The US Gender and Sexuality History since 1920

History of the United States since 1920 can be interpreted through the lens of gender and sexuality. The two are among the most significant aspects of the existence of various demographic groups of society. They explain American society as a dynamic phenomenon. Numerous and various factors led to the change.  It is through the noticeable changes in societal orientation of gender and sexuality that the development of American society can be documented.  Research on the changes that have happened since the 1920s guides analysis of the history of America based on sexuality and gender.

One of the ways in which the history of the US may be analyzed through gender and sexuality is the independence of women. Before the 1920s, women were largely tied to their husbands.  Their roles were subordinate to those of men[1]. They were viewed as the subordinates at home, whose work was delivering and raising children. For this reason, they hardly, if ever, took part in money-making activities[2]. They had to depend on their male figures who were better off in the financial aspect. The 1920s, however, presented several opportunities for change. Women in American society started earning like their male counterparts by acquiring jobs as opposed to doing home chores.

The First World War led to the participation of women in economic participation. It demanded the participation of a large percentage of men. As a result, women had to step up to fill the positions of the absent men in society. The blanks left by the men included menial jobs as well as skilled labor.  Women were previously limited to basic activities of survival[3]. Their rise in the 1920s, however, presented different circumstances. They, however, started being allowed access to credit and other financial empowerment avenues. As a result, they were empowered to make financial advancements, such as purchasing homes and cars.

Gender and sexuality may also be analyzed through the change in stereotypes. Gender stereotyping was commonplace before the 1920s. It was characterized by hard beliefs about the role of women in society and their position in the social ladder[4].  The 1920s, however, saw a change in the belief system. People started accepting women as normal human beings with similar capabilities to those of men[5].  Evidence of social mobility is in the ability of women to enjoy things that were previously attributed to masculinity, such as smoking, drinking, and sex. Society judged women less harshly after the 1920s than it did in the years preceding World War 1. It is in this era that women started acquiring opportunities that were previously reserved for men.

The newfound social mobility of women extended from behavior to clothing, and other aspects of what was considered freedom. The generation of women that existed in the 1920s was one that sought to break the longstanding chain of restricted freedom[6]. Some women took up smoking and drinking as their hobbies. One of the reasons leading to the newly-developed character was the advertisement of cigarettes as an aid against getting fat and a stress-reliever. Women also took up the habit of cutting short their hair. Previously, women were expected to grow their hair and look decent according to societal standards. The shift towards the enjoyment of freedoms previously enjoyed by women led to the equation of pleasures enjoyed by women to those enjoyed by men.

The aspect of sports may also be used in this analysis. Previously, women barely, if ever, participated in sports and games. Their household chores tied them down to the home environment as opposed to exploring talents and engaging in hobbies[7].  Men dominated games and sports in a way that even the women who participated in the same hardly gained any significant publicity. The 1920s generation, however, witnessed a change in this pattern. Women started making progress towards sporting activities. They started focusing on sporting activities as a mainstream source of income like men did. It is during this period that they started gaining publicity in the sports and games arena. For example, they formed famous women’s teams in games like baseball.

Political freedom is also a significant method of analysis of gender and sexuality. The 1920s was a turning point in the political welfare of women in America.  It was during this era that women gained the right to vote.  The 19th Amendment was enacted in 1920[8]. It prohibited the denial of voting rights based on sexual orientation.  By so doing, it boosted the confidence of women in seeking more avenues of self-expression.  They started feeling accepted in society as part of the human race and as valuable persons in society.  It was from the newly-acquired right to vote that they gained the confidence to voice their opinions as opposed to delegating the duty to men.

American society experienced several changes during and after the 1920s. The historical changes can be documented through the analysis of independence of women, their participation in mainstream economic activities, participation in sports, change in the intensity of gender stereotypes, and political freedom. The analysis explains the 1920s as a major turning point in the welfare of women in society. Documenting the history of America using gender and sexuality offers a distinction between the period before and after World War 1.

The bounds of sexuality changed in American society in the 1920s. Sexual education and engagement advanced beyond the level of marriage as commonly viewed in the past. Before the 1920s, American society followed the doctrines of the Puritans. People viewed human sexuality as an issue that was bound within the boundaries of marriage. Sex was viewed as an activity that was strictly used for procreation. Anything beyond that was assumed to be a taboo.  The advent of the 1920s led to the rise in new thoughts and beliefs about marriage.  People started seeking and receiving sexual education that was way beyond what they were familiar with in their culture. Education on what young couples should expect on the wedding night, for example, became common.