The Women’s Movement of the 1970’s was initially spurred by the National Organization of Women (NOW) and the anniversary of women gaining the vote in 1920. With this parallel alone, it is clear that there are no coincidences in the correlation of the strong female leads and general aura of feminism in Chicago. The sentiments regarding women in the 70’s was played on many stages and remains unresolved.
- The Equal Rights Amendment has been proposed every year before the Capital and each year it gets denied. The ERA is exactly as it sounds: it would ensure equal rights for men and women and yet it remains unpassed. Today, in 2017, women, legally, do not have the same rights as men. With as many women, and men, in support of the Amendment there were plenty of those who were also against it as well. The true nature of sexism became transparent in American, and some women even took pride in the “traditional” role they played within their families and marriages.
- Title IX
- Title IX was passed in 1972 which requires equal opportunities for boys and girls in all public institutions that are federally funded. It would not be surprising if this issue came up again today with the increasing number of gender reassignments and the general acceptance of choosing how you identify with your gender.
- Roe v. Wade
- A woman’s right to make decisions on her own health, including abortion, was not law until January 22, 1973. Roe v. Wade also assured that women could make their medical decisions without interruption or impediment by politicians or political groups within the three branches of government.
- Sexual Revolution:
- In 1960, half of the 19-year-old girls in America had not had sex, but that changed by 1980, where that statistic jumped to two thirds. The sexual themes and risque choreography of Chicago, and Cabaret before it, were welcomed, even pined for, to satiate the sexual desire permeating societal conversation.
- Open Marriages
- Part of the Sexual Revolution of the ’70s included the budding practice of open marriages. Some couples, separately or jointly, would relax on a sex retreat where threesomes, foursomes, and orgys were accepted as liberation and sinful or inherently lusty. Some of these retreats were also nudist retreats. Pride in one’s body was the goal of these practices, not just to fan the flames of sexual desire. If you think of Velma in these terms, her representation in Chicago, shooting her sister and husband in the act of cheating, is a very conservative idea. Perhaps it even makes fun of these practices in 1970s society.
- Pornography also became a ready discussion in newspapers, television, and radio. People wanted to talk about their bodies and find strength in them. The normalization of pornography started in this period where films like “Deep Throat” were playing in theatres and books like “Our Bodies, Ourselves” and “The Human Sexual Response” were deemed appropriate material to leave on the coffee table.
- Billy Jean King was the top tennis player in the world in the ’70s, the Serena AND Venus Williams of yesteryear. But what King is really known for is being a queen for women’s rights, a champion of the political court. Bobby Riggs was a Wimbledon-winning tennis champ, but he was also a sexist beast. Riggs bragged that no woman could beat him because women weren’t meant for athletic competition. He ran a string of challenged against the top female players, and finally King accepted the invitation. She had a rough start, but ended up impaling Riggs with 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 wins. King won the match and sent Riggs running away with his tail between his legs and a huge leap in the fight for women’s equality.
- Harvey Milk was an openly gay novice politician who became a political voice for the gay community of San Francisco. He became the first openly gay person to be elected to a public office in San Francisco, and one of the first in the country, when he won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and then won a seat on the City-County Board. His wins were also a wins for America’s gay community. However, he was assassinated in 1978 by a fellow Board member, Dan White, when White had resigned and the mayor, George Moscone, refused to reinstate him. White shot Moscone twice in the head and twice in the chest, and then sought out Milk and shot him twice in the chest, once in the back, and twice in the head. White then turned himself in to the police station where he used to work.
- Gloria Steinem
- Steinem became the face of the Women’s Movement especially in regards of the progression of the ERA. She co-founded the feminist magazine, Ms., in 1972 which became a national outrage to the conservatives and men. It was equivalent to today’s Cosmopolitan or Glamour magazines. Steinem remains an active feminist activist at the age of 82.
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Bio.com. A&E Networks Television, n.d. Web. 13 Oct. 2016. <http://www.biography.com/people/harvey-milk-9408170#assassination>.
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