Posted in women

The American Baby Boomer Woman – Contradictions


While we had television moms finding their bliss as stay at home moms and our moms being harried and frustrated working outside and inside the home and Helen Gurley Brown and Gloria Steinem telling us it is okay to have independent thoughts and consider different futures for ourselves, we also had music and movies giving us conflicting ideas as well. “Will You Love Me Tomorrow”;  “I Will Follow Him”; “Walk On By”; “Sweet Talkin’ Guy”; “Leader of the Pack”; “Wishing and Hoping”; “Tell Him”; “Solider Boy”; Lennon Sisters and Patti Page vs. Carol King and Ellie Greenwich; Andy Williams vs. Elvis Presley; The Shirelles vs. The Rolling Stones;  The Dixie Cups vs. The Shangri-Las; and on and on all told us to be safe, to be sexually sophisticated; to be passive to men, to manipulate men, to be ourselves, to be part of the group and on and on. Dancing changed from couples dancing together hand in hand, to people dancing together in groups to dances like The Twist. Liberation of dance was enhanced by songs like “Chains” and “Nowhere to Run.” There is no way one can listen to these songs and not get up and dance the dance of liberation. During this time, women vacillated between wanting the one great relationship with home and family, and wanting to be free to be herself.

[Blogger’s Note: I was a part of this turmoil. I was confused by it. I loved it. I relished it. It scared me. It excited me. The music was ever present in my life. It was more than just a layer, it was a friend and a counselor.]

As we were trying to figure out who we wanted to be, the magazine industry took notice and fueled the confusion further. Monthly  Seventeen, Teen, Glamour, Mademoiselle, and Photoplay plied us with quizzes: “What does your color choice tell you about yourself”; “How good does your swimsuit fit”; “Can you pinch more than an inch”; “What does your scent choice say about you – are you a floral or a spicy” and on and on.  These quizzes and the advertisements attached ‘helped?’ us decide which stereotype fit us best. Were we going to be the bohemian, the career girl, the folk singer, the Beatles fan, or the perky TV teen like Patty Duke or Gidget. Once we decided, there were ‘helpful’ articles for us…”From campus to career”; “Are you in the right job”; etc. There was also their version of the woman’s Happiness Index – “An eight dollar raise, the boss’s compliment, and not having to shave your legs.”

Also adding to these changes – the female form was changing too. The models were changing from the buxom Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe looks to the tomboy looks of Twiggy, Jackie Kennedy, and Audrey Hepburn. Flat-chested girls were in. They were considered smart, intellectual, and desirable. Into this change came the wonderful, iconic character Holy Golightly – the sophisticated New York City glamour girl who walked into our lives with her little black dress, amazing hats, and two-foot long cigarette holder.  Will we ever forget her line, “People don’t belong to people. I’m not going to let anyone put me in a cage.” For many teenagers during this time, marriage equaled that cage. Women’s fashion and attitude would never be the same again.And to complete the contradictions, girls during this time were also screaming themselves hoarse at The Beatles.

[Blogger’s Note: It would take years for many of us to realize that growing up female meant we were complex individuals that did not have to fit ourselves into one pigeon-holed stereotype. We could scream for our favorite bands and be intellectual writers, dress up in our little black dresses and dress down in our jeans and casual tops, enjoy high-heels and bare feet, have successful careers and loving relationships with the man or woman of our choice, and decide whether or not children were the right choice for us. While I miss my 25 year old waist line (and tan – sigh), I enjoy my 55 year old life more. I know who I am now. It has been a journey of pain and joy, regrets and love, loss and gains, but the prize was worth it.]

Reference: Douglas, S. (1995) Where the Girls Are: Growing Up Female with the Mass Media. New York: Three Rivers Press



Dr. Sheila Embry is a govie, author, pracademician, sister, aunt, cousin, and friend who loves to read, write, think, and laugh. Many of her blog postings are summaries or excerpts of books that she read and wants to share to encourage others. An author with more than 25 years experience within the legislative and executive branches of the U. S. federal government holding 3 accredited degrees: Doctor of Management in Organizational Leadership, Master of Arts in Human Resources Development, and Baccalaureate of Business Administration, she believes in continuing learning both on and off the job. She has been recognized with multiple professional and writing awards for her peer-reviewed, publications. Click the bibliography page above for a listing of all the publications.

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