✊🏿6️⃣0️⃣ THE 60s¶
The 1960s was an era of growth: women found their voices, the fashion industry became more colorful than ever, and music changed in ways nobody could have imagined. It was a time of innovation - and these are the things 1960s Americans just couldn’t live without.
Prior to 1960, the most effective and popular form of birth control was the condom. Not only did they prevent pregnancy, but they also minimized the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases. Still, condoms could be inconvenient, and would sometimes break or come off. Luckily, a new form of contraception was right around the corner.
When the FDA approved a drug to ease menstrual problems in 1957, it was never intended to be a contraceptive. But it actually did prevent pregnancy, causing an awful lot of women to suddenly report severe menstrual disorders. Known as Enovid, by 1960, the FDA had finally recognized the drug as an effective way to stave off pregnancy. It quickly became commonly called “the Pill.” Within two years, 1.2 million women were taking the Pill as it exploded in popularity.
But the drug remained controversial, largely due to the Pope’s views on family - and the reactionary groups who charged Planned Parenthood with, in their words, “committing genocide.”
For those reasons, the Pill remained illegal in several states even as it rose to become the most popular method of birth control. And then, in 1969, Barbara Seaman’s book, The Doctor’s Case Against the Pill, revealed such risky side effects as blood clots, heart attacks, strokes, weight gain, depression, and even “loss of libido” - which kind of defeated the purpose of the Pill in the first place.
Enovid was discontinued in the U.S. in 1988, and today has been replaced by a number of more effective contraceptive pills.
Many, many different musical genres can trace their roots to the 1960s. For one, there’s the British Invasion, which revolutionized rock thanks to the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and the Who. But the decade also saw a huge rise in the popularity of a number of other genres, including Motown, psychedelic rock, and folk. Put them all together and they made for one groovy scene.
Valium, which made its first appearance in 1963, was prescribed to manage anxiety – and quickly became one of the most commonly prescribed drugs of all time. Drug manufacturers had actually been researching anti-anxiety pills since the late 1800s, but many of them contained highly addictive opiates. It was hoped that Valium would change that.
Spoiler alert: it didn’t.
Even so, big pharma continued marketing it as safe, and falsely insisted it was nearly impossible to overdose on valium. Over a 10-year period, the drug was prescribed to 59.3 million patients. The primary target market was women, many who were harried housewives assigned to domestic duties at home.
Wearing tie-dye became hip among the younger generations, who became a kind of spiritual extension of writer Jack Kerouac’s beat generation of the 50’s. The only real difference was that, rather than beatniks, these people were known as hippies. “We’re doing the hardest work in the world, because we’re growing. We’re trying to change.”
Composed mostly of young people, hippies fought the suppression of society by developing their own culture and way of living. It was an attempt to become a kinder generation, with many going vegetarian, using natural methods for medicine, practicing free love - and, of course, doing a whole lot of drugs.
Hippies came from white middle-class families and grew up in suburbs, which were very white. So were crowds at Woodstock and other rock festivals. They had little experience with people of other races. Hippies made African-Americans uncomfortable. While hippies sneered at success, poor young blacks had to fight to join the mainstream that freaks rejected.
Young whites found their parents to be gluttons of consumer culture. Hippies saw that consumption failed to make their parents happy, but they did not understand that their parents were reacting to deprivation between 1929 and 1945. Young blacks craved consumer goods as signs of success and acceptance.
Hippies had a moral vision of the world, and so do the Star Wars films. Luke Skywalker is a technologically empowered individual living an authentic life defending his community. J. K. Rowling builds on these themes in the Harry Potter books, but she adds fantasy, mysticism and the supernatural. These are counterculture values. Freaks felt that mainstream society had gone awry because it was too scientific and too rational. At times, hippies argued, feelings were more important. Rowling entreats the reader to trust in feelings.
"If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there would be peace."
~ John Lennon