Women’s rights in America in the 1920s Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 4 June 2016

Women’s rights in America in the 1920s

Throughout the ages women have been stricken with often male-made oppression in many forms on the long, difficult road to their eventual initiation into equal rights. Some aspects of women’s rights today were obtained by questionable means in the past. One such act of liberation by questionable means was the introduction of a class of women in the 1920s known as flappers. These flappers were the beginning of a new wave of sexually and intellectually liberated women. Women of this age wore short skirts and revealing clothing in addition to cutting their hair into bobs and smoking and drinking publicly. These women were also outspoken in many areas, including matters of art, society, and politics. (“The changing values of a new generation”)

Many argued that these women were the source of much moral corruption and social confusion during the age. A large number of people believed that flappers were rowdy, trouble-making, time-wasting, destructive women and that their damaged morals were in need of correcting. In the eyes of many critics, flappers were a prime example of the growing immorality, irresponsibility, inconsideration, impatience, stupidity and selfish personal absorption of today’s female youth. Still others felt that the flappers were simply lazy and their lifestyles were not only evil and blasphemous but also unhealthy for the soul, body, and mind. Secretary of Labor, James Davis said in September of 1922, that the flappers lifestyle revolved mainly around sex and substance abuse. It was argued that the heightened displays of sexual freedom of these flappers promoted lower social morals, larger rates of promiscuity and greater irresponsibility in many young women.

Many people saw flappers as being unintelligent, self absorbed, and were only concerned with their own personal gain, without taking others into consideration. They were often viewed as shameful recluses, and troublemakers. Those who felt that flappers were immoral and corrupt argued that they were bad influences on the younger, more impressionable girls and that they gave their community a bad image. It was said to be inappropriate for any woman to show a substantial about of flesh at any given time, especially in public, therefor, the flappers were seen in an even more negative light due to the fact that their dresses only required 3 yards of fabric instead of the traditional 6. Many said that flappers were inconsiderate of others with their rambunctious behavior and provocative appearances. Their public drinking and smoking was seen by many as vulgar and unladylike. Flappers were also said to be impatient and unintelligent in areas such as schooling, work and typical domestic obligations.

Despite many negative arguments against flappers there were also those who supported them and argued for them, including, of course, the flappers themselves. Flappers and their supporters looked at their actions as a means of promoting their sexual and intellectual liberation from the former, male-based structure of society. These supporters of such female liberation believed that flappers had earned the right to their free and passionate lifestyles and that they should be respected just as much as the men of the community. Such flapper collaborators felt that they were self-sufficient and reliant as well as intelligent and feminine. Flappers often wore makeup with their short hair and flowingly skimpy clothing.

They kept themselves slim and fit and exercised often. These women spent a great deal of money to uphold their flapper fashion and image. They felt that they were independent as well as responsible in their free-spirited fight for equality and freewill. They argued that they were not immoral in their lifestyle and that their behavior was in fact far from destructive but, instead, was helping to work towards creating social equality. (“The New feminism of the 1920s”)

Flappers were not in fact only concerned with standing out and being noticed. They were not simply fashion and image-driven, selfish women, but were strong, self-willed, independent young feminist citizens who were fighting passionately for their right to stable equality amidst a prominently male-driven world. These women pushed aggressively for their social, professional, and sexual freedom which they felt were hard-earned and well overdue. Many flappers wished to pursue positions in careers which would otherwise be deemed unacceptable for the average women of the time. They hoped that by breaking away from social normality’s that they could eventually obtain equality in all important aspects of life while hopefully also allowing them entry into many professional fields which would normally be unaccessible to women.

It is beyond confrontation that many of the questions of the flapper age were presented with a certain amount of dubiety by many brave independent women seeking fairness and equality. These women took their lives and futures into their own hands and with all the courage and determination they could muster they threw their hopes and expectations for equality upon the world. The flappers were passionate, lively young women with aspirations of possessing the same basic human rights that were possessed by the men of the age.

Though their aggressively displayed fashion and ideas came as quite a shock to most people at first, after the differences became more accepted by the general public objections were able to be put aside, to make way for some real changes. Despite the many controversies surrounding the flappers and their ideals the fact remains that due to their existence and involvement in history a great deal of significance changes were brought about whether for the good or bad that of today’s society which have greatly expanded upon women’s rights and equality.

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  • University/College: University of Chicago

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 4 June 2016

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