Macho Catchphrases and Ascendant Feminism, 1971-1984

Hollywood circa the 1970s and early 80s spewed forth a slew of macho catchphrases. Here are a few examples; you’ll recognize every testosterone-laden specimen:

  • “You’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya, punk?” – Harry Callahan, Dirty Harry, 1971
  • “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse.” – Vito Corleone, The Godfather, 1972.
  • “You talkin’ to me?” – Travis Bickle, Taxi Driver, 1976
  • “Go ahead, make my day.” – Harry Callahan (again), Sudden Impact, 1983.
  • “Say hello to my little friend.” – Tony Montana, Scarface, 1983.
  • “I’ll be back.” – The Terminator, Terminator, 1984.

Swashbucklers, cowboys, and tough guys had been Hollywood heroes for decades: Errol Flynn and John Wayne’s stock of masculine icons come to mind. Many even uttered catchy one-liners that became cultural mainstays, i.e. Rhett Butler’s “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.” And some of said phrases were as aggressive as those above, such as The Honeymooners’ Ralph Kramden’s persistent threat of domestic abuse, “One of these days, POW!!! Right in the kisser!” But the Me Decade saw an unprecedented ejaculation of terse, violence-tinged retorts.

What drove this trend toward curt fury? Was this celluloid rage a reflection of a real-world torn asunder by Vietnam-era chaos? Did jaded, shock-inured audiences just need to be jarred and awed? Was it that Hollywood writers of that era were informed by television, a pithier media than the radio that nursed earlier scribes?  All are plausible possibilities. Yet it’s just as likely these macho one-liners were a reply to the ascendant women’s liberation movement.

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International Women’s Day’s Labor Origins

Happy International Women’s Day!

Today, as we celebrate women around the world, let’s not forget that today’s commemoration owes its existence to the labor movement: The first unofficial women’s march associated with this date was organized by the Socialist Party of America, in 1909. But it wasn’t a “women’s” day back then. It was “National Woman’s Day,” which is quite a bit different. Appearing at the event, activist Charlotte Perkins Gilman declared that day, “It is true that a woman’s duty is centered in her home and motherhood but home should mean the whole country and not be confined to three or four rooms of a city or a state.” And that was progressive for the time.

Gilman’s kitchen-centric thinking aside, female activists from The International Conference for Women organized a similar event celebrating working women in 1910, in Copenhagen, and one year later the event grew to one million working women in four nations across Europe, but on March 19, not the 8th.

But the date March 8th didn’t gain importance again until 1917, the year Russian women walked off their jobs as part of the February Revolution that ended Czar Nicholas II’s reign, ushering in the Soviet era. From that point on, every year, Russian women were celebrated for their role in enacting the revolutionary cause.

But Women’s Day was thus largely relegated to Soviet Russia for years; though it spread into China and other communist nations over the decades, IWD didn’t go global until the United Nations adopted it as an annual event in 1975, the international body’s so-called “year of the woman,” part of the broader “decade of the woman.”

From the UN’s contemporary documents on the female-centric initiative:

The World Plan of Action consisted of recommendations for national and international action, including economic, legal, social, administrative and educational measures. The Plan suggested, inter alia, that Governments set up national machinery to promote and oversee their national efforts to advance the status of women…

Looking at the socioeconomic and cultural landscape of today, in particular the persistent gender wage gap and very real need for the #metoo and Time’s Up movements, it’s clear that the “year” and the “decade” of women weren’t successful.

The mission won’t be truly accomplished until every day is “women’s day,” that is, free of harassment, rape, degradation and economic inequality, and the mission won’t be accomplished until every “Women’s Day” is a day celebrating victories won, not fighting for what should have been a reality decades ago.