Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Gender-Neutral 1970s

Coming of age in the 1970s had its pluses and minuses, but one attribute of the decade that benefited me was its relative gender neutrality.

If I look back on what I wore in high school, 1973–1977, I can't imagine a girl getting away with dressing that way these days without being called (or at least thought of) as a dyke: flannel shirts and jeans, no makeup, next to no attention to hair or shoes. But I would say that even the "best-dressed" girls at school wore clothes that were minimally feminine.

In the years before that, girls in my school weren't allowed to dress that way because during elementary school, we had to wear skirts at all times. Though in the harsh upstate New York winters, we were allowed to wear pants under our skirts. Thanks a lot, gender police.

My high school years were the beginning of an era that included this Lego ad (from 1981):

1981 Lego ad showing a young girl, red pigtails, in jeans and gray t-shirt holding primary-colored Legos
Contrast that with the recent products Lego has created for girls, and with examples of currently enforced gender stereotyping like this.

I've lived most of my life in this gender-role-refusing way, but if anything, I'm more aware now that I don't conform than I was during my self-conscious teenage years. The pressure to use makeup and wear heels, particularly, is pretty strong.

It's easy to think that, over time, everyone becomes freer to behave as fits them, wear what they like, and be who they are. But it's wise to remember there have been times in the past when some of the social rules were more relaxed than they are now, and gender performance now vs. the 1970s is one example.

1 comment:

Marsha Qualey said...

That photo says so much. Terrific post, DNT.Thank you.