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BOOK OF ZED /  Feminism in the context of US social
history, 1890 - 1999
Feminism in the context of US social history, 1890 - 1999


I'm going to start in 1890, for one reason. That was the year that the US "frontier" was
officially closed. All the land stolen from the native aboriginals by right of conquest had
been parceled out to the European immigrants. It is important to understand that this event
reflected a COMPLETE change in conditions. We "hit the wall" in terms of available
resource pool and from that moment on the expansionist nature of the country had to
change to one of competition for a share of a FINITE resource pool. Up until then, the US
had almost open immigration policies and was doing almost everything it could to expand
population as fast and as much as it could. In colonial days, it had even been illegal for
unmarried persons to live alone, which was about as close as they could really get to
legally FORCING people to get married and have kids.

For agrarian people, which was about 98% of the 76 million total population, having more
kids, particularly more SONS, meant more hands in the fields in a few years, which meant
MORE production, which translated directly into family wealth. Without agricultural
machinery, farming was backbreaking-labor intensive. Women did not see being spared
this as "oppression" of any form. While women did tend the chickens, the garden, and did
all the cooking, the hard manual labor that was farming was mostly done by male muscle
and horse or oxen drawn implements.

There was no national economy, everything was regional. Women did often take work in
small manufacturing concerns outside the urban areas, particularly BEFORE their family
grew to include enough sons to make the family prosperous. Transportation was limited
and expensive enough that almost all goods were manufactured and sold on a regional

There is an interesting side note here - The poorer immigrants, those without even the
financial resources or social connections to settle westward where land was still to be had
for the asking, worked in the factories and mines of the industrial and urban east. These
were the "proles" of the late 19th century. The labor union movement and the women's
suffrage movement competed for the attention of the social reformers.
Mother Jones, the legendary labor organizer, was very outspoken in her criticism and
contempt for the women's suffragists because she viewed them as privileged elites too
spoiled to know how good they had it. Blue collar and lower socioeconomic-class women
did not even embrace the first wave of feminism: they were too busy fighting to survive.

From 1890 to about 1916 can be characterized as "infrastructure building" - electric plants
and distribution systems, roads, bridges, telephone and telegraph systems. In 1890, most
of the country was still pretty isolated and, by necessity, self-sufficient. This will become an
increasingly important point.

WW I jumpstarts economy

In 1917, the US finally got drawn into the European war when it became apparent that it
was inevitable since US ships were being targeted. This was the first of 3 major agrarian
to urban displacements which were to culminate in the suburbia of the 1950s, which
spawned feminism and number of other social trends.
A huge number of farm boys went off to join the army and fight the good fight and came
back to the US to settle in the cities. Farmers replaced this lost muscle power of their sons
with the new technology of farm equipment, much of it bought on credit, which was to lead
to another massive agrarian->urban displacement beginning about a dozen years later
when the economy collapsed and banks foreclosed on the mortgages and forced the
farmers off their land.
The enclosure which began in England about 1500, and was reversed from the mid-1600s
to the mid-1900s by Europeans fleeing from the high population densities of Europe to the
lower population densities of the US, came to the US in full and major force in the 1930s.
But, I'm getting ahead of myself.

The war jump-started the US industrial machine as it stepped up to producing armaments
and other war supplies. War is GREAT for an economy. This particular war was
ideological, spelling as it did the end of the great hereditary ruling elite houses of Europe.
Democratic capitalism, US style, won. However, the war left a new ideological enemy
firmly entrenched in Europe: the Bolsheviks and COMMUNISM. The US would spend the
next 70 years shadow boxing with this bogeyman. This too will become important as we
go along.

The victory of the Bolsheviks was bad news for the US labor union movement. Simple self-
selection of who had undergone the grueling challenge of immigration had assured that
self-reliance and independence were the real US religion. (One of these days I'll have to
go into what this country did to the Mormons) ANY form of collectivism was frowned upon,
and since many who supported the unions also supported the Red army, and were
declared socialists, they were all treated as heretics by worshippers of the religion of US
brand industrial capitalism.

This was also very bad news for the blacks, because their first refuge after the civil war
had been the industries of the north which, under the grip of true Marx-style capitalists,
weren't all that much better than slavery.

Like I said above, nothing like a war to stimulate an industrial economy. Coming out of war
with our industry intact, a plentiful workforce which included many returning soldiers, ready
markets in Europe, countries anxious to give us their raw materials in exchange for
manufactured goods (since they had nothing else to barter), and a host of new war-
inspired technologies, in the 1920s the US was on top of the whole damn world. Industrial
capitalism was the solution to all the ills of the world. Just give us machines, raw materials,
labor, and markets and we were ready to transform the whole damn world.

Floating in a sea of cash, a totally new concept got born: "disposable" income. That would
have seemed like a complete oxymoron at any time before in history. Only the hereditary
upper, or leisure, classes of Europe could ever conceive of having any significant amount
more money than it took to eat and stay warm. Two major new industries were spawned
as garbage bins into which urban workers might "dispose" of this unnecessary wealth:
luxury consumer goods and entertainment.

Utopianism was real popular. "Labor saving devices" abounded and glowing pictures of
the future got painted. Industrial capitalism was going to turn every citizen into an
aristocrat. It would take so few hours per week to earn enough to live the life of luxury that
EVERYONE would become a "Renaissance Man" (or woman). The arts would flourish,
literacy would be universal, people would spend their spare time painting great art, and
writing and acting in original plays, and reading and writing great works of philosophy, and
yadda, yadda, yadda.

Not everyone shared this utopian vision. Some social critics foresaw a two-tiered world of
haves and have-nots, with the have-nots living underground in the bowels of the city
working like slaves and the capitalist and bureaucratic living above ground in all this luxury.
"Metropolis" is a wonderfully realized silent film portraying this.

Other critics saw people losing their humanity - becoming interchangeable like the parts of
the machines they spent their days operating. Charlie Chaplin was so biting and
perceptive in his satire, such as that of "Modern Times" that he made MANY enemies and
would find himself exiled from the US 25 years later for "un-American activities" and
"communist sympathizing."

Aldous Huxley wrote the first dystopian novel of the modern era: "Brave New World"
showing that all-consuming consumption might lead to a world where sex and reproduction
were completely separated, children were reared in state-run facilities, and the population
routinely narcotized itself. People laughed him off saying he was preaching gloom and
doom. They were just having so much FUN.

But there was trouble brewing in paradise. Money was so plentiful that in a country long
conditioned to subsistence level living, making do, making things last as long as they could
be made to last, and doing without things they didn't need, once men reached a level of
comfort just slightly above where they were used to living they ceased being motivated to
work as hard.

Enter - Andy Consumer!

Andy was the composite everyman profile which the new science/business of advertising
used to predict and shape the buying habits of the nation. And Andy had a WIFE, Mrs.
Consumer! So, while Andy was away at the factory, advertisers waged psychological war
on Mrs. Consumer to make her dissatisfied with her life as it was and make her yearn for
more consumer goods which were the guaranteed key to happiness. When Andy got
home from a hard day at the factory, Mrs. Consumer was just FULL of newly planted ideas
on how they (she) could spend his money and JUST COULDN'T WAIT to tell him about
them. And, of course, Andy wanted to make the "little woman" happy so, of course, he'd be
just HAPPY to work those extra hours to buy her all those goodies she wanted.

And here is where the first of the seeds of the great feminist explosion of the 1960s and
beyond were planted. Up until this time, life had been a full time occupation requiring the
dedicated effort of BOTH partners. That was life. People washed their own clothes, cut
their own hair, and were very much generalists in the occupation of life. Only among the
affluent urban elite did women have the luxury of ruminating on their oppression and lack of
rights. Agrarian women, and men for that matter, often lived so far from polling places that
suffrage for either sex was a non-issue. But women did get suffrage in 1920. During the
1920s, the flagship feminist issues of the 1960s were in full evidence: sexual freedom for
women, birth control, and greater freedom from social restrictions on their behavior.

The Depression

The party lasted exactly 10 years. Speculation, over-extension, and the lack of expected
growth in overseas markets once essential reconstruction of Europe was done, stalled the
US economy and in 1929 over half the "wealth" in the country went "poof" almost overnight.
The next 10 years were to be grim indeed. Capital dried up, banks failed and closed,
unemployment reached 25%, millions of farmers couldn't make the payments on their farm
equipment when their markets failed, the banks foreclosed and they were forced off the
land into the cities to swell the already long bread lines. People became afraid of their own
family ties as destitute relatives showed up at their door with nowhere else to go.
Here were the second, third, and fourth of the major social forces which would go into
creating the 1950s and the explosive rejection of them of the 1960s and feminism: 2)
massive geographic displacement toward the urban centers 3) massive disruption in
family and kinship ties 4) a pathological fear of failure and poverty which would later be
mistaken for obsession with money and success.

And the fifth major force, which would later develop a symbiotic and incestuous
relationship with the first, luxury consumerism, mass media was born. The generally
miserable life conditions of most people made them crave escape to a better world. For a
nickel they could escape for two hours into a perfect world where their every fantasy was
fulfilled. Cinema in the 1930s was nothing but "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous." The
more UNLIKE the reality of their everyday lives, the better, so glamorous actors and
actresses populated the silver screen, their fantasies and their dreams.

People had not lost touch with reality, yet. They still knew the difference between what they
saw in the theater and the lives they lived outside it. The blurring of the distinction would
come 20 years later when television invaded every home and sold them a lifestyle which it
told them they COULD afford, if they worked hard enough. Movies had been popular
enough during the 20s with the urban crowd, but the addition of sound in the 30s, and the
desperate need for escapism, combined to make them a national social phenomenon.
And this phenomenon would become the 6th major force which went into the social
fragmentation which would be the legacy of the 1950s and beyond: mass culture.

Mass media spelled the end of true regional culture, and began a force of homogenization
and conformity that would become crushing in the 1950s, provoke a reaction in the 1960s,
and turn into a gender war by the 1990s.

One particular aspect of cinema which was one of those simple cases of happenstance
being revised into malice was the use of cosmetics. Most of the early cinema actors and
technicians had begun their careers on the theatrical stage. Heavy stage makeup had
been necessary for the players to have faces at all under the harsh lighting necessary for
theater. Classic theater, such as Shakespeare had actually developed a set of
conventions which associated characters with a particular set and configuration of facial
features. Any production of "Othello," for example, staged by people with classic theater
training, will use a standard set of makeup elements for the title character.

Other conventions were soon established. How many vampire movies have you seen
where the vampire is played in ANY WAY OTHER THAN the way Bella Lugosi played
Dracula? Or when was the last time anyone played the Frankenstein monster other than
the way that Boris Karloff played it?

Women in particular seemed to have a desire to emulate the "sirens of the silver screen,"
so there were thousands of Betty-Davis-Vamp clones to be seen. I think there is a very
significant issue to be explored here that has to do with identity formation and explains the
rapid spread and adoption of feminism. Kate Fillion, Deborah Tannen, Katie Roiphe, and
others have all observed female identity formation and socialization characteristics which
lead women to want to be alike. Cliques of girls will all dress similarly.

I contend that Naomi Wolfe's "Beauty Myth" could not have possibly been more wrong.
Without the abdication of responsibility, absolute denial of the role of women's choice, and
the demonstrated market appeal of "HE MADE ME DO IT" victimism, it becomes obvious
that women, seeking to emulate and identify with the women on the screen, and coveting
the sexual power they had to capture the attention of equally unreal men, cast themselves
in those roles and replaced their real lives with playing out the scripts to those movies.
I think the effect on men started later but is no less significant. I can't count the number of
young Marlon Brando or James Dean slouch-and-sulk-alikes that were around during the
50s and 60s.

But, just to give men a break, what attributes did those leading men of the 30s and 40s
have, WITHOUT EXCEPTION? Answer: money, financial success, charm, and charisma.
My contention is that in the 30 year period between 1930 and 1960, which mass culture
replaced real life and created a totally unrealistic set of expectation among BOTH MEN
AND WOMEN regarding the lifestyle they were going to lead and the type of mate they
were going to attract. And that during that period marriage was completely redefined in a
way that made it impossible to work in the majority of instances.

People did not make movies about boring stuff - they made movies that played on
people's emotions. Romance and action, sex and violence, and the trappings thereof, are
the staples of mass media entertainment. And since everyone sees the same things, they
compare their lives to what they see and are vaguely dissatisfied. Into this void, consumer
capitalism pours endless offers of instant solutions and magic pills.
Forty or fifty years before, the "average" man might have seen a couple of hundred women
in his lifetime, and the "average" woman about the same. Love was something that was
expected to develop over time as people learned to trust and depend on each other. A
farmer choosing a wife would look at her hands and ask whether she could milk a cow. A
woman would look at how industrious he was, whether he was prone to drunkenness and
fits of anger, and was he kind. That was how people chose mates.

I DO think that there has been a change in sexual behavior which will result in social
catastrophe, but 60 years ago, not recently. And, as I have been verbose as hell in
developing, that it was far from the only force. In addition to the 6 already mentioned, there
is one more: the development and rise of "Big Government." None of the escapism of the
cinema would have seemed so attractive had not so many people‘s day to day lives been
so oppressive in reality.

"Capitalism has failed us, socialism is the answer" came the cry. I won't go into all the
ideological wars that got fought, but in the end the country opted for a great father figure
and a modified hybrid of socialism and capitalism based on some new economic
theories. One could call this "pump-primed" capitalism because it was dependent on
government spending and taxes to make it work. The individual income tax, which was
instituted at this time, provided the vehicle to extract capital from the pockets of individual
wage earners which would never be returned to them. Government spending slowly
dragged the economy upward, but it took another war to jump-start it again.

While the US was obsessed with first its success, then its own problems, the bitter
drubbing that Germany had taken during the First World War, and the excessively punitive
and humiliating conditions imposed on the German people for the mistakes of their
leaders had been festering. A charismatic madman preached the gospel of regaining their
national pride, and THEY LISTENED. There was also a petty tyrant in a funny hat over in
Southeast Asia dreaming dreams of world domination.
feminist's quotes
The Psychology of Thought
Control, Menticide, and
Joost A. M. Meerloo, M.D
Social Control:

( Originally Published
1915 )
Men's panel,
will help you to
what you are
looking for.
Men's Panel
New Men
what does it mean?
What are the root
for it?.
The Psychology of Thought
Control, Menticide, and
Joost A. M. Meerloo, M.D
New generations of
How new man is
creating the new world?
New men, genius men.
Walter Russell's
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8,
9, 10