This is another of those 10-star books.
My original review, on the transfer from GR, is here. But it's not much.
When I went back to college in August of 1998, this was one of the texts for one of my classes. According to the syllabus, we were assigned to read a couple of chapters. Something about the book grabbed my attention, however, and I began to read it from the beginning.
Maybe it was the picture on the cover. I remembered going to see the movie Where the Boys Are and I remembered being confused by it at the time. But as soon as I started reading Susan J. Douglas's book, I was hooked. I read almost non-stop.
Douglas is a bit younger than I, just as Hillary Rodham is a bit older. We all grew up in that same era, however, and this was our reality.
I know where I was in, say, 1964, and I still have the diaries written in spiral notebooks to back me up. I was never a cheerleader, and couldn't afford the latest fashions, but I absolutely did sleep on my face when my hair was in rollers.
My acquaintances today who are half a generation -- ten years, roughly -- older than I didn't go through the maelstrom we boomers did. Virtually all of them were married and raising children by the time The Sixties hit. They had come of age before the explosion of television, of rock 'n' roll, of The Pill.
My acquaintances today who are half a generation -- ten years, roughly -- younger than I reaped the benefits of the maelstrom. They came of age when birth control was available and acceptable, when the idea of having a career instead of a family was not shocking.
But there is still something somehow unique about those of us born in that relatively narrow window of (roughly) 1946 to 1956, and Susan J. Douglas captures it perfectly.
We were the first generation raised on television, and it had a profound effect on us. Not just the comedy shows like I Love Lucy (which I personally hated because I thought Lucy was so fucking stupid) that seemed to remain a hallmark of the so-called Golden Age, but the news shows that brought events into the living room, everything from Hollywood fires to political campaigns to The War. Television also gave us commercials that made us much more consumerist than adults who had read advertisements in newspapers and magazines. Sponsors of children's shows could target us so much younger, and for so many more years.
I wrote in my earlier review that I needed then to reread the book. I've reread parts of it many times over the years, and maybe a full reread is in order. Then again, I actually lived through those times. I still have the diaries, though there are few extant photos of the teen-aged me. (And yes, the diarist was obsessed with boys and sex.)
Maybe that's why I tend to be a little less of an absolutist when it comes to girls and women and boys and men and sex. Oh, not about whether no means no. It does, and that is an absolute, even if it wasn't always taken that way. Nor do I deny that there is such a thing as rape culture; there is, and it isn't yet going away. But the ambiguities and double standards that girls grew up with in the 1950s and 1960s were the same ambiguities and double standards that boys grew up with then and which still pervade our culture to this day.
We all got mixed messages. Some of us tried to sort them out. But none of us escaped the culture that was all around us, and few of us were ever given the tools to analyze it, deconstruct it, resist it. Is it worse today? Probably. And it's not going to get better if we don't understand how we got where we are today. This book is a good starting point.