In watching “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” (1953), it struck me that people found it funny, entertaining, or even a bit rude because it’s assuming all women are gold diggers.
.. but she was really singing with the truth about the way women have been treated for centuries.
Diamonds, or jewels for any matter have truly been a girl’s best friend so to speak, because it was the only way women were able to truly know that jewels they held in their hands were real, physical assets that have and hold value.
(Note: I do not think diamonds, or jewellery per se are a great investment, nor do I find them particularly rare or valuable as it’s a whole marketing scheme of the diamond market, I would read this extremely witty and well-written book ‘Stoned’ for the gist of it but let’s pretend diamonds are rare and valuable.)
A kiss may be grand but it won’t pay the rental
On your humble flat, or help you at the automat
How else could women earn their own money and live on their own, independently without a man paying or helping?
Let’s just take a look back at history:
1974: Equal Credit Opportunity Act passes in the US. Until then, banks required single, widowed or divorced women to bring a man along to cosign any credit application, regardless of their income. They would also discount the value of those wages when considering how much credit to grant, by as much as 50%.
Credit, which is what is helping a lot of families stay afloat in these times, or be able to buy a home (a mortgage), wasn’t open to a woman unless there was a man beside her.
How could women leave relationships, let alone abusive ones (emotionally or otherwise), knowing that they’d be unable to obtain any kind of credit to get them back on their feet?
Or they’d have to be lucky enough to be able to move in with family, but imagine doing that with a whole family of little ones, and very little high-paying job prospects for women?
Even today, becoming financially independent is very difficult (hence the FIRE movement – Financial Independent / Retire Early), so can you imagine being treated like this?
That movie with Monroe was made in 1953 before this law was passed, and that means if Monroe wanted to go get any kind of credit for money if she didn’t have any assets to sell, she’d have to have a man beside her to cosign.
Men grow cold as girls grow old
And we all lose our charms in the end
But square-cut or pear-shaped
These rocks don’t lose their shape
Diamonds are a girl’s best friend
An obvious dig that isn’t that far off, really.
Think of all high-powered cases of men divorcing their wives, having mistresses on the side or even whole second families.
Now try and muster up women who have left for younger, hotter partners once they became famous and/or rich. Or having lots of affairs while being married.
I have way more cases of men than women in my head, and even the ones for women are a bit questionable (Britney Spears…? Kim Kardashian?), which is not to say it doesn’t happen but… sometimes stereotypes hit home hard for a reason.
There may come a time when a hard-boiled employer
Thinks you’re awful nice
But get that ice or else no dice
Definitely a lyric for the Financially Independent crowd – being asked to work at a job you hate, maybe being sexually harassed (the show ‘Mad Men’ is another good example of how blatant sexism and harassment was in the workplace), but gritting your teeth and doing it because you’re a woman and you need the money to live.
He’s your guy when stocks are high
But beware when they start to descend
It’s then that those louses go back to their spouses
Diamonds are a girl’s best friend
US, 1981: The last vestiges of a husband being able to keep a wife in the dark (at least legally) vanish, thanks to Kirchberg v Feenstra. A husband is told he doesn’t have the right to unilaterally take out a second mortgage on property held jointly with his wife.
Maybe the girl was a mistress on the side, but money is fickle when things don’t go as well and they could very well leave you high and dry if you don’t have assets to resell (e.g. diamonds).
Whether or not you want to be the morality police on whether it is ethical or not to be a mistress, that’s another story, but all I will say is that it takes two to tango, so why is one side always getting blamed the hardest for it?
Time rolls on and youth is gone
And you can’t straighten up when you bend
But stiff back or stiff knees
You stand straight at Tiffany’s
Again, another reference to the fact that when you get older, you can’t work, but you could certainly resell what you have amassed as assets.
If you’re even thinking of during the wars, what do women in almost every culture inevitably do?
Sew jewels into their coat linings and garments, and carry as much gold and jewels as they can, so they are able to slowly sell off items for money, or to trade for food, shelter and/or clothing.
What else can carry so much currency in them?
If you think about currency, there has been many instances where people saved all of their lives, only to have the money be completely useless or devalued over night after some political moves.
That money you saved, is as good as paper. Some people even used it as wallpaper, like Germans in 1923.
What doesn’t seem to lose its value?
Jewellery. Gemstones. Things that people find beautiful, can touch and see, and want to pay money for.
So women? WRONGLY accused of being gold diggers when in fact, it was their only true source of independent wealth that is easy to hide and carry in times of need, like escaping a bad situation or during a war.