About Respect

Respect Study Guide

Table of Contents:

Background | Social Conditions During the Decades | Discussion Questions | Worksheets & Activities
References | Appendices

Social Conditions During the Decades

1900-1920 | 1929-1939 | 1940-1949 | 1950-mid-60s | 1961-1970 | 1970-early 80s | Mid-80s to present & Summary

1950-mid 1960s

Debbie ReynoldsThe fifties started off with a number one song If I Knew You Were Comin’ I’da Baked a Cake, which fit right in to the new ethos of women being happy homemakers. Because it hit #1, we know many people bought the record or the sheet music, so therefore the song touched some truth in the culture. Women now embraced their new (or rather re-claimed) identities with the same enthusiasm they had given to Rosy the Riveter.

Songs were again dreamy and light-hearted (Tammy, Lollipop) and re-affirmed women as passive creatures. One of the most popular (and enduring) songs of the fifties was Que Sera Sera from the Alfred Hitchcock movie The Man Who Knew Too Much. It is a song about a female who asks everyone from her mother, teacher and sweetheart, what should she be, what should she do. It is what we call in psychology “external locus of control,” wanting others to make things happen. Similarly, As Long as He Needs Me is about a woman ready to take anything, even abuse, if it makes her man happy. And when he doesn’t like something, she is only too happy to repeat, I’m Sorry. In the end, all you really should want is to Stand by Your Man.

Next decade 1961-mid-1970
Previous Decade 1940-1949