The 1950s are often viewed as a period of conformity. Women might have had the right to vote like men but that was pretty much it in terms of their equality.
Many parents had narrow expectations for their daughters whose destiny was to get married and start a family. Parenting was solely a woman’s responsibility – preparing meals and having them ready when their husband returned from work, performing all the household duties and caring for the children solely on their own, while their husbands pretty much did whatever they wanted. In a nutshell, they were compliant.
Women who worked outside of the home, which were few, were paid much less than men and regarded as meekly obedient, sexual objects and inferior beings. Unfortunately, in some parts of the world, even today, this behavior still exists.
In March 1968 a massive revolution by students began in France. The problems began after male undergraduates were denied access to the floors reserved for their female counterparts by old-fashioned university rules set by a conservative, authoritarian and conformist post-1945 society.
Students who decided to occupy a lecture hall and barricade against the police were beaten. This incident sparked student anger across other campuses around the world who were already protesting the Vietnam War and in solidarity with workers demanding better pay and work conditions. Soon a movement formed, and this led to the biggest, most diverse, and longest general strike in Europe since World War II, involving many million people.
Although Paris was at the center of the revolts, they were not limited to the capital or even to France. They spread to Italy, Germany and the United States. But the real effects of this is still noticeable in the core of central Europe.
While the revolution failed in a way politically, it succeeded socially and culturally. The conservative, hierarchical and authoritarian society of the “prim and proper” and “ordre etabli” (established order) was replaced by new forms of participation, the libertarianism of customs and individualism. It was also a replacement of traditional family structures with more flexible sexual arrangements based on the needs of each partner, regardless of religious or traditional boundaries.
The battle-cry was “banning is banned” and “power to the imagination.” Millions of young men and women protested values, morals, and ethics inherited from former generations.
What occurred in Europe in 68 was a cultural revolution that put liberty as a core principle. It maximized political freedom and custom autonomy, emphasizing freedom of choice, especially that of women, voluntary association and individual judgement.
Erich Fromm in 1941 in “Fear of Freedom” argued that all of us have the potential to control our own lives but that many of us are too afraid to do so.”
Croatia was still under communist rule and as such was not part of these revolutionary changes that were occurring in many parts of Europe. While in Croatia that has changed considerably, what is interesting to note is that in North American public and private life, I believe we give up our freedom and allow our lives to be governed by circumstance, other people and political ideology.
Don’t ask questions, just do as your told.
Someone once said “To get respect, you also have to give it. And to earn respect, you have to be deserving of it.”
Each one of us has our own purpose, wants desires, goals, reasons. Just as this woman did in 1956, ten+ years earlier than those events that changed the social culture of Europe, around the age of 23 she planned her escape route to freedom. Not only from a country ruled by communism but a country that still had the 50’s mentality.
Her father would not consider her will and insisted she marry someone whom she was not interested in at all. She decided for herself against conformity and without a word to her parents or siblings, she crawled out from the 2nd story window of her bedroom, in the middle of the night towards her freedom.
She chose, she said NO in deeds, not words. She had the confidence in herself to live her life on her terms, not that of others. She landed in Bari, Italy and after a few years immigrated to Canada.
The most wonderful day in a woman’s life is when she realizes she can do whatever she wants, without permission, and without explanation. She’s just living. And it’s beautiful.
–Cara Alwill Leyba
While many times people say to forget the events of the past, I believe some events can be useful in understanding our own free will. This woman lived her life according to hers and was a loving and happy woman, always cheerful and available to others. This woman was my mother.
Not all prisons have bars. Many are much less obvious and are much more difficult to escape from since we do not realize that we are prisoners
–Henri Laborit…. from the novel “In price of flight” 1976
I hope both men and women live their life according to their own free will, thinking for themselves, regardless of social conventions or conformity.