Monday, March 7, 2011

Lois Long (1901-1974)

"We women had been emancipated and we weren't sure what we were supposed to do with all the freedom and equal rights, so we were going to hell laughing and singing…."
-Lois Long

The 1920s must have been an exciting time to be a young woman. Thousands of organized feminists worked tirelessly for decades before voting rights were finally exercised by Canadian women in 1919 and by American women in 1920. Demographic, technological and economic changes were resulting in more and more women entering the workforce, living away from their families, practicing birth control, and directing their own lives. The youth of the 20s were the first generation in a hundred years to never wear corsets that crushed their organs and wasted their muscles. If I didn't have to wear that shit anymore I'd laugh and sing for a while too. 

Lois Long was the archetypal flapper: Intelligent, beautiful and daring, she wrote insightful and witty commentary about fashion and NYC nightlife in the speakeasies as a writer for the brand new magazine The New Yorker. While Victorian suffragists found the "new woman" frivolous and apolitical, the flappers voted, worked, drank, smoked, and made love not just like men, but with men. For the first time, women and men were not cloistered among their own gender most of the time, but were beginning to occupy the same social, professional, and political space. In rejecting the old social order that expected women to be virginal and morally elevated, the flappers took ownership of what had been denied their mothers: the right to be sexy. 


The idea of using one's sexuality as a tool of empowerment may have been liberating in the 20's following the sexually repressed Victorian era, but eighty years later western culture bestows upon women not just the freedom to be sexy, but the obligation to be sexy. Would Lois Long and her contemporaries still feel rebellious and emancipated if they were making up their faces and heading to a nightclub today? Or would they point out that the culture that values only the youngest and sexiest of women is just as oppressive as the culture of enforced female modesty that they so passionately rejected? 


ref: Zeitz, Joshua, 2006: Flapper: A Madcap Story of Sex, Style, Celebrity, and the Women Who Made America Modern

3 comments:

  1. Ette you got a way with words. Viva la revolucion!

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  2. Thank you, this piece was perfect for the biography I'm writing on Lois :)

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  3. Me too. I am making a facebook for school (Fake) This helped!

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