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Brief Analysis of American Women Status in 1950s

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WST 317

Yangzi Li


Brief Analysis of American Women Status in 1950’s

In 1950’s, women held harsher social constructs than male in sexuality. Good girls should keep virginal until got married, and no nice girl really liked sex. In that period, people kept in mind that women should take care of house and raise children as housewives, and men were head of households. Even though women in the United State obtained the right to vote in 1920, and women officially got involved into political party, the racial and class discriminations still more or less constrained U.S. women in 1950’s. However, the newly invented TV became a powerful medium, and people spent more time to watch TV, which brought new wave ideas to this conservative society. Certainly, those trendy ideas changed people’s ingrained mind about women in old society in somehow. Also, those ideas brought opportunities to them.

《Pillow Talk》 is one of well-known movies in 1950’s. In this movie, Jan Morrow, acted by Doris Day, represents a group of new society women. She works outside as a man, and has an enviable career. Jan also shows some traditional and fossil ideology about love and sexuality, which comes from parents’ effectiveness, education and social ethnical. By contraries, Brad Allen, acted by Hudson, expresses a playboy image to audience. “Day was surely no unruly woman. Nor was she simply a diminished woman, reduced to an object of jokes told by men. She can be found in some ambivalent space between the two: independent, optimistic, even tough, in some ways; undermined, trivialized, and objectified in others.”(Dennis, 5). In the conservative period, the words of independent and strong belonged to men. No one could image, 《Pillow Talk》, this movie brought new vision of modern women to the society, who is bold, elegant, confident and independent.

        Marilyn Monroe is also a representative woman from 1950’s. In the popular song,《Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend》, Monroe expresses a attractive, beautiful and intelligence character to audience. “Monroe infused life into this femme fatale stencil, mocking the sexual greed of “Diamonds” and offering a commentary on postwar male American expectations in her line “I can be smart when it's important, but most men don't like it””(Henriksen, 1). Maybe the character of Monroe was acceptable by 1950’s community, and envied by women in 1950’s. The racial and class discriminations were still exist. Women always got much less paid than men got, even though they did same work. Only American white middle classic women went to college, but the percent of female students was much smaller than the percent of male students.

The 10 years of 1950’s are contradictory. These ten years seem like traditional and formulaic, but people during these ten years also had enthusiasm to go for open-mind and tolerate society. People gradually accepted the new ideological trend. The modern times eventually covered the conservative period.

Works Cited

Dennis, Bingham. “Before She Was a Virgin . . .: Doris Day and the Decline of

Female Film Comedy in the 1950s and 1960s, Cinema Journal,


Henriksen, Margot A. “Monroe, Marilyn”, American National Biography Online Feb. 2000.



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