The Flapper

Topics: Flapper, Roaring Twenties, 1920s Pages: 7 (2552 words) Published: November 19, 2006
The Flappers
Women during the Victorian age were considered as incompetent (pretty much like children), were supposed to submit to men, be morally perfect and were socially controlled by many cultural rules. But the Roaring Twenties would see a new type of woman called "the flapper" which would change many things to women's condition. What was socially acceptable and the attitudes of women changed radically due to the flappers and their influence can still be felt nowadays. From the end of World War 1 up to the Great Depression (1929), the United States knew a fantastic time of prosperity. Through the 1920s the country faced huge economical, political and cultural changes which went from prohibition to the Harlem Renaissance, and from a whole set of new technologies and devices to the beginnings of professional sports. Ernest May described in his book War, Boom, and Bust, this period in those words: "the fast changing pace, the new thoughts, and the emphasis on good times, sex, and wild-living made the 20s roar". Laura Mulvey, in The Flapper Phenomenon, wrote: "It was during what we might call the Flapper period, or the Jazz Age or the Roaring Twenties that American popular culture began to capture the imagination of the world. . . . [America] was inventing its own modernity. . . . "

Before those "Roaring Twenties", the feminine ideal was the Gibson Girl. Still very Victorian in its manners she was considered as socially perfect since the beginning of the 1890s up to the 1920s. The Gibson Girl was the model to be followed. It was inspired by the Charles Dana Gibson's drawings which can be described like this:

She was taller than the other women currently seen in the pages of magazines, infinitely more spirited and independent, yet altogether feminine. She appeared in a stiff shirtwaist, her soft hair piled into a chignon, topped by a big plumed hat. Her flowing skirt was hiked up in back with just a hint of a bustle. She was poised and patrician. Though always well bred, there often lurked a flash of mischief in her eyes.

This ideal would disappear during the roaring twenties as all of the Victorian taboos blew up thanks to the flappers.

The expression "flapper" appeared in the United Kingdom during the 1910s refers to the young birds with wings not totally developed yet but which try vainly to leave the nest and fly. First used to describe any immature teenager, it became the name of this new generation of women during the 1920s having this specific "roaring" attitude and style. They began dressing, dancing and behaving in unsuitable ways for the time. They viewed themselves differently than their mothers use to view women. For those previous generations (the Gibson's Girls which were their mothers and grand-mothers) the flappers were considered like rebels towards authority. "[The flapper] symbolized an age anxious to enjoy itself, anxious to forget the past, anxious to ignore the future."

This cultural change had several causes which worked in the same direction: feminism had to enter new domains of the American society, the World War 1 effect over women, the economical and technological changes, the want to challenge authority and finally the effect of the newly born mass media which had emphasized the phenomenon and accelerated it.

First of all, after that the women won the right to vote in 1920 with the 19th amendment which declares "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex." , they needed to carry on the fight for equality in other areas such as social status and mentalities. It has to be granted to the Gibson's Girls that they were first to start the feminist movement and obtain civic rights. They started back in the 19th century through many women associations or leagues and it is the National American Woman's Suffrage Association with Carrie Chapman (who corresponds to the description of a...

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Jennifer Rosenberg "Flappers in the Roaring Twenties." About
Kathleen L. Nichols "The Flapper Era." 15 Aug. 2004. Pittsburg State University. 26 Mar. 2006.
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Roaring Twenties. Wikipedia. 23 Mar. 2006. 26 Mar. 2006
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