Harmful messages from the 1950s

By Kathryn Braeseke


Every single advertisement that I saw featuring a family was almost exactly the same. They featured a mother and a father as well as a few kids benefitting from this product. The ads usually placed at least one boy and one girl, the girl(s) always wearing a skirt or dress, and the boy(s) wearing pants/overalls and a shirt. The boys were usually holding a ball showing that boys were supposed to like sports. All of the family members were white, and there were never any bi-racial families or families of color. As well, there were no same sex or lgbt couples. The mother and father were usually close or hugging and everybody was smiling, showing that the product would make the family happier. And there is nothing at all wrong with having this kind of family, but it is harmful to see everywhere that this is the type of family that you are supposed to have.


In the 1950s society forced people into this box that novody could fit in because nobody is the same and people were forced to hide who they truly were in fear of being judged just for being different than the "ideal person" so people lived in pain, trying to stay the same. Expressing yourself was out of the option and these "rules" Were so constant that people started to believe their own sterriotypes and go along with them. Conforming to be what a woman should be, what a man should be, what a student should be, act and think.
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This picture above also represents conformity. This is a page of a new trier year book from the 1950s. It is cut off in the picture, but this page is showing various academic clubs such as sience and math club. Do you notice anything particuar about the people in these clubs? There are no girls in theses clubs In these times, boys were viewed as "smarter" than girls and it was steriotyped that in the future, the men would go off to work and the women would stay home and sew and clean and take home of the children. This steriotype was even applied at a young age. In these academicly challanging clubs, girls were allowed to join, but very few did, because it was just a thing that boys did. Smart girls felt pressured not to join these clubs because they were pressured into joining "girley" clubs like knitting club and theater.


In the 1950s, success for men and women was very different

Teens would not be able to fit into this mold that these images show.

All of these images are full of stereotypes and as I said in the conformity paragraph, nobody can fit into this box of what a teenager and person is "supposed" to be. Finding out who you are as a teenager is very hard, but if society is telling a girl that she can't be as smart as a boy and that she should wear certian clothes and that she should not do the things that boys do, that will really hurt them as they discover who they like and who they are. And if society is telling boys that they have to be stronger than girls and they cannot do things that are seen as "femenine" and that they are expected to be the head of a family when they are older, that can hurt them as well. This images are telling teenagers that they are wrong if they are who they are. Teenagers cannot fit this mold because not all teenagers are white, straight, cisgendered, able-bodied, want a family, want or do not want a job, accept gender roles, are skinny, and have no flaws. These are all of the things that magazines are telling teenager to be or to strive for. Strive to fit all of these expectations that teenagers are supposed to be and want.

What emotions may awaken within you in this situation.

If I was not going to be accepted for what I wanted to do and who I was I would feel depressed, because I would feel like something was wrong with me if I wasn't who everybody expected me to be. I would feel lonely, because I would see no one like me on TV or in advertisements; they would all act and look the same and being different would really feel upsetting. I would feel anxious all the time trying to hide my true self in fear of being judged by everybody else.

How would you act/behave?

Living in this time, being somebody who I know wouldn't fit in with this societies expectations, I would probably act out in fustration because being who I was was seen as "wrong." I would probably try to act like everybody else, do what the other girls were doing, but feel a disconnection in my life because I'm not like the other girls, I'm not like everybody else. Every single person is unique and different in their own way. And in a society so focoused on conformity and being the people who we were shown on TV and in magazines, I would take my fustration out on others and probably wold be pretty mean. I would spend a lot of time alone, because when around people, I would compare myself to them

Who could help you?

I woul talk to my friends that I would have made, because they would be going through the same thing.