What’s Sex Got to do With… The Beatles?

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It’s the year 1962. The Bay of Pigs invasion fiasco has just ended. The Vietnam War has just begun. And the Cold War is still on going. Americans are sick and hungry. Americans crave creativity and culture. Fortunately, in this very year, the perfect remedy arrives in the United States in the form of four British boys. Love Me Do by The Beatles becomes a hit in the United States and young girls across the nation become fanatic about this new musical revolution. This becomes the start of Beatlemania. But even larger, this becomes the start of the second-wave feminist movement.

Some feminists, including Adrienne Rich who defines “compulsory heterosexuality” as the belief that heterosexuality is normal and is reinforced through male dominance, may argue that the start of this new fandom reinforces the notion that human beings are taught to performing certain gender identities: men produce music while women watch these men in awe. However, this new cultural change broke certain gender identities associated with women. It sparked the first few flames of an incredible movement that called for women’s liberation.

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So, lets compare two pictures from the 1960’s: one from a The Beatles concert and the other from the second-wave feminist movement. There are some similarities that can be drawn between these two pictures. They are of young women becoming involved in a monumental part of American history. They are of young women screaming and shouting about something that they are passionate about. And, they are of young women stepping outside of their expected gender identities.

The Beatles created a rush of excitement for America’s youth. Young teenage girls who had not fully reached adulthood yet were screaming at the top of their lungs for their music they loved. By doing so, they were breaking out of these very same gender identities that Adrienne Rich criticizes. These young girls were ripping and tearing apart the normalized belief that they had to be “good”. These young girls were no longer behaving as “good” girls. They were screaming, crying, dancing, and relating to each other in large groups of other girls who were just as hysterical as they were. These girls proved that they no longer wanted to be oppressed into this image of being “good”. In a sense, these young girls were protesting against sexual oppressiveness. Through this cultural movement, women were given the opportunity to band together and express their repressed sexuality. It’s no coincidence that Beatlemania and the second-wave feminist movement occurred around the same time. Both of these musical and social movements empowered each other and created a new, distinct American culture. If it weren’t for the Beatles, would the second-wave feminist movement have been as successful in challenging oppressed female sexuality?

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