Sexist Symbolism

by Zoë Rabbani

Miniskirts and makeup

1.Miniskirts. The 60s was a time for more social and sexual freedom for women, and the invention of the miniskirt, by Mary Quant, was a textile symbol of this era. When girls decided to rebel against the sexist restrictions that prevented them from acting or dressing outlandishly, legs came out of captivity, and it became easier to jump, run, and dance! The miniskirt revolution was declared a “youthful protest of international threats to peace.”, which roughly translates to: young girls are challenging social norms and it’s scary. The girl on the street was no longer being told what to do, wear, and say, and everybody noticed.

2.Bobby Socks. Post-war 1940s saw the aftermath of a world where women had taken significant roles in the work forces for the second time, and served their country well. This made way for new freedoms, one being for many daughters of the mothers who no longer stayed at home — the bobby-soxers. They turned down their white socks to expose their ankles, and created the screaming fangirl scene, a community of girls who stayed out late and danced till the sun came home. These seemingly harmless ankle socks became the symbol for a girl who took no sh*t, disregarded the rules, and rioted beyond curfew.

3. Bra-Burning. At the Miss America Protest in 1968, hundreds of women rallied against the organisation that celebrated an incredibly narrow definition of femininity. These feminists all brought with them hair curlers, tweezers, high heels and other typically feminine items, before burning them in trashcans. Contrary to popular belief, only very few women burned their bras in protest, however the image became a historical symbol of liberation. It said: We will not be pushed into your pretty little doll moulds, or forced to feel bad about our differences.

Burn your bra!

4. Red Lipstick. Throughout history, lipstick love wavered. In the 16th century, Queen Elizabeth’s entire female fanbase (AKA England) imitated her shocking red shade, and branded it as the latest look. However, its popularity was soon crushed as men declared it immoral. By the 19th century, red lipstick became associated with prostitutes and actresses, branding it as a promiscuous cosmetic. The power of crimson lips reigned supreme, though, and by the time the 20th century rolled around teenage girls were smearing it on, believing it to be a sign of power and womanhood. The new generation of girls sparked a wave of scarlet kisses, and icons such as Marilyn Monroe and Estee Lauder took note. Red lipstick to this day symbolises power, prowess, and punch!

Nailpolish can’t nail us down

5.The Pill. The 60s was a time for unprecedented scientific leaps, such as the moon landing, some of the first ever organ transplants, and the contraceptive pill. The world was moving forward, and so were the rights of women. The introduction of the pill meant that women could now enjoy sex without the brunt of pregnancy. And thus the one-night stand was born! The pill allowed women sexual freedom, and seeing as they could postpone babies without postponing sex, they could focus on their education, careers, and own lives — creating a generation of ambitious girls, who could pursue every single one of their dreams, rather than choosing.

Love these photos as much as we do? Check out more of Ashley Armitage’s work here:

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