Our University is hosting a group of speakers all this week, centered around the 1960’s. The speakers do workshops during the day and then portray characters from the time period at night. We have had George Wallace, Barry Goldwater, Rachel Carson, Malcom X, and this morning I heard a workshop from the lady portraying Betty Friedan. Oh my.
She actually didn’t speak very much, instead she played a video called Killing Us Softly 3. DO NOT watch this video, unless you wish to receive a highly toxic dose of pornographic images taken from modern advertising. I feel like my brain needs scrubbing after all that gross sludge! [Note: I had to attend the workshop as part of my job duties.] The caveat is the video speaker does make some good points about how women are objectified, belittled, and otherwise made cheap by said advertising.
After the video was over, she invited reactions from the audience. Yours truly just had to throw in her $1.02 worth! My two points were as follows:
- As part of my work at the University, I spent numerous hours looking through microfilm reels of newspapers, from 1901 onward. I often noticed the advertising to women in the newspapers in addition to finding my target topics,. From 1901 through WWI (1919 or so), there were many advertisements for patent medicines promising weight gain results for women. “I gained 12 pounds in one month!” After WWI, the ads flipped with a few months over to promising weight loss. Hmmmm.
- Improv Everywhere did a spoof of Abercrombie & Fitch. You can watch the video here. The video does show men without shirts on.
The speaker’s response to point one was rather interesting. She thought the reasoning behind the change behind women wanting weight gain and loss was increased food supplies. She guessed our great-grandmas were not starving any longer and wanted to make sure they didn’t look like they were well-fed.
Was that the correct critique?
What happened post-WWI to women’s fashions? The Flapper, thats what happened. Hips and busts were suddenly taboo. Plump became a pejorative term instead of a compliment. Legs and arms were bare to the breezes. Youthful, thin, boyish figures (….uhhh…think Calvin Klein models with slightly more fabric) were the ultimate objective.
And that is how we got to Killing Us Softly 80 years later.
The Modesty Critique beats the Feminine Mystique any day.