Living in a [Wo]Man’s World
Throughout the ’60s, American youth culture was the driving force that transformed the nation. Boys sporting Davy Crockett paraphernalia and girls holding hula hoop competitions grew up to lead debates and protests at college campuses, in hopes of leaving behind a bolder legacy than their conservative predecessors. G-rated crooners took a backseat to tripped-out rockers. And, assassinations and riots created a climate of chaos and political unrest that far outdid any James Dean “rebel-without-a-cause” attitude of the ’50s.
Meanwhile, women’s issues were making their own headlines. Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act passed, prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of sex, in addition to race, religion and national origin. As a result, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) was established to investigate discrimination complaints—50,000 sex discrimination complaints were received during the Commission’s first five years, alone. In response to the Commission’s failure to sufficiently investigate these documented complaints, Betty Friedan, author of The Feminine Mystique, and her peers organized the National Organization for Women. More and more women soon went from homemakers to moneymakers—or both if they desired.
In retrospect, second-wave feminism, and its foremothers, saved the print industry—from remaining an exclusive “good old boy’s club,” that is. Proof is in the various industry trade shows. Today, it is more common than not to see women manning (no pun intended) exhibitors’ booths or greeting colleagues throughout the exhibit hall.
However, not too long ago, there was a time when women need not apply. Before the EEOC intervened in 1968 to rule the act illegal, help-wanted ads in newspapers segregated jobs through the listings: “Help wanted – women” vs. “Help wanted – men.” While it was an overdue victory for women, it took far more than high-heeled shoes and a business suit for them to get a foot in the door. It took intelligence. It took perseverance. It took guts.