Wednesday, January 25, 2006

1960s Feminism Is Officially Dead

On the heels of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, women began asserting themselves, claiming their rights had been denied by a male-dominated society. Women were enraged and took their message to the streets, to the courthouses, and to the politicians. They cast off the shackles of generations of male dominance and, in mass, they took off their bras and burned them. Bra-burning protests and rallies were held on city streets and college campuses. The feminists demanded equal rights, proudly sauntering in public with their breasts flopping, the signature feature of their political identity. Bra-burner and feminist became synonyms.

Slowly, over the past four decades, bras have found their way back into women's wardrobes and, slowly, feminism has been fading as a political identity. The bras returned out of necessity. Active women in a vibrant society need supportive undergarments.

All the while, the feminist movement over 40 years made great strides in breaking down barriers, changing attitudes, and achieving equality. In fact, some people believe such great progress has been realized that women now are virtually equal in society to men in most regards. As a result, there are not the same big 'equality issues' from the 1960s which originally sparked the feminist movement and, consequently, support has vaporized. People saw the end coming. When and how? Nobody knew. But 1960s feminism had served its purpose and the sun was setting.

Drew BarrymoreAnd then it happened. And it came in the form of a rejection of the defining image of 1960s feminism, the braless woman. Thank Drew Barrymore. Not for being braless, but for allowing society to unanimously disapprove of her appearing on stage at last week's Golden Globe Awards ceremony without one.

Throughout the 60s, the 70s, the 80s, Barrymore would have been heralded as a feminist leader, an individual proud of her womanhood, her body, and her self. She would have been praised by younger feminists for being bold and fearless.

But not in 2006. Barrymore walked on stage in a long green dress, braless, to present an award. That is all. If she had set herself on fire, she probably wouldn't have created a bigger stir. All because she was braless. Every media outlet from Hollywood to New York to London to Rome to Tokyo to Sidney to Singapore to Bombay led off their reporting with a plea to Drew Barrymore to put on a bra. I've read dozens and dozens of reviews and, without exception, they carry the same disapproving message.

To be clear, no one disapproved of Barrymore's physique. In fact, I got the impression that most people found her to be physically pleasant. The complaints were directed exclusively at her not wearing a bra. Two or three decades ago, there would have been no complaints. Nobody would have protested or even commented. She would have been seen as a typical bra-burning feminist showing defiance to the status quo by flaunting her lack of underwear. Society accepted feminists and their signature characteristics. No comment necessary. Not in 2006. Now society comments, everywhere and at length, when a women goes braless.

If society no longer recognizes the need for 1960s feminism, then it's over. Just like Seinfeld and M.A.S.H. and NYPD Blue, it's over. It's been a good run, but now it's time to turn out the lights.

No comments:


eXTReMe Tracker