I’ve been posting giddily about the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love. I love the fashion, music and general air of freedom the time brought forth. It was a big, exciting change in American culture, but I wanted to take a minute to acknowledge that not all of it was good, especially for women.
That truth comes through in Vanity Fair’s March article about Summer of Love fashion, which quotes Ali MacGraw, Peggy Lipton, Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda, Michelle Phillips, Mia Farrow, Judy Collins, Nancy Sinatra and other prominent women of that time period. At the time these women were young and vulnerable and their fame and power were nascent. As is tradition in American history, men, even those young and somewhat vulnerable themselves, often had more power—or felt at liberty to take it.
These two starkly different quotes from the Vanity Fair article illuminate the dichotomies that came with sudden sexual freedom in the summer of 1967.
“It was a very, very sexual time. After having spent your girlhood, like I did, trying to be Miss Perfect in New England in the 50s, it was great to sleep with whomever you wanted. To be free! That was a big thing!”
“If someone forced himself on you, it was almost as if you had to pay for your sins; you accepted it. At one point that year I was pushed up upon by a couple of guys. Rather than fighting, you just closed your eyes and gave in. A lot of times you were too high to do anything about it.”
I find that quote very chilling.
Stephanie Coontz, anti-Vietnam War activist, scholar on the history of marriage and family:
We were suspicious of the Summer of Love and the rock ‘n’ roll culture that practically made it a duty rather than an option to say yes to sex… You started to hear guys in S.D.S. (Students for a Democratic Society) talk in hostile voices about “balling chicks.” When the women in S.D.S. stood up at a meeting and said things had to be more equal between men and women, guys yelled, “Take her off the stage and fuck her!”
Even more chilling, right? I’d like to say that times have changed in the half-century since then, but we currently have a president who bragged about sexually assaulting women and still got elected. It’s just as important now as it was in 1967 to teach our daughters to stand up and speak for themselves. Rape is not a method of paying for perceived sins, whatever they may be—dressing a certain way, partying, PERSISTING?
And thank you Peggy Lipton for shining a light on the dark side of the Summer of Love—that took some bravery. She has been a favorite since I was little. I was obsessed with The Mod Squad—it was the first time I’d seen a woman play a non-cartoony role that involved getting bad guys and having a badass job. And she was always my favorite character in Twin Peaks, in which she played the tortured Norma. I so rooted for Norma and Ed and for her to get away from her abuser, Hank. Also how sad is it that abuse is the recurring theme that neatly wraps up this post.
Photos: Publicity photo of Ali MacGraw in The Getaway, 1972; publicity photo of Peggy Lipton from the television program The Mod Squad.