Liberated Women vs. Women's Liberation
The idealized American housewife of the 60's radiated happiness, "freed by science and labor-saving appliances from the drudgery, the dangers of childbirth and the illnesses of her grandmother...healthy, beautiful, educated, concerned only about her husband, her children, her home," wrote Betty Friedan in "The Problem That Has No Name" (463). Women were portrayed as being "freed," yet it was from this mold that liberated women attempted to free themselves. Many of these same women took part in the women's liberation movement that erupted in the 60's, fueled by their involvement in the civil rights movement. Liberated women were more than just members of the women's liberation movement, however. Different characteristics distinguished the two concepts from one another.
Liberated women sought and exercised freedoms that focused more on their individual desires, differing from the group mentality that characterized the women's liberation movement. Attitudes of women towards clothing, sex, and family changed. Some women protested the traditional ideas of beauty, favoring pants and a more natural look devoid of make-up and hair curlers. In 1968, a group of women demonstrated at the site of the Miss America Pageant, railing against the image of the "perfect woman" propagated by this contest. They urged other women to join them in tossing their "bras, girdles, curlers, false eyelashes, wigs...[and] any such woman-garbage" into a Freedom Trash Can (Takin' It To The Streets, 482). Miniskirts became popular as well, tied in part to the idea of sexual liberation.
The advent of the diaphragm and birth control pill spurred the increased sexual freedom women experienced. Women used these to control their risk of pregnancy, taking this power out of the hands of males. Esther Greenwood from Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar exhibits some of the characteristics of the 60's liberated woman. When she decided to get a diaphragm, she thought, "I am climbing to freedom, freedom from fear, freedom from marrying the wrong person...just because of sex...I was my own woman" (182). Yet with this freedom came perplexing realizations about the double standard for women and men concerning sexual behavior. Women that exercised sexual freedom were viewed differently than males who did so. Men could be promiscuous and keep their reputation for integrity untarnished; women who behaved this way were viewed as impure with questionable character. Esther mused about this after Buddy Willard revealed his past sexual experiences to her, thinking, "I couldn't stand the idea of a woman having to have a single pure life and a man being able to have a double life, one pure and one not" (66).
Liberated women also displayed a changing attitude towards their families and roles as mothers and wives. Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique chronicled the discontent of American...