterical response about birth-control pills to the serious subject of insurance mandates. No one is suggesting that female contraception be banned. It's just not a responsibility of the American people to provide free birth control to their fellow citizens, and it's especially not the responsibility of religious employers or others of faith who object to providing such coverage on moral grounds.
The fact that this political straw man has measurably swayed female voters is actually more embarrassing to conservative women than is the fact that our prospective candidates have been coerced into a debate whose irrelevancy is only superseded by its deceit.
Meanwhile, rolling out a masterful strategy to up the ante, the Obama administration last week hosted a forum on women and the economy, simultaneously (and disingenuously) claiming "women are not an interest group" while presenting the party line on subjects such as women's health care, violence against women and girls, women in the workforce, education, and women and entrepreneurship.
Yet it is the very definition of hypocrisy to tout Democratic solutions to the economy as being in the best interests of women. Posing as the ultimate government sugar daddy, Mr. Obama continues to promote the false security of big-government programs to respond to women's special concerns. (Note that he did this while making a quaint, sexist joke about how long it takes women to "settle down." And the ladies all laughed because, well, he's Barack Obama.)
Conservative women don't want a government sugar daddy.
We want the debt reduced and real spending cut — just as we're doing in our homes. We want jobs for ourselves and our families.
We're concerned about energy independence, overregulation, national security and upholding our tradition of religious liberty.
We're not so easily manipulated that you can shove us into a voting bloc, pat us on the head and consider us placated.
Some of us have come a lot farther than that.
• Marybeth Hicks is the author of "Don't Let the Kids Drink the Kool-Aid: Confronting the Left's Assault on Our Families, Faith and Freedom." Find her on the web at http://marybethhicks.com.