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The 1950’s

2009 March 2
by Solomon Lutze

Oh my. So much to say, so very much to say.

First, I’ve decided to change my stance a bit. I’m interested in some of the technologies of the 1950’s, including cultural ones, and how those intersected gender. Though the middle class was definitely a large part of this, it is no longer the focus of my study.

I’m just going to touch a little on some of the interesting things about the 1950’s in terms of gender and technology here; I’ll have more to say at the panel, and I’ll flesh this out more later as well.

-After World War II, where women were filling the jobs that men had left, there was a displacement as men returned to take those jobs. Despite this, work in some areas such as clerical duties (thank you Wikipedia) was easier for women to get after the war.

-The nuclear family was at its peak – think Leave It to Beaver. Dad works, mom takes care of the kids, who in turn do the things that boys do or the things that girls do, based on their sex.

-The civil rights movement hit its stride. Critical events such as the death of Emmett Till and the Montgomery Bus Boycott sparked by Rosa Parks were widely publicized and made the movement difficult to ignore.

-The Communists and the atomic bomb had everyone scared to death – counter-measures were pursued.

-Rock and roll was popularized, and paved the way for all sorts of counter-culture – the ideas of conservative dress and behavior were pretty harshly affronted by The King’s gyrating hips.

Essentially, it was an era of transition, where people were trying to find out what it was like to be a superpower with severe internal dischord. I look forward to talking about this a bit more in, oh, fifteen minutes.

One Response
  1. SarahLeia permalink
    March 3, 2009

    Not that this is very constructive (or relevant since you’ve already done your panel presentation), but there’s another show from the 50s that shows the nuclear family with properly gendered roles even better than “Leave it to Beaver” – it is actually called “Father Knows Best”. From the opening credits alone, you can get a sense of what the show was like:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U4AOmmoD7Lo
    In almost every episode I’ve seen, the wife is shown getting the house ready for her husband to come home, and the father is always the go-to guy for knowledge. When her children need advice, the wife says things like “let’s wait for Father to come home from work!” rather than giving them actual advice. It’s definitely a glimpse into the family unit of the 1950s!

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