The Flappers Subculture of the 1920s

Sophomore (College 2nd year) ・English ・MLA ・3 Sources

Prior to WWI, women were forced to stay at home and do their chores, while men were able to go out, get taught, and get good work. When it came to dressing and behavior, the woman was supposed to carry herself in a certain manner. Following World War I, the flapper subculture of the 1920s emerged, in which women had a lot of expressions. Women smoked, listened to music, wore short dresses, and even rode motorcycles, many of which were frowned upon in the pre-First World War period. This paper investigates the impact of gendered subculture assumptions. The role of women changed with the emergence of the 1920’s flappers’ subculture; the women could get jobs outside the home and generate income. Previously, only men were allowed to do jobs out of the home. The women were to stay indoors and look after the children. Such expectations could not work efficiently with the tough economic times during the great depression; the women too used to work for long hours to supplement the men’s income. Even though the home and children needed care, forcing the women to stay at home all day was more of slavery.

As opposed to the old age women, the 1920’s flapper women were intelligent and attended schools to get knowledge like the men. By 1928 more women than men were getting enrolled into colleges to acquire higher education in Columbia University (Kalagher 26). Earlier women attended colleges where there were no male students and ended up being teachers or nurses (Women in the 1920s). Having the women attend colleges ensured equal intellectual growth in the society and created equal chances of getting employment. The women’s impact in the workplace was respected. No jobs are specifically for men; even women can do them.

The women of the 1920’s flapper subculture were allowed to vote. The choice of which leaders to elect was previously left to the men. The right to vote allowed the women also to vie for elective seats. The women came to understand that the political decisions had significant influence in their daily lives. They have continued contending for equality and enjoying same rights as men have in the different aspects of the society. Through involvement of women in the political decision-making, they have been able to express their needs and propose laws that protect their rights (NDHS)

The women were encouraged to indulge in nightlife by Jazz music. The 1920’s flapper woman listened to and danced Jazz music. They danced the new dancing styles that characterized the young lady of that time (National Humanities Center). The music also influenced the dress code of the women; they preferred short hair and short loose dresses. The old tradition required women to wear long dresses and above the knee skirts. The women had their own style and way of dressing, but the society was expecting a different decent trend. Perhaps the choice of women’s attire should have been left to them.

Jazz music was a complete liberation to the women; it lured them to the clubs and vibrant night parties. They did not find it hard to sustain the addiction of going to clubs since they had money to cater for the expenses. The partying and clubbing lured those involved to engage in drinking, smoking and sexual activities. They engaged in such activities violating their tradition and elders. Women who smoked and drank found themselves engaging in irresponsible sexual activities, which could be considered as prostitution. The act of prostitution was evil and unaccepted in the society.

The flappers spoiled their reputation in the society and were considered lazy pleasure seekers who were only concerned with partying and drinking. They could not use their intelligence to make informed decisions. The women over indulged in irresponsible behavior and forgot their role of getting married and having children. They had fashions not dictated by others, a common fashion style, behavior, and trendy looks which consumed most of their money. This trend was doing more harm than good to the women involved and the society as a whole (Peacock 58).

The 1920’s flapper woman went to cinemas and movies where they saw new trends that influenced their traditions. They could practice some the trends they watched in the movies, and because of the financial freedom, they did not require the involvement of men. The women became movie stars and actresses. They could drive cars and ride bicycles. Since the women were now independent, some preferred staying alone because they did not want to get married. The previous tradition forced them into marriage because they could not fend for themselves. The society was expecting them to give birth and look after the babies with help from men.

The 1920’s flapper women were smart and liberated; they had the right to embrace their unique lifestyle and traditions. Critics argued that the flapper was an admirable woman who was capable of molding her own life. The previous generation was both sexually and intellectually suppressed, but the flapper was free to express her sexuality and informed views (NDHS). This emerging freedom was a good thing in their opinion; the old traditions could no longer hold them back. The women were entitled to full equality as the men in every aspect of the society. The flapper women had the right to be sexually assertive before they get married.

Despite having the freedom from the tradition, some behavior encouraged immorality and irresponsibility among the women and the youth. Substance abuse and sex became rampant in clubs. The expectations of the previous generation were good in that they molded the women to become responsible and morally upright. The women knew their role in the society and behaved accordingly. What the society expected of them was being a home keeper. As time progressed these expectations became obsolete and the woman could be allowed to do what men do; this is the woman of the flapper sub-culture. Not all her deeds were acceptable in the society, but that was what freedom had to offer.

The adherence to major factors of the flapper subculture is useful since it has facilitated equality in the treatment of women as well as enabling women to make personal choices rather than being controlled by the traditional values that defined the role of women in the community. Further, the adherence has assisted in redefining the role of women in the society, which has played a crucial in facilitating the participation of women in the economy through participating in the formal employment sectors. It has also helped in representing the women in managerial positions at their workplaces and even in various organizations in the society.

Works Cited

"Women in the 1920s."Women in the 1920s | NCpedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Mar. 2017.

National Humanities Center. “Becoming Modern: America in the 1920s”. 2012, Retrieved on March 10, 2017, from

Kalagher, Katherine D. (2014). The Invasion of the Flapper: How the College Women of the 1920s Transformed the American College Experience. Print Accessed 22 Mar. 2017.

Peacock, John. Fashion Source book: 1920s. Thames and Hudson, 1997

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