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									THE FLAPPER

Zelda Fitzgerald: ―I like the jazz generation and I hope my daughter’s generation will be jazzier.
I want my girl to do as she pleases, be what she pleases regardless of Mrs. Grundy.‖

       Zelda wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald

       had become a popular symbol of the new female expressiveness

       consciously set herself against the image of generations of feminist reformers and career

       Mrs. Grundy represented prudery and sacrifice as against the new standards of pleasure
       and consumption

Zelda spelled out the contrast:

       ―I think a woman gets more happiness out of being gay, light-hearted, unconventional,
       mistress of her own fate, than out of a career that calls for hard work, intellectual
       pessimism and loneliness. I don’t want [my daughter] Pat to be a genius, I want her to be
       a flapper, because flappers are brave and gay and beautiful.‖
                                                                             -Zelda Fitzgerald

Who was the flapper? How revolutionary was she?

Symbolized new behaviors –

       indicated a new freedom in sensual expression by shortening her skirts and discarding her

       but not entirely free -- bound her breasts

       ideally had a small face and lips like earlier, mid-19th century model of beauty

       expressed her sensuality not through eroticism, but through constant, vibrant movement

               athletic Charleston, not erotic tango, her characteristic dance

film actresses like Clara Bow and Joan Crawford exemplified the flapper

represented the 1920s circumlocution of sex appeal –

       combined vivacity and fearlessness and basic indifference to men

       with such characteristics, flappers on the screen remained pure until marriage, which was
       their ultimate goal

as physical imagery of the flapper might suggest,

       for all her bravado, the flapper’s proclaimed triumph was complex and contradictory

complex and contradictory first, in the sense that the changes were not really that revolutionary in
the first place

       20s an era when changes long underway emerged into an urban mass culture emphasizing
       pleasure, consumption, sexuality, and individualism

       on almost every point, changes proclaimed as ―new‖ in twenties could be traced back to
       before WWI

               dance crazes, rising hemlines and slimmer silhouettes, jazz, bohemian culture all
               there in the 1910s

               difference: activities once on the fringes of society or associated with specific
               subcultures became the norm for white middle-class America in the 1920s

                       jazz came out of black ghetto into the mainstream

                       Sexual experimentation and new Freudian ideas spread from Greenwich
                       Village to college campuses

                       public amusements frequented by the working class at the turn of the
                       century now attracted middle class women as well as men

                       rouge, powder, eyeshadow (once marks of prostitutes) now worn by
                       respectable young women

still, the sensuality of the flapper marked dramatic behavioral and ideological change

in 1920s, youth a force in American life as never before

       youth newly org’d into high schools and colleges

       now found age-specific environments in which they could experiment with new norms,
       challenge tradition with relative ease

dramatic growth of coeducational state universities created a setting

       in which young women and men created new rituals for courtship/new patterns for
       heterosexual relations

               youth flaunted new forms of pleasure-seeking such as petting, dancing, smoking,
               and drinking

young woman at Ohio State:

       ―Are we as bad as we’re painted? We are. We do all the things that our mothers, fathers,
       aunts, and uncles do not sanction, and we do them knowingly. We are not young
       innocents – we’ve got the dope at our fingertips and we use it wisely for our own
                                     --woman student at Ohio State University in 1920s

Yet middle-class youth of twenties not as rebellious as they or their parents believed

       new norms not only drew on pre-existing cultural practices of subcultural groups

       also reworked older, middle-class values with which they were raised

               power of peer culture created a degree of conformity previously unknown

               for example -- emergence of a youth culture, where courtship commonly took
               place in the youthful institutions of college and high school,

                       dramatically narrowed the age range from which most women and men
                       married –

                              thus created far more uniformity than ever before

but in some respects and especially to older generation, public acceptance of female sexuality

       Ideas formerly propounded by radicals like Emma Goldman and Greenwich Village
       bohemians now widely disseminated

       group of psychologists and other ―helping professionals‖ declared war on old-fashioned
       ideas about sex, labeling them unhealthy and superstitious

               these psychologists pronounced sexuality a positive, energy-producing and
               pervasive force in human life

               redefined ―normal‖ adulthood to include sexual expression

                      and woe betide the middle-class housewife who should happen to receive
                      the unattractive designation of being sexually frigid and uptight!

              at same time as sexual expression emphasized, psychologists drew careful
              boundaries around definition of ―normal‖ sex—

                              must be heterosexual and marital

              birth control moved into mainstream as part of a new ideal of marriage as an
              emotionally fulfilling companionship

              Margaret Sanger, who had advocated birth control as source of female and
              working class autonomy in the 1910s,

                      in the 1920s promoted the distribution of birth control information under
                      watchful control of doctors

                              medically-supervised dissemination of birth control, according to
                              Sanger, would promote better marriages and better children

                                     claims of 1920s birth control movement therefore much
                                     less radical than those of birth control advocates in the
                                     1910s . . .

judged on these terms, can the emergence of the flapper and the new emphasis on pleasure and
consumption be regarded as a revolutionary change for women?

       after a century of denial, middle-class culture openly acknowledged the existence of
       female sexuality

              even prescribed sexual pleasure apart from procreative intention

       at same time, reinforced traditional goal of marriage in context of an increasingly
       competitive ―marriage market‖

              emphasized the emotional centrality of romance and marriage and the competition
              among women for male attention

                      in this way the emphasis on female sexuality undermined/called into
                      question some of the powerful bonds among women

                      further stigmatized homosexuality and inferred that most intimate
                      relationships between women were ―deviant‖

new courtship patterns presumed a new kind of marriage in which romantic love, sexual
pleasure, and companionship central: COMPANIONATE MARRIAGE

       sounds good – suggests new equality, but:

              responsibility for such relationships rested primarily on women, who had most to

                      male identity and economic security still rested primarily on work

                      whereas women understood that their economic security, emotional
                      fulfillment, and social status all depended on a successful marriage

                      if failed to marry, risked becoming ―dried up old maids‖

                              term ―dried up old maids‖ – popular in 20s – suggests a new
                              valuation – or rather devaluation of female independence

anxieties about marital success curbed some of the flappers’ new physical freedoms

       if a woman wanted to find a mate, could not put all her energies into other pursuits like
       sports or careers

female athletics had grown dramatically in the twenties –

       provided new heroines such as tennis star Helen Wills, and swimmer Gertrude Ederle,
       who swam English Channel in 1928 breaking previous record set by a man

       as decade wore on, many expressed fears that competitive athletics could make young
       women too masculine to be acceptable wives

       could even make them uninterested in marriage

as a result many colleges abandoned intercollegiate competition for ―play days‖ in which there
were no ―stars‖ or unwomanly behavior

womanliness in turn had a growing commercial dimension

       by 1920s, Americans were aware of themselves as consumers and of consumption as a
       central facet of American life

       marketing experts used sexuality, esp. female sexuality, to sell all manner of products

       in this sexualized consumer society young women learned to market themselves as

       sales of cosmetics skyrocketed

       magazines tutored women on the ingredients of an attractive ―personality‖

       social sororities flourished on campus where they coached their members in social skills,
       proper appearance, and the behaviors appropriate to a future wife/companion

       Beginning in 1921 the Miss America beauty pageant in Atlantic City emphasized the
       competitive display of female beauty

               pageant cloaked in rhetoric of wholesome femininity

               Samuel Gompers, head of AFL, described first Miss America:

                      ―She represents the type of womanhood America needs – strong, red-
                      blooded, able to shoulder the responsibilities of home-making and
                      motherhood. It is in her type that the hope of the country resides.‖

Lois Banner:

       ―By 1921 the basic institutions of the American beauty culture had taken shape. The
       fashion and cosmetic industries existed. So, too, did beauty contests, the modelling
       profession, and the movies. All continued to expand during the following decades,
       building on increased affluence, the growth of the pleasure ethic, and the heightened
       sophistication of advertising.‖
                                      --Lois Banner, American Beauty (1983)

The imperative of female beauty did not end with marriage--

Within marriage, advice books advised married couples to be ―friends‖

       ads and movies, however, warned women that the task of remaining an interesting and
       attractive wife required constant effort

       ads played on anxieties, warning women of failure due to ―housewife hands,‖ ―halitosis,‖
       or body odor

               offered women products to ward off the dangers

       movies demonstrated the use of new products and clothes with models like Clara Bow,
       Gloria Swanson, and Joan Crawford

companionate marriage supposed to supply the emotional support and companionship which men
and women had previously found most often with members of their own sex

        female community diminished, women lost sense of common female mission

        in public and in private, women were on their own, individuals – and yet still defined and
        limited by their gender

                emphasis on heterosexual companionship and stigmatization of female
                community forced lesbians to recognize themselves as a distinct group

                        Freudian ideas labeled homosexuality as ―deviant‖ – emphasized intense
                        and privatized heterosexual relations with men

                                  some lesbians found community in worlds of single professional
                                  women and female athletes

                                  others began to search in literature for self-affirmation – Gertrude
                                  Stein, Radclyffe Hall

housewife also increasingly isolated within the companionate marriage

        ideal of the wife-companion presumed intense focus on private life and on the marital

                emotionally centered as much on her husband as her children, ―modern‖
                housewife presided over shrinking household

                        in which modern technology replaced domestic servants and consumption
                        itself had become the major task

for now, suffice it to say that

        with science at her side the housewife could remain interesting, slender, and elegant

        a perfect partner to a perfect companionate marriage, according to the ideal disseminated
        in film, popular literature, and advertisements

                actually, even these popular-cultural sources suggest some tension –

                Wife Versus Secretary, Why Change Your Wife…

Young Working Women

while preparing self for marriage, young woman not at college likely to be working

       1920-1930 – you would think, judging solely from images of women in popular culture,
       that women’s workforce participation skyrocketed

       actually, proportion of women in the labor force remained stationary at about 1 in 4

               dramatic change had been in the previous two decades

               difference – 1920s glamorized the working girl – thus creating a new ideology
               about the proper public places for women

by 1920, 30% of women workers were in clerical and sales work

clerical work – white collar, respectable, available primarily to white, native-born women –

       provided opportunity for a new ideology that recognized a period of work outside the
       home in many women’s lives

               but separated that work from the idea of career that an earlier generation of
               pioneering ―New Women‖ had valued

image of the secretary as the quintessential modern working girl --

       this image joined youthful independence and consumer orientation of the flapper to the
       wife-companion ideology

magazines portrayed the modern working girl as glamorous

       in fiction and features, also suggested that her ultimate goal was marriage, not career,

       like college girl, she needed personality to get ahead

       office, like college, represented marriage market rife with possibilities

movies about working girls emphasized romance at the expense of sisterly bonds

       common scenes – the roommate left alone on a Saturday might while her companions are
       out on dates

glamour of the working girl lay in her proximity to men in the office context

       clerical work as it became redefined in 1920s was excellent vehicle for the new image of
       the young working woman

       solved growing needs of corporate bureaucracies while offering women jobs with limited
       possibilities for ambitions or careers

office no longer a male preserve

       rather a public environment in which males and females were accorded separate and
       unequal roles analogous to their traditional roles in the home

rife with potentially disruptive romantic opps –

       offices were redesigned to control this sexualization

       clerical workers operated in separate rooms

New York Times Magazine (1924)

       ―Consciously and at a cue beauty has entered into the world of business. . . .Not mere
       casual, sporadic beauty, blonde or brunette, but the selected kind, chosen for type, stature,
       manner, and personality and arranged in patterns about the establishment from the
       information desk to the offices at the back, as harmonious a whole as one might find on
       the stage.‖

               Tongue in cheek – author then discussed matching employees to office decor and
               personalities to company image

office worker, like the college girl, fit the image of the flapper

       flirtatious, fun-loving, flapper had resources; was middle or even upper-class

working-class sister also experienced these changes however

       decades before it was respectable, working-class young woman had danced in public halls

               as working girls became acceptable, more and more of them lived apart from their
               families and retained a growing proportion of their earnings to spend as they


How revolutionary was she?

I. The Flapper defined
     A. Physical attributes
     B. Behavioral attributes
II. Complications and Contradictions of the Flapper Ideal
     A. New behaviors not really new
         1. drew on pre-existing behaviors and practices of subcultural groups
         2. difference: activities once on fringe became normative for middle class
     B. The flapper and youth culture
         1. new educational institutions facilitated ―revolution of manners and morals‖
         2. but not so revolutionary
            i. reworked older, middle-class values
            ii. enforced degree of conformity previously unknown
     C. New ideas about sex were revolutionary, within limits
         1. ideas formerly associated with sexual radicalism now widespread
         2. psychologists redefined ―normal sex‖
            i. sexual expressiveness ―normal‖
            ii. but must be heterosexual and marital
            iii. changing implications of birth control
III. Flappers and the ―Marriage Market‖
     A. New emphasis on centrality of romance and marriage
     B. New courtship patterns leading to ―companionate marriage‖
         1. different implications of companionate marriage for women and men
         2. anxieties about marital success curbed flapper’s new freedoms
     C. Growing commercial dimension to womanliness
         1. femininity and consumer society
         2. cosmetics
         3. magazines
         4. sororities
         5. beauty pageants: first Miss America pageant, 1921
     D. Marriage and female beauty
E. Loss of possibilities for female community with emergence of companionate
IV. The Flapper as Working Girl
     A. Demographically, women’s workforce participation remains steady
     B. Images of working women in popular culture increase dramatically
     C. New glamorization of clerical work
     D. The secretary versus the career woman
V. Working-class women and the flapper ideal


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