Monday, March 21, 2016

Growing up in the Fifties

What's wrong with this picture?

I enjoyed Bridge of Spies. It was absorbing and interesting, especially because I was alive at this time but not very conscious in things like the last section of the Berlin Wall falling in place - I was a single mother devastated by a divorce. After I saw the film I cruised around the internet reading the critics. In comments on one site I came across a very angry woman named Mary. She wrote something like this:
This movie made me so mad. It's flat and untrue to its time, some male Hollywoodish view of what life was in the 1950s, husband-wife caricature, family as set decoration, I was ready to throw bricks at the screen by the time it was over.
It struck me that I once was Mary, but hadn't been angry at all watching the film.Why was that? It wasn't untrue to my experience. It showed the world I grew up in.Women existed in support roles in the home and the world of work. We wore slim skirts and sweaters. Men wore overcoats and made important decisions and played important roles in matters of state.
I felt like a real living being then, and all my problems seemed personal, though it turned out they weren't. And I wasn't very adjusted to it all, I just didn't know that. Until I went to college I did not know I lived in a system and people elsewhere lived in different systems. Until the revolutions of the sixties, I did not know I could dislike it. Until feminism I did not know how suppressed we women were as a class, what we could not even desire, which might be to take part in important negotiations in a bad overcoat.
If there are stages of awakening to your position in the culture, the first one is anger at what it's done to you. But anger is a waste of time unless you can calm down and channel it into action. Acceptance of reality may be the last stage of awakening, but it should not keep us from seeing how wrong these social constructs are.

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