Single Women in Sixties and Seventies Popular Culture
Sales Date: September 27, 2011
320 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in
- Published: September 2011
- Published: November 2022
Long before Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City, there was Mary Richards in The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Every week, as Mary flung her beret into the air while the theme song proclaimed, “You’re gonna make it after all,” it seemed that young, independent women like herself had finally arrived. But as Katherine Lehman reveals, the struggle to create accurate portrayals of successful single women for American TV and cinema during the 1960s and 1970s wasn’t as simple as the toss of a hat.
Those Girls is the first book to focus exclusively on struggles to define the “single girl” character in TV and film during a transformative period in American society. Lehman has scoured a wide range of source materials—unstudied film and television scripts, magazines, novels, and advertisements—to demonstrate how controversial female characters pitted fears of societal breakdown against the growing momentum of the women’s rights movement.
Lehman’s book focuses on the “single girl”—an unmarried career woman in her 20s or 30s—to show how this character type symbolized sweeping changes in women’s roles. Analyzing films and programs against broader conceptions of women’s sexual and social roles, she uncovers deep-seated fears in a nation accustomed to depictions of single women yearning for matrimony. Yet, as television began to reflect public acceptance of career women, series such as Police Woman and Wonder Woman proved that heroines could wield both strength and femininity—while movies like Looking for Mr. Goodbar cautioned viewers against carrying new-found freedom too far.
Lehman takes us behind the scenes in Hollywood to show us the production decisions and censorship negotiations that shaped these characters before they even made it to the screen. She includes often-overlooked sources such as the TV series Get Christie Love and Ebony magazine to give us a richer understanding of how women of color negotiated urban singles life. And she reveals how trailblazing characters continue to influence portrayals of single women in shows like Mad Men.
This entertaining and insightful study examines familiar characters caught between the competing fears and aspirations of a society rethinking its understanding of social and sexual mores. Those Girls reassesses feminine genres that are often marginalized in media scholarship and contributes to a greater valuation of the unmarried, independent woman in America.
"An impressively researched, analytically nuanced study."—Women’s Review of Books
"Carefully researched, engagingly written, and resonant for contemporary scholarship, the book represents a valuable contribution to feminist media history and to the broader study of American social history. Above all, her account works against the tendency to homogenize both women’s experience and popular culture."—American Historical Review
"Parts of this work really soar. Lehman is particularly adept at demonstrating just how quickly sitcom portrayals of working women reflected social changes. . . . Similarly, Lehman compellingly describes how ideas about sexual liberation for women became juxtaposed against messages of concern along with a certain amount of blaming the victim first in television police dramas and then in films such as Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977). . . . [This is an early work of promise by someone who] [Lehman] . . . clearly has the gift for finding the social significance in what most Americans regarded as little more than mindless entertainment."—Journal of American History
"An intriguing book."—Psychology Today
"This engaging, lively look at “bachelorettes” in popular culture of the 1960s and 1970s is simultaneously scholarly and accessible; it is also quite comprehensive. A sharp, smart, and informed writer, Lehman knows the territory well and did copious research to include as many key figures as possible. Highly recommended."—Choice
“Ranging across diverse media, genres, and audiences, Lehman artfully maps the motivations, meanings, and contradictions that both liberated and limited the ‘single girl’ in the American imagination.”—Bonnie J. Dow, author of Prime-Time Feminists: Television, Media Culture, and the Women’s Movement Since 1970
“Carefully researched, beautifully written, this is a must-read book for anyone who wants to understand the cultural and social roots of the modern women’s movement.”—Ruth Rosen, author of The World Split Open: How the Modern Women’s Movement Changed America
“This is feminist cultural history at its best!”—Elana Levine, author of Wallowing in Sex: The New Sexual Culture of 1970s American Television
Introduction: Screening the “Single Girl”
1. Challenging Convention: Single Women, Sex, and Censorship in Early 1960s Cinema
2. Leaving Home: Single Women’s Perilous Journeys in Late 1960s Television and Film
3. Living Liberated: Single Women in Early 1970s Sitcoms and Commercial Culture
4. Claiming Sexuality and Power: Working Women and Wonder Women in 1970s Action Series
Courting Danger: Single Women and Sexual Aggression in 1970s Film