Radical change came in the '60's and '70's. These decades saw many, many, good changes—the Civil Rights movement, for one, which gave dignity and equality to black Americans. As for sexuality and relationships, perhaps some fresh air needed to be let into the bedroom, where, in the "I Love Lucy" show, Lucy and Ricki slept in different beds. This was the world of appearances, and it's no wonder that both men and women felt a little rebellious, growing out their hair and burning their bras! "If you dress like a slut, guys will treat you like a slut." I don't know how many times I've heard this—not from old fuddy-duddies like myself (I'm 26, and married) but by girls in their teens, my students and baby-sitters, girls who live in the real world and face real dilemmas, who feel the winds that are blowing in a rapidly changing social climate.
50 or 60 years ago, mothers might have used the same words, to their daughters' chagrin, to warn us against the wickedness of wearing too-short skirts or too-low necklines. We daughters would have rolled our eyes and said, "Puh-leeeeeze, mom! Get with it!" as we flipped our newest rock'n'roll album on the turntable!
Those were the days before casual sex, before pornography at the click of a mouse, before easy access contraception, before abortion pills. The world our grandmothers inhabited is gone. We live in a different climate, and some of us are finding the weather a bit chilly.
Radical change came in the '60's and '70's. These decades saw many, many, good changes—the Civil Rights movement, for one, which gave dignity and equality to black Americans. As for sexuality and relationships, perhaps some fresh air needed to be let into the bedroom, where, in the "I Love Lucy" show, Lucy and Ricki slept in different beds. (I've always wondered: Did they push the beds together at night? Or was the real problem that one of them snored?). This was the world of appearances, and it's no wonder that both men and women felt a little rebellious, growing out their hair and burning their bras!
Women wanted to be treated "like men." A man couldn't open a door for a young woman without expecting to be screamed at and clobbered over the head with a handbag, for insulting her as "weak," "delicate," and unable to open the door for herself!
Nowadays, the gesture of holding a door is not so charged with political significance. If a young gentleman opens a door for a young lady, the usual reaction is pleasant surprise. And things have changed for the better, for nowadays a lady can return this courteous gesture by holding the door for a gentleman! No one will think it "brazen" and "unladylike." In fact, she will probably get the same reacition of pleasant surprise. Women and men are on a much more level playing field now.
Holding the door is just one custom that has changed. Women and men have equal rights to courtesy, equal rights to respect, and are considered equals in the work force. No more pampering the ladies. But what about sex? Are women on the same playing field as men?
"Burning the bra" meant throwing out more than just your underclothes. A whole culture, our society's attitude to sex and reproduction was called into question, if not outrightly burned at the stake! Women wanted to be able to have sex "like men," that is, without responsibility, without the possibility of pregnancy. Contraception and abortion came to be thought of us a "right" and a liberation from nature.
This might sound all very well, but some of us are beginning to wonder, "Where have all our Rights gotten us?" A woman is expected, by society, by men, by other women, and by herself, to be exactly like a man, that is, she is expected to have the same emotional reaction to sex, to be completely available for sex, and to suffer no consequences, emotional or physical, of sex. These are the traditional hallmarks of a man, and now, more than ever, he is absolved from responsibility.
This social attitude doesn't take into account Nature has made men and women different. The way of nature, for a woman, is to be fertile and to create strong emotional bonds. Easy sex is not so simple for a woman if she is left with a dangerous, difficult, emotionally painful abortion, or when she is bearing in her body, year after year, the onslaught of contraceptive drugs, devices, or hormones, or when she is having a more difficult time emotionally with the "casual" part of casual sex.
This problem is compounded by pornography, where a woman is reduced to the status of an object, just a "thing" to be used for pleasure, rather than a person. And there's no getting away from it. Soft-core porn is the favourite tool of the advertisement and entertainment industries. In so many ways, our society expects women to be totally available. We even expect it of ourselves.
Do women need to be cherished and protected? This question would have been insulting to the "burn the bra" generation. Our moms and grandmoms would have shouted "No!" at the top of their lungs.
I think that the upcoming generation, the young girls of today, might have a different answer.