Re: stop blaming sixties

Rachel Barrett Martin (
Fri, 14 Jun 1996 15:24:16 -0400

Paula Friedman makes an important point about the need to

>avoid the conservative cliches about the time's drugs/"free love" (so
>much older a term)/etc.

As a historian, however, I see the "consequences/effects of
the period" as something more complex than the "liberation" PF (and many
other women) experienced.

For example, Lisa Mason's sci-fi/history _Summer of Love_ sketches out an
interesting polarity between the classed experiences of women who travelled to
the Haight Ashbury. The daughter of the dentist finds a protector who helps her
obtain an abortion when the hip Legal Aid folks are more interested in working
on drug charges than challenging the legality of hospital abortion committees
(stuff Solinger has _also_ worked on, see her latest book 'The Abortionist').
On the other hand, Starbright's (nee Susan) friend Penny Lane (nee Nance), "from
the other side of the tracks," ends up prostituting herself, gets a pretty
intense case of the clap, and then dies in a fire at the "Crystal Palace,"
semi-innocent casualty of a drug burn by her former (male) lover. Starbright
took money out of her savings to travel to the Haight; Penny Lane hitched.
Starbright's parents flew out to bring her home; Penny Lane's stepfather had
been raping her.

Granted, its a novel and the characters take on some stock qualities of a larger
range of experiences. But what passed for sexual liberation in the Haight, in
the New Left, in various countercultures, etc. seems to have favored a
contradictory construction of "liberated" sexuality. Feminist critiques about
the "so-called" Sexual Revolution abound (and I'll send folks cites if you're
interested). One of the more recent ones a book review by Iris Marion Young of
Linda Singer's _Erotic Welfare_, links the expansive experiences Paula cited to
a thoughtful consideration of HIV incidence (what Singer's (philosophy) book is

Maybe it was her, or else someone on this list (Paula?), who reflected on the
small window of opportunity for "free" sexual behavior -- between anti-VD
antibiotics and the recognition of stubbornly persistent STDs. But as a
28-yr-old woman, I have to say that whatever pundits reflect on about my
"cohort," juxtaposing the vestiges of "Free Love" against college-age youths
sexual practices in the 1980s and 1990s -- and here I'm trying to link white
middle-class to white middle-class cohorts -- will need to take into account the
number of women with pre-cancerous cervical lesions from venereal warts, not to
mention herpes simplex or HIV infections. It's not so easily separated into a
polarity between conservative and progressive camps. The Pill may guard us
against unwanted conceptions 99.8% of the time, but it doesn't stop disease.

Feminist health activists began to recognize the contradictions in the late
1960s -- the same activists neo-cons might vilify for their pro-abortion
politics and underground referrals. Should we call them "conservative" for
agitating that people should pay attention to sexual "consequences"???

Rachel Barrett Martin
Department of History/Program in Composition
University of Minnesota

.. Once in a while you get shown the light
in the strangest of places if you look at it right ...


Subject: Re: stop blaming sixties

Hello all...
First I would like to introduce myself. My name is Jenny
Pond-Muckerman and I am currently residing in Az...where it is now...VERY
hot! In any event, I was there & involved in a great deal of what was
occurring in the period of time we now refer to as the 60's. I was even
at the first Woodstock and spent many an evening at the Fillmore East in
N.Y.C. I was active in many movements that were a part of that time..and
have stayed politically active. Anyway..I often end up in debates with
friends of mine who like to "blame" what is occurring in the United
States..(especially, issues having to do with victim's rights, etc..) on
what transpired in the 60's. We "liberals" are apparently being held
reponsible for quite a bit these days! But in retro- spect we will never
know how society would have turned out...without the existence of the
60's! For all we know the same issues could be on the front pages of the
newspapers...People love to try & pin the blame on something.. They feel
better when they do that. It's because of so & so..or due to such and
such. The important thing is to recognize that looking back and blaming
another generation...WILL NOT help this one survive! What we need to do
is to focus on the current problems in this society...and to try and deal
with those. We will never change what happened with Hiroshima, the
concentration camps of WW II...the McCarthy era..the assassinations...the
birth of Rock n' Roll.. Vietnam, etc..etc. We can look at ALL of those
incidents and make arguments for what is happening today...But in
essence..It ain't a gonna change a thing. For all anyone knows..maybe
things would have been worse without the inter- jection of the 60's...:-)

Thanks for listening..