Marc Dunham - Review of "Beatlemania: A sexually defiant subculture?"
In her article â€śBeatlemania: A sexually defiant subculture?â€?, Barbara Ehrenreich delves into the sexual appeal of the Beatles. During the early 1960â€™s, young women in particular experienced a large amount of sexual repression and behavioral expectations. To achieve the societal goal of finding a husband, raising a family, and becoming a stay-at-home mom, these young women had a very fine line to walk as they progressed through their adolescent years. They were expected to hold themselves in a manner so as to attract the attention of potential suitors, but were also expected to appear proper, sexually reserved (and at times indifferent), to ultimately be the ones to set boundaries for the males they intended to be pursued by, and to publicly scorn those women who faltered in their mission. The immense pressure placed on their shoulders in conjunction with the harsh consequences of failure began to build in the youth of America at the time. When the Beatles arrived, these women found an outlet for their repressed emotions. More feminine than other male stars like Elvis, the Beatles were non-threatening idols for the younger female crowd. Whether a conscious or sub-conscious effort, the unreserved fanfare by these young women represented the beginning of the womenâ€™s sexual liberation of the 1960â€™s.
At some level, all of the sane young women who adored the Beatles knew that they would never actually have romantic involvement with one of them, yet they continued their obsessive, and often-times frightening behavior. This is an indication that their underlying motivation was more for personal liberation than of actually attempting to find their suitor. Their behavior led to multiple avenues of emotional release. For one, the wild attitudes they exhibited were a stark contrast to the expectations of society for them to be reserved, sexually disinterested beings. Every scream at a concert, public appearance, or TV performance was like the whistle of a tea-kettle, letting off the steam building inside their heads. They also undoubtedly took a sense of gratification in the fact that every dollar spent on Beatles paraphernalia, every word of gossip to their friends, and every shout of support and admiration lifted their idols further into the stratosphere of superstardom. Knowing that these very simple actions could ultimately have such a monumental impact on the entire society whose intention was to beat them down must have been an extremely liberating feeling.
The Beatles presented an opportunity for the young women of the 1960â€™s to â€śstick it to the manâ€? in a way that was difficult for society to outright condemn. This attitude transition provided a segue to the more intense and direct liberation movements prevalent in the latter half of the decade.