Religious overtones within the culture continued to place restrictions on individuals during the 1960s. This is exemplified through the fact that although the contraceptive pill and abortion were made legal, social taboo still prevented most women from accessing these things. My Grandmother was a social worker who worked predominantly with immigrant women. She recalled that amongst her clients and even more surprisingly amongst her colleagues (educated supposedly liberated) there was not a single woman who openly admitted they were on the pill.
This account confirms that authentic social change was not realised within the 1960s, though the groundwork for it was laid. Thus the narrative that the 1960s were a period in which many members of the culture actively sought and achieved social change cannot be fully substantiated. Having conducted a conversation with my Grandparents, both of whom experienced the 1960s, it has come to my attention that perhaps those of my generation impart a great deal of wishful thinking into our understanding of the cultural narratives relating to the 1960s. We have grown up in a culture that is defined by the ideology of individualism.
The idea of a time in which community, brotherhood and solidarity were experienced amongst all people, registers strongly with many young people. The 1960s being an era of “community, brotherhood and solidarity” (and success against tyranny! ) is the dominant cultural narrative amongst my own friends, and it is perpetuated by the majority of representations which circulate within our culture today. The conversation I had with a group of peers revealed that movies such as Forest Gump and Austin Powers were the primary informants of our understandings about the 1960s.
Forest Gump portrays the 1960s to be an era marked by protest and change. Austin Powers comically represents the 1960s as an era of free love and hedonism through allusions to sex, drugs and rock and roll. Moreover, it represents independent women who have the freedom to wear what they want and go to bed with whom they please. As young women in the 21st century, our emotional investments in these narratives are very strong. We want to believe that the 1960s were a period of successful social activism, especially for women.
However, when analyzing cultural narratives our desires uncover little in the way of objectivism. Moreover, any narrative which “claims” to be representative of the entire culture is certainly not objective. Such narratives are selective and privilege one group (usually the dominant) within the culture over others. The narrative that “all members of the culture were socially active” does not represent the experience of those who were either members of minority groups, or members of groups that were marginalised at the time.
South Asian immigrants in the U. K and Irish-Roman Catholics in Australia are examples of such groups. Within the conversations I had, these groups were represented respectively by my Grandparents and the parents of my friends. My Grandparents remember that it was only by watching the six o’clock news that they had any idea about of the protests which were occurring around them. Likewise, the parents of my friends were not particularly interested in the activism movements of the day.
Having said this, I myself struggle to recall any representations of these groups from the 1960s. Representations which circulate today are merely those of the dominant and therefore it is not surprising that the assumption that all members of the culture were socially active has been able to perpetuate. Therefore, the 1960s are an era which demonstrates that narratives which represent the experience of the dominant are the ones which come to be regarded as the truth, even by those who are technically members of the minority, such as myself.
The conversations I conducted revealed that in terms of knowledge about factual events, such as the legalisation of the contraceptive pill and abortion, there were no disparities between the narratives of my Grandparents or peers. However, in terms of the understanding of cultural reaction to these events, there was a great divide in the narratives. My peers and I held highly the highly romanticised view that the pill and abortion were legalised and “all was well.
” Our Parents’ and Grandparents’ reality revealed a different “truth” and altered our own perception of these events. Thus cultural narratives are not fixed in the time which they originate from or pertain to. Rather, narratives and thereby meanings are continually being made according to who the narrative is received by and their personal investments. Hence the idea that a “master narrative” or a completely objective narrative exists, is ludicrous. All narratives are subjective, as all narratives tell only one version of the truth.