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1954 Video: Socially Acceptable Behaviors for Young Women

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By Jill—Unnecesarean

In this 1954 educational film, Barbara is a teenage girl who learns from the narrator that she is a lazy piece of shit, inferior to her perfect neighbor Helen and destined to wear sweaters with stains so big that people will think she got shanked in the washroom by one of those “long-hairs.” [“Long-haired” is used in the film as a pejorative.]

Thanks to this paranoia-inducing lesson from a faceless moral policewoman, Barbara learns that “[i]f you try, really try, you can root out the poor, accidental habits and establish in their place the good habits approved by custom, accepted by society.”


I’m ready for your best sociological analysis of what this teaches us about gender roles and cultural expectations and norms in the U.S. in the 1950’s. Go!




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Reader Comments (35)

I just want to point out that if my friends found me socially unacceptable every time I had a stain on my clothes, I would have no friends.

November 2, 2010 | Registered CommenterJill

Do they live in a lighthouse? What the hell kind of creepy staircase is that??

About the rest, I just have nothing to say. Gah.

November 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

That was a blood stain...I think they are missing the significant signs of a blood thirsty serial killer amongst their midst.

November 2, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteramber

I didn't find so much wrong with this video. I think a little lesson in manners and being prepared would help a lot of people. It certainly is dated, but manners and cultural standards help people interact with ease. I know I wish I would've developed better habits when I was younger. It's more difficult now that I have my own kiddos and a home and husband.

November 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBetsy

Her eggs were cold because they are RAW!

November 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFoxyKate

Overall good rules for living - eat regular meals, get enough sleep, keep good hygiene, plan your day, get into good habits. I'm not having a real problem with this. Maybe b/c I have talked myself hoarse with my older kids.

November 2, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermichelle

Welllllll.... firstly, the overall point - of setting habits (which I believe they are using in a way that would be interchangable with the currently used word routines) helps make your life easier so you'll be less frazzled - is a good one.
What wasn't so good was the way that message was conveyed - by the narrator who was continually talking down to Barbara. Barbara may have had some organizational troubles, but none of them insurmountable.
I found the (continually repeated and thinly veiled) message that how you look is what's most important, to be tiresome & disturbing. They briefely mentioned reading, studying the arts, but all in an effort to please those around you, not in an effort to be more educated & forwarding personal growth.
As for the gender roles: brother had good habits & got to school on time, Barabara did not. Father goes to work, Mom stays home & fusses over the kids. Thankfully, this was made in the 50s. what would be interesting is to see a current film about establishing good routines to help organize your life.
Thanks for sharing; nice peek into the world of our mothers.

November 2, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkelly @kellynaturally

I really like how everyone in Helen's family enjoys the father's comments on the news - yes we women just luuuuurve to sit down and shut up to let men pontificate on current events and issues. That's what good women do!

Also, great that nobody is questioning whether or not you should compare yourself to others, or do what "custom and society" approves of. No wonder parents never did anything about bullying, they think it's a matter of course!

November 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCarla

Argh, no Youtube allowed at work!

Watching videos like this makes the 60s so much more understandable; who wouldn't want to grow out their hair, forego washing, and get stoned after sitting through that?

November 2, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteremjaybee

Hmm...I dunno, I'm a little too much like Barbara, and I'm trying to make my kids form habits & routines more like Helen's. ;)

November 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMaegan
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