About Respect

Respect Study Guide

Table of Contents:

Background | Social Conditions During the Decades | Discussion Questions | Worksheets & Activities
References | Appendices

Social Conditions During the Decades

1900-1920 | 1929-1939 | 1940-1949 | 1950-mid-60s | 1961-1970 | 1970-early 80s | Mid-80s to present & Summary

1970s - early 80s

Betty FriedanThis was arguably the decade of greatest change for women. It was the decade of the largest increase of women in the labor force. The year 1972 itself was momentous: Congress passed the Equal Rights Amendment sending it to the States for ratification (it only got 35 of the 38 needed states), Gloria Steinem started Ms. Magazine, and Title IX legislation passed, making it illegal for schools to have unequal sports opportunities for boys and girls (this has created more modern controversies, to be discussed later), opening up whole new worlds for generations of girls.

John F. KennedyThough many women were working, there was widespread discrimination, sparking many lawsuits, even though the relatively new EEOC legislation forbid discrimination on the basis of national origin, race, color or religion. It was part of the Civil Rights movement and was known as the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Adding sex as one of the “protected classes” was done as a last-ditch effort to kill the legislation. Senator Howard Smith, a southerner and known opponent to federal civil rights, added “sex” to the bill, believing that would end the matter. However, congress passed it, partly because there was a huge national guilt about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy the previous year. Civil Rights had been one of the initiatives the Kennedy had been trying to pass. President Lyndon Johnson felt equally strong about this bill, and it was the collective grief that helped the Civil Rights bill pass all the resistance it met. This was followed by President Johnson signed Executive Order 11246, which went one step beyond EEOC in that it required employers to make “affirmative action” to hire women and minorities with targeted percentage increases in some industries. Though these bills were passed in the 60s, they did not get any ”teeth” until the 70s, when women and Blacks began to use the courts for redress.

Tina TurnerThis increase in women’s rights coincided with the #1 memorable song I am Woman, which came out in the same year, 1972. New-found anger and a chance for more rights brought profound changes inside the consciousness of women. One side-effect of anger is that it strips away denial. One could argue that the co-dependent songs often lived in denial. When he loves me, everything will be perfect, my life will be transformed. But the new anger helped women see that there was no Prince Charming to rescue us from ourselves. Thus began the phase of Young Adult Cynic, who doesn’t trust love, because it means too much hurt. What’s Love Got to do With It? (Tina Turner) anyway. Other cynical songs included At Seventeen and Madonna’s Material Girl.


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