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Jewish World Review Feb. 25, 2000/ 19 Adar 1, 5760

Cathy Young

Cathy Young
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Consumer Reports



Maybe it should have been called "When Good Multi-Millionaires Go Bad" --
THE DAY AFTER VALENTINE'S DAY, 23 million Americans tuned in to the Fox special "Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire," in which, as the world knows by now, 50 women answered questions and paraded in bikinis vying for the wallet -- er, the hand -- of an invisible but rich stranger, and the lucky winner married him right there on TV. Feminists were outraged; most of the nation was both disgusted and riveted.

Then, before the happy couple was back from the honeymoon and the pundits were done dissecting the event, the story unraveled. First, people who knew the groom, real-estate investor Rick Rockwell -- also a failed stand-up comedian with a penchant for outrageous stunts -- voiced doubts about his wealth. Then, a muckraking Web site revealed that in 1991, an ex-fiancee got a restraining order against Rockwell, claiming he had assaulted and threatened her after she broke off their engagement. Jittery Fox executives killed the scheduled rebroadcast of "Multi-Millionaire" and scrapped plans for future marry-money specials. (Could a show called "When Multi-Millionaires Attack" be in the works?)

Those angry feminists couldn't have scripted it better: The retro dream of marrying a prince turns into a nightmare of violent abuse.

It should be noted that the allegations against Rockwell are just that, allegations (which he denies). Still, I admit to a certain amount of gloating over the collapse of the "Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire" phenomenon. On this one, I agree with the National Organization for Women: the show sends a dreadful message about male-female relations.

Regrettably, few of the conservatives who champion traditional morality spoke out against this mockery of marriage. Indeed, some on the right seemed to take pleasure in the event, if only because it was so deliciously retro.

New York Post columnist Andrea Peyser chuckled that the feminists were feeling threatened because the show "said something brutally honest" about men, women and society: men want to buy a human Barbie doll; women want to snag a rich husband, and if they say they'll only marry for love, that's a lie. She suggested that the special would help women feel less guilty about their dreams of giving up work and being rescued by a prince.

Are some people so eager to affirm a "traditional" view of womanhood that they're willing to validate the radical feminist view of marriage as prostitution?

Other commentators, while not as sanguine about the message of "Multi-Millionaire," have also talked about age-old "mating pattern" of women going for wealth and men for looks.

Reality check. Is it every woman's fantasy to marry big bucks? About 1,000 women entered the contest (many now claim they were interested in being on TV, not in getting married); 5,000 reportedly contacted Fox the day after the show to try out for sequels. Is that a lot? Consider that every day, about 240,000 people call to try out for the ABC quiz show "Who Wants to be a Millionaire." Surely, more women would marry a guy who makes a lot less than they do than would marry a stranger for his money (on TV or off).

Yet it would be foolish to deny that most women still prefer partners of higher status and income. If a woman wants to find a guy who will afford her the opportunity to be a full-time mom, nothing wrong with that; men should be able to do the same. But "marrying up" has its less attractive side, from outright gold-digging to the snobbery of ambitious career women who refuse to consider less successful men as suitable mates, and then fret about "no good men."

Those are forms of sexist prejudice that feminists have done little to challenge, because they balk at recognizing that women may be guilty of chauvinism toward men. And by the way, it's no reason for conservatives to celebrate, either -- because, in the end, those attitudes do demean love and marriage every bit as much as the sexual revolution's excesses have.

JWR contributor Cathy Young is co-founder and vice-president of the Women’s Freedom Network and author of Ceasefire! Why Women and Men Must Join Forces to Achieve True Equality Send your comments to her by clicking here.

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