Growing up in an era considered to be “second-wave feminism,” the “f-word” brought about empowerment and divisiveness, as social change will. Gloria Steinem as a feminist activist, was getting her foothold in the consciousness of American culture, abortion and the ability of a woman to control her body, was newly legal, and a lot of strides were made in the movement for a healthier culture for women . . .
As a young girl I listened to the popular music and watched the television shows of the 70’s, and I enjoyed the upbeat tempo of What a Fool Believes by the Doobie Brothers, which has a line that resonates today, “But what a fool believes he sees, no wise man has the power to reason away . . .”
While I was watching Charlie’s Angels, featuring women as brave, clever, sexy detectives, with Bosley as their charge, Kate Millett, published her controversial text, Sexual Politics, which examined the role that art and literature played in portraying women as compliant.
While Wonder Woman was my television hero, she was portrayed as a beautiful woman in a skimpy superhero costume, the first Women’s Studies Program was established at San Diego State, followed by one at Cornell University.
As Fonzie in Happy Days played the macho male, entitled to women’s affections because he was supposedly so handsome, Susan Brownmiller wrote Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape.
As the tv show the Jeffersons rose in popularity, the Combahee River Collective was established in Boston, where voices of black women carved out a place to discuss race and feminism, and their experiences as different from that of white middle class women.
Cher sang her song Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves, describing how every night the men would come around and lay their money down, as the first Susan B. Anthony coins were minted.
The Imperials sang Praise the Lord, and Amy Grant penned Fairytale, while Mary Daly published: Beyond God the Father: Toward a Philosophy of Women’s Liberation.
Meanwhile, I, as a young girl, memorized the lyrics to the song I heard regularly on the radio, You Sexy Thing. Jane Goodall was making her impact studying chimpanzees in Africa, naming the subjects that she studied instead of numbering them. Going against a practice that was in place to help researchers avoid emotional attachment to their subjects, which lead her to be the only human being to ever be accepted into chimpanzee society . . .
The 1970’s were a time of bravery, expanded social consciousness and empowerment for women, where women challenged the status quo, and the view and roles that women had in society. It was time for change, for women to have power over their bodies, to be respected for their intellectual work and bravery, as forces to be reckoned with . . . They were challenging social pressures to be beautiful and sexy and as people non-equal to and subservient to men.
I reference all of this in light of the reports of Donald Trump grabbing women by their genitals and suggesting that celebrities can do anything. Honestly, when I heard this report, I was disgusted, though not surprised. Given the mindset I had seen through his debates, his political rallies, I was not surprised. People who feel entitled, take, and make excuses for why it is okay. And so he did.
Donald Trump represents a cultural entitlement that we still see in the United States and abroad, all of these years later. However, with this recent discovery, women have not been silenced. Outraged, courageous voices of women have been speaking out to challenge Trump’s actions. This is a welcomed outcome of this morass, in my opinion. That women are sharing their stories of being touched inappropriately, objectified, denigrated and bodily criticized, challenges a point of view that perpetuates a myth that women are objects for male gratification.
Even now, we need to be aware of the messages our children are receiving from popular culture through music and media, and have open discussions with them about it. There are lots of pop songs, catchy and fun to dance to, that send a message to young people, girls and boys, that are counter to the notion of consent. The lyrics make assumptions about what a girl/woman wants, instead of actually having a conversation with her about it . . .
A current very popular catchy song that I cringe in response to to when I hear it, disregards the notion of consent in relationships and interactions. Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines, includes assumptions that are made about what a girl/woman wants and how a male can make that happen . . .
Ok, now he was close, tried to domesticate you,
but you’re an animal, baby it’s in your nature . . .
just let me liberate you, you don’t need no papers
That man is not your mate, and that’s why I’m gonna take you . . .
But you’re a good girl, I know you want it, I know you want it, I know you want it,
can’t let it get past me . . you’re far from plastic . . .
I hate these blurred lines
you’re a good girl, the way you grab me,
must want to get nasty, go ahead, get at me
You the hottest bitch in this place . . .
Baby can you breathe, I got this from Jamaica, it always works for me . . .
Really? Does a woman need a male to liberate her? This leads me to the opening references to women’s powerhouse moments in history, and women who were brave enough to challenge the status quo. I have known so many smart, brave, talented women in my life. I just can’t stomach the limiting view that women are objects for male commentary and pleasure. Our growing freedom and our expanded social consciousness lie in our courage . . .
Note: I wanted to include a couple of humorous references to the Donald Trump fiasco. Samantha Bee does a cutting confrontation of Trump’s and Billy Bush’s recorded conversation on the Hollywood Access tapes, released this month. Samantha’s anger is palpable throughout her roast. Be prepared for some strong language.
Also, I have included links to a throwback to the same era we have been discussing, the Muppet Makeover Mahna Mahna, a spoof of the Presidential Debate, as well as Saturday Night Live’s commentary on the debates.
This photo was taken at Halloween five years ago. We named it Cinderella Meets Jack, which seems poignant today.