Does Modern Society Unfairly Portray the 1950s?

From another post on Catholic feminism:

“Second Wave Feminism relied on secular inventions. Chief of which was the order given to women to forget about being a stay at home mom. Get out of the house, get a job because that male chauvenist pig (meaning all guys) was going to kick you to the curb and leave you with nothing but the kids. The attempt to blame the 1950s is entirely wrong. A perversion of the truth. I was there and I’m tired of seeing fiction like this.”

I’m not sure whether I have biased, selective memory, but I can’t help but wonder why almost every sitcom that is broadcast on TV has a soliloquy where the household’s mother talks about all the contributions she makes to the family, including raising children. The purpose of this speech is almost always to get the husband to pay more attention to her or to make a concession in terms of contributing to domestic work.

Not once does this type of conflict ever result in a 1960s-style rebellion where the women rejects traditional gender roles, either by leaving the family or entering the workforce.

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The 1950s was first wave feminism. The 1970s was second wave. It was in the 1970s that you got the message to watch out because you might get kicked to the curb, etc.
Shows from the mid 1970s to early 1980s included ones like One Day at a Time and Alice, where the single/divorced women were raising kids on their own and either having to work harder than the men, or having to fight for their jobs against other women and the patronising, dismissive bosses, etc.
Into the 1980s came more of the same; ‘Gloria’ where Mike joined a commune in CA and back to the East Coast came Gloria and son where she had to try to find a job. . . Shows like Its a Living. . . Murphy Brown. . . And even if the show’s focus was on something else, like Murder She Wrote, the plot lines often involved the older woman cast aside or the younger woman trying to get through the glass ceiling.

I think that’s what the poster was talking about–the 1970s and 1980s where it went from (culminating in the mid 1970s the ERA and ‘equal pay for equal jobs’) to the more sinister, "Better watch out’ - to the 1990s “Women can have it all”, etc.

I’m thinking of the tagline, “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle” and “A woman needs to work twice as hard as a man in her job to be seen as half as good. Fortunately, this is not difficult” etc.

And boy, do I remember Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King, and the “male chauvinist pig” phrases!

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Maybe. I think TV and movies portray what people want, not necessarily what they have. There’s a raft of contemporary movies about mid-life women asserting their boozy sexual independence, casting aside their drone-like husbands, chasing after available much younger men, (“Bad Moms,” for example). The movies are really popular among mid-life female audiences, but I don’t know any mid-life women who actually live that way.

A while back there was a PBS reality series called “1900 House” or something like that. It put a modern day family in living conditions in London ca. 1900. One revelation is that a house without modern conveniences couldn’t function without a whole lot of work on the part of both husband and wife. Contrary to popular opinion, the men did a whole lot of scrubbing, cleaning, laundry, etc. along with the women.

My mother used to comment that in all the old movies, even a middle class family had a housekeeper. My grandmother had two housekeepers: my mom and her sister.


There is definitely an artificial version of reality created by the media. As it applies to the 1950s, it cannot be more unfair or less biased. Women can do whatever they want, but Secretary is still the top job for women as it was in 1950. Hollywood wants people to select the memories they portray and their version of ‘how things should be.’ If the 1950s were unfair, there is still unfairness today. The Women’s Liberation Movement of the 1970s liberated no one and hurt women. The solutions offered fell into the “get rid of” category: Get rid of the man, the pregnancy or anything else perceived to be a problem. But women were told to believe two things at the same time: (1) Think for yourself and (2) Listen to us (total strangers). Which is it?

Is a woman really free and independent when she gets her marching orders from a strange group of women that can affect the rest of her life? Assigning blame is easy. Fixing things is difficult.

The 50s have been the whipping boy decade ever since I was a kid in the 60s. The more I read the hyperbole against the 50s the more I thought it must have been a pretty good decade to be alive. I’m contrary that way. :slight_smile:


It was a good time to be alive. Social craziness was frowned upon. Stability was encouraged.


No. This is not true. I know how different my choices and how different my life has been than what my sister and her classmates had, and they are barely a decade older than I am. I know the difference Title IX and similar policies have made in the lives of women. To say that it liberated no one and only hurt women is simply false.

This has a lot of truth to it. Women and married couples had to push back against what the “liberators” told them they “ought to” want. Having said that, now we have choices that we didn’t have then.

Denying that there were problems to be fixed in the 1950s would have pretty much made fixing them impossible. Yes, though, it is fair to say that some of the fixes have created problems far worse than the original problems they were intended to address. (No-fault divorce comes to mind.)


Let’s talk about today. Any unfairness? Serious unfairness?

And back to the 1950s. People understood what growing up meant, from child to young adult, there were good role models and good education and shared national values. People got married and had kids - two being average. Crime was lower.

If laws were passed to help women, that’s great. But don’t brainwash them by denying an even species relationship between men and women. Don’t put them in reeducation camps called “women’s studies.” Don’t take away their generational ties and family heritage and replace it with 1970s fiction, created by strangers.

Women were not helped by:

Artificial contraception.
Legal abortion. Or
No-Fault Divorce - created out of thin air. Go ahead, put down “irreconcilable differences,” since it’s no one’s fault.

And dating. What’s that? Forming personal relationships between men and women was common knowledge in the 1950s. Today?

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If you were a straight white anglo-saxon protestant adult male. Not good pretty much for everyone who wasn’t. Including Catholics, who were still discriminated against, particularly if they were Polish or Italian.

For many women, it was sheer hell. Wife beating was shockingly common, and the victim could expect no help from no one. The cops didn’t bother with “domestic disputes”.

Child abuse was so “normal” that it didn’t become an issue until Feb. 15, 1968, when the TV show Dragnet devoted an episode to the topic. Until then it was just ignored or hushed up.

And God help you if you were black. In many places, you could still be killed with impunity, or at most a slap on the wrist.


But sadly many negative things were kept behind closed doors. Certain things weren’t talked about or even hinted at.


I pretty much’s enjoyed the 1950’s. We spent a lot of time outside, worked in the garden and did chores. Kids spent more time outside than inside. We wandered around the neigborhood, and sometimes around the whole city. No cellphones, so we carried some change to use a payphone if we had to. But in practice that never happened. Only one car in the family and it was probably being used by mom or dad or brothers, so we had to fend for ourselves.

TV was in its infancy and there was nothing objectionable. No internet, no porn. No angry young men shooting up stores or schools. Got books from the library to read.
Dad worked in a factory, mom had a succession of jobs and didn’t have much trouble getting them. We only had one Catholic neighbor and she was a convert; no RCIA, she took instructions from a priest and became Catholic after a few months. Archbishop Sheen had one of the most popular TV programs.

Confessions every Saturday, Mass on Sunday. Spent time visiting our aunt and uncle in the Missouri Ozarks every summer. That side of the family was all Baptist, but we all got along. There were few organized activities but lack of organization was fine with me.


If there is bias, that bias is based on television.

Thomas Sowell isn’t talking specifically about the 1950’s here, but he does make some interesting points:

They experienced a huge boom in the economy, low unemployment, and many advances in technology. 6-7% unemployment was the worst they saw, and that for short periods. It was the start of our consumer driven economy.

Of course, today if you’re straight, you’re assumed to be a homophobe; if white, a racist; if Christian, a bigot; and if a male, a misogynistic woman-hating abuser. I don’t regard this as social progress. And as far as black violence, apparently - see Chicago, see Baltimore - you can still be killed with apparent impunity if the killer is another black. I know which era I’d prefer to live in.


The late 1940’s and 1950’s was a post-war era. Many families were hurt or torn apart due to the war. When it, the war, was over and the 1950’s hit, rebuilding homes and families was a huge focus.

But when the feminist movement came along in the late 60’s and 70’s, (the me generation) which was about independence and rejection of the family structure, looking back on the 1950’s feminists saw the very opposite of what the wanted and so as someone else said, that era, 1950’s, has been the whipping boy ever since.
It’s had a bad name in the eyes of feminists ever since.


Sounds like an alt-right delusional fantasy.


On one of these feminism threads, I asked whether giving women the vote was a good move. No one replied…but my point was, if you agree that women should have the vote, then obviously the fact that they once didn’t was a problem. This notion, sometimes found on CAF, that no form of feminism was ever required is rather silly.


I wonder what the 1950s were really like. TV and movies portray it as an idyllic time in American life. Maybe because the 1960s and 1970s were periods of such social upheaval that entertainment media created a…myth isn’t the word…a depiction that exaggerated the good parts and ignored the bad parts.

I grew up in the 1970s. If you ask me, the 70s were a time of happy childhoods and sunshiney days. Ah, nostalgia.


Wife beating has been illegal in the US since 1920s. It just took until the 1970s and 1980s for the justice system to take it serious, yes, but domestic violence is not or was not something known only in the 1950s.

Sadly it still goes on today

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