Women and Gender Seminar: Amanda Littauer, Northern Illinois University and Elizabeth Matelski, Loyola University Chicago

Women and Gender Seminar
Friday, April 29, 2011

3:00 pm to 5:00 pm

Desire, Sexuality, and the Cold War Body

“Someone to Love: Girls, Adolescence, and Same-Sex Desire in the 1950’s United States
Amanda H. Littauer, Northern Illinois University

While mid-century social forces and institutions isolated and punished same-sex desiring girls and women, at least some such youth recall having experienced the 1950s as dynamic, navigable, and even, at times, pleasurable. Discerning, naming, and acting on desire for other girls, searching for support from heterosexual and lesbian adults, mining fictional and social scientific texts for recognition, running away from repressive homes, finding a way into lesbians bars, and crafting a sense of lesbian identity, same-sex desiring teens and young women struggled to create a place for themselves in postwar society.

“We Must, We Must, We Must Increase Our Bust: Uplifting the Feminine Breast in Postwar America, 1945-1970
Elizabeth M. Matelski, Loyola University Chicago

The decades following World War II were a time of “mammary madness.” From buxom Hollywood starlets, to men’s pin-up magazines, to the sophistication of augmentation surgeries, breasts reigned supreme. This project traces the rise and fall in the popularity of curvaceous, large-breasted women in postwar America and its social and economic impact. Despite the esteem for androgynous fashion models like Twiggy in the late 1960s, men continued to eroticize large-breasted women.  With their cartoon proportions, sexual abandon, and child-like innocence, “sweater girls” like Marilyn Monroe and her counterparts, was an attempt to repress women’s growing assertiveness in the postwar world.

Commentator: Lane Fenrich, Northwestern University