Friday, November 5, 2010

5 November 1956 “1950’s: America’s Moral Crisis”

Today we are going to look at the beginning of an article in one of my 1957 issues of Better Homes & Gardens. I know it is not 57 yet, but I found it an interesting article. Simply click to enlarge. It is about the continuing discussion of sexuality and moral decline in happening as the post WWII years wane.
sexarticle1 sexarticle2
I think one thing I find interesting is that with the number of generations behind us since sexual liberation, wouldn’t things become less sexually centered? It seems if one has taken off the veil of taboo and stripped the shock and awe of it all, why on earth has it become almost the be all end all?
I don’t find myself a prude. I know sexuality is important to the human mind and body, but it is hardly the entire package. I wonder why, since we have lost such restricted codes of morality, that we still seemed to be So focused on it. In a way that one has little to think of BUT it. One would think, ‘hey sexuality, no big deal. Let’s spend more time on art, literature, talking, other subjects”. This, however, seems to be the opposite of what has happened since WWII to today and really since WWI.
I think the main cause of this is not our own ‘animal attitudes’ but in fact: Advertising. We live in a world today, even more so than 1950’s, where advertising is literally in every aspect of our life. Our clothes are walking billboards. Our phones send images and texts with little logo’s “Sent by PalmPre” or “Sent to you by Apple I-Pad”. The very post-it-note society we have made in which we glibly tell one another the shopping list of our lives, “At the doctors, had a baby, in the hospital, bought new shoes” are lumped together and had delivered with the bow of marketing stamped right on.
Even the shows we watch on TV/internet are basically now advertisements disguised as entertainment. Shows, due to the ability to ‘shut off’ the commercial, have literally written into them the ads for the product. Also, what a star wears, talks on, drives, listens to, it is all for sale. Christmas music at stores at the holidays, happy background music? Nope, that’s for sale too, there is the compilation cd 9.95 please pay at the register with your purchases.
So, sometime in the mid 1960’s Madison avenue began to realize that the intense hippy/sexual revolution was a wonderful gift of a selling point. Though the original hippys were actually counter-culture in that they were not wanting to BUY and be PLUGGED IN, this was quickly replaced by the sleek quick way sex was sold to a generation. Want to be hip and cool and counter culture? Well, buy these products, this lifestyle.
And lifestyle branding began and with that the underlying power of sexuality has remained. And why has it? Because, despite ‘Revolution’ having happened decades ago, it is still a hot-point. And anything that draws attention, rather good or bad, is the perfect tool to sell. Why do you think salesmen used to wear the loud sports coat and the slick hair? They became a joke of a style but it caught your attention, rather good or bad, you were talking about it, responding to it.
I think the only way that ‘sexuality’ as an “in your face” atitude will go away, is if we literally thought about and acted differently in our day to day life. The very concept of how we buy, shop, entertain, talk, converse, live,  is so imbedded with it all, how could it end? And now with the internet, it has fanned the fuel of the fire. Even if we believe one thing and tell our children, “no” they are still getting a text or a sext the next second, bombarded with it all online and tv and then we, the parents, are just as much plugged in. “Do as we say not as we Do”: we know how well that philosophy works.
Now for me, I have no children, so I don’t have to worry about their distorted view of sexuality. This is honestly how I see much of what is feed to kids, tweens, teens, and youth today. And again, it isn’t that I am a prude. But, I also think things such as Art, Books, Innocence, Imagination, Science, learning, and just general fun (hiking, fishing, horses what have you) are just as important as sexuality. Yet what is the percentage of those things compared with the percentage of sexuality shown and bombarding young people today?
Is there some evil agenda that is out to want to ‘take over our kids’? Some bad guy in a black hat rubbing his hands together and twisting his handlebar moustache, waiting to tie our children to the rail road tracks? No, and the real ‘evil villain’ is sadly , the very consumer society we all buy into and don’t want to let go of, because quite frankly it is easy.
People may want to blame various groups, or aspects of society, but we all contribute to the over all society of marketing and consumerism and that is where the devil really lies. The big stores, the oil companies (all of which petroleum is needed for everything including the computer screen you are now reading this one, the plastics that make up the computer and most of your home and cars, and of course all the electricity to power the whole kit and caboodle). We can rant and rave about various issues but honestly, the only way we could really be more in control of what our children do and experience is to have more to do with our own world. We would have to unplug some, pay more attention, turn away from that and to each other. But will that happen, most likely not. It is much easier to just stay plugged in and go forward.
To really address the  issue and face it head on we would have to allow ourselves to become not only a little uncomfortable, but to really look at ourselves in the mirror. It is much easier, I know, to want to blame others. We always want a scape-goat, its easier. It’s that political parties fault. Its the president, its the schools, its' tv. But, in my own opinion, all of that  is part of the make up our current society and this  goes hand in had with the ‘moral decline’ in sexuality.  The very way in which we live is part of the many problems in which we always complain. The very twisted view of constant overtly sexualized imagery (often quite negative towards women) is part and parcel with a plugged in, consuming life. We may be on this side or that on taxes, republicans, democrats, and so on, but that is all encompassed in the very overly commercialized world in which we live. Even the 1966 Charlie Brown Christmas special shows the writing on the wall of our commercialization. It is funny that this simple message now only stands as a way to sell more items. “Yeah, I get it, poor Charlie Brown…Oh, a plastic Charlie Brown Tree, oh decorations with the characters on it, gimme gimmme”. The irony, when we look round, is every where to see.
Even the lessening in people’s general attitude towards religion, rather Christian or what have you, has really been replaced by advertising. The TV, the Media and Shopping IS the new religion.  It is the focal point of community, what we talk about, where we meet, what we do. Even if some were very religious you can bet that they are still very much a part of that system which, in a sense, has been replacing the church/synagogue/religious meeting house for generations. If they shop, text, and support the system that uses overseas labor/materials at the expense of our own, it still is adding to what they may not like about the society in which they live. And it still supports the increased sexualized behavior, as that will continue to be the main selling point in advertising.
Every person has his or her own view of what sexual morality may be. Even un-religious parents still have a standard of what they feel is appropriate for what their child sees, hears and then reacts to. I think the sad point is that all that separates all the ‘groups’ on issues such as these are merely there and reinforced by the very society that needs these separations. Having more ‘groups’ = a larger customer base. And groups anger and hatred towards one another = free advertising. Because advertising is merely talking about it, noticing it, bringing it up. Even our ‘news programs’ and I use that term VERY loosely, are simply platforms for shouted opinions all the while creating a marketing stream to the various sites to buy things to support whatever side of the fence you are on. While we are wearing the labels of the companies we are supporting on our clothing, shoes, our children, and fighting with one another, we are also paying into and supporting that very system. It is making money off our passionate feelings either for or against various topics, including sexuality.
I think what makes me sad about most issues such as this, is the hypocrisy of the system which both supports and then pretends to be appalled by it. This allows the fanning of the flames of both sides and collecting up our money from the subsequent reactions. It makes me feel as if most of us really, rather we have different religious or ethnic bases, really do want the same thing. Yet we can’t ever meet on realistic ground to do so. And because of that will continue to be separated only to make it easier to be sold to.
As many of my readers know I often get a rant going and can’t help but get on my soapbox. But I am finding, as this second year of  1950’s living ends, my passion for it wane. It isn’t that I don’t care, but I am beginning to see again how even my outrage and discussion of it is merely a part of a larger problem. It has made me sort of step back AGAIN (I continue down this rabbit hole of self-discovery) and view my outrage with a sad smile. I believe in my desire for a changed world, but I also now see some of the futility of it. That in a way, our outrage and heated discussions are merely all fed into that same system that has us simply buying away our  values, pride, and ideals of a human community. Charlie Brown can be discouraged by the plastic shining commercialized world around him, but are we all prepared to do, as the other children did at the end, and come to realize it ourselves? I don’t know, maybe not. And if so, what does that mean for me? Feeling even more disconnect with the world around me, greater fear and sadness for my own country, which I love but feel slipping away; I’m not sure.
Well, I hope you enjoy the first part of this article from 1957 and I will include the rest in my next post (Monday, as tomorrow is site-day and Sunday is Q & A day).
And as always, Happy Homemaking.


  1. I'll have to come back later and read the article and the whole post. I really need to get some work done...

    This is a subject I'm very glad to see you tackling!

    But I am so thankful my smart phone is one of the few that does NOT say "sent from (insert device)". When I'm traveling I do quite a bit of my email on it so I don't have to wade through stuff when I get home.

  2. Rachel-Good for you, work is important. I was a little concerned about posting my own opinions on this, and they are still developing. I wonder if I should just post the article and let it stand as it is and then we can discuss from there.
    It is just hard for me to keep my mouth shut, because often I do feel as if the morality issue is used in a way that goes around the actual issue we all have, regardless of personal beliefs. In that we all have some level of idea that it might be wrong to overly sexualize children as an example. Or, what we might think is deviantly cool may then become abhorrent if we have a five year old child in the room. I guess I just think there are so many wonderful things we should all be focusing on and learning more that the overt sexuality of the modern day sort of just annoys me and gets in the way. It isn't as if I want the world to be celebate nun's, I just want to not care how sexy everyone is or how hot I can look or how skanky or steamy the latest HBO show is and instead talk about fun cooking or great old songs and clothes or even new songs and clothes, you know what I mean. Things other than 'sexy' things are more interesting and in a way I feel like the new younger generations aren't FREER but in fact, simply missing out on the WHOLE package of humanity. The joy and fun of all things and also the innocence of romance as well as the hot steamy passion.
    I am probably just an old fuddy duddy, but I'm an old fuddy duddy with a blog, so I guess I will just spout my nonsense after all, as it is part of my modern privileged, right?

  3. No, we are not any happier or better off, for all the sexual freedom, nor are we apathetic to all the sexual immorality because there is so much of it. Instead, it has become an addiction. Something about vices (like sexual immorality) leaves people with a continual lust for more. People never get sated. This goes for an inordinate love of money, alcohol abuse, whatever. With sex, people get jaded with normal stuff and want weirder stuff, just like drug addicts who want stronger and stronger stuff....all to get that "buzz." Americans have too much time on their hands.

    The media, in this case, doesn't help, as it uses sex to sell, like you said.

    But, I agree with you, the problem is with us, if we buy into it. We can't blame others. Others are an influence, not a cause. I am sick of how people flaunt their sexual mores today. Like we really care.

  4. I think what is so unique about our country is it was first founded by people who wanted religious freedom, but their own religion was SO restrictive and almost a cult it was so strict. Then the expansion of the west combined with the 'new american' dream in the late Victorian age of 'getting rich'. This also was there during the gold rush of the 1940's and on. And when you see the south which had a much more 'landed gentry' very European idea of a dream, it was virutally demolished by the northern Industrial Wealth which would and could trample anything in its path.
    I often think what happened to the South is what would have happened to Europe itself, had it been connected to our country, for we would have used our sudden over industrialized power and wealth to stamp it all out and make it like our own.
    We have such an odd mixture of Puritanical restriction mixed with overt instant gratification, that we really do view the morality of ourselves much differently than Europeans, I think. There seems to be more guilt built into our morality as well, most likely due to our closed system mixed with our Puritanical beginnings.

  5. You're not being an old fuddy duddy! If you are, I'm even worse and I'm only 27!

    I did grow up very sheltered from the sexuality of the world. If I ever have children I will shelter them from it as much as I can. I was raised to view sex as a beautiful and special thing, reserved for a husband and wife. I want to know who decided that image was "wrong" so I can smack them upside the head.

    In thinking about my fiction characters and the stories I'm trying to tell, in many of them modern sexuality plays a large role in the characters' backgrounds. Many of them have baggage from buying into modern ideas of sex, or being the victim of sex crimes. I guess I want to contrast what the world says with how things play out in real life. And I want to show the beauty of sex when it's used in its proper place.

    Can't wait for the rest of the article!

  6. This whole post is why I got rid of television in our house. I was repulsed by what was being shoved at my kids day in and day out. My kids are always getting complimented on how well behaved they are, and that they are not "smart mouths". they don't have the TV to teach them the bad habit. Oddly enough, I can tell when my daughter has spent too much time at her friends house. They watch TV there, and I inveriably have to have a 'chat' with her about her mouth and attitude. I try to only let her go on playdate outside, or for a specific task. But, sadly, that child watches TV ALL the time. Has one in her room and it is ALWAYS on.

    Me...I cannot stand it anymore. What we do watch are DVD's or videos of shows of our choosing. Scooby-doo is on right now. We also watch movies (Rio Bravo, White Christmas, Charade, The Thin Man, etc.). Alot of Mid-Century enthusiasts love the show "Mad Men". Not stepping on toes...but I tried watching online once, and so didn't like it. Oh, I adored the clothing, furniture and all. But the ethics of the show were just something I couldn't stomach. Adultry is NEVER right.

    So, I am stuck in this world of over-sexuality, high tech gizmo's and excessive notority instead of people who are famous for accomplishing things, and keep trying to wade my way through it. Yes, I have a cell phone, but I don't text. It is a pre-paid phone...and the only reason we have it is becaus eit is simply less expensive that a land line. We have internet service, but we were without for a couple of weeks and that was just fine with me. We have a 'modern' vehilce...and I HATE it. I want a vintage auto.

    I don't know, Donna. I think that all we can do in the tide of the 'lazy' world is just keep on keeping on. It WILL all come to a breaking point at some time. And there will need to be some 'grown-ups' to pick up the pieces.


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