Tag Archives: social change

The sixties

I just visited an amazing exhibition in Montreal at La Musee de Beaux Arts, entitled ‘Revolution’, all about the sixties, when I was a teenager. The revolution in question was the change in art, ideas, politics, power, dress, music etc etc that occurred in the late 1960s, which culminated in the 1968 student riots, Expo ’67 in Montreal and Woodstock.

Many people today, especially young people it seems, criticise the sixties as a time of fantasy, forgetting what life had been like before the so-called swinging sixties. Before the sixties, (male) homosexuality was illegal, women were second class citizens, treated as appendages of their husbands especially in regard to finance, people were hanged for murder, computers and the internet were non-existent, books, plays and films were rigorously censored and non-white people were subject to overt harassment and discrimination. Who can forget the prosecution of the publishers of Lady Chatterly’s Lover – the book the prosecutor said you would not want your wives or servants to read! Or the shocking Tory campaign in Smethick in 1964, when the Labour MP Patrick Gordon-Walker lost his seat to a campaign of ‘If you want a ******* for a neighbour, vote Labour’.

During the sixties, homosexual acts between consenting adults in private were made legal, the Race Relations Act outlawed much discrimination based on colour or race, hanging was abolished, abortion was legalised up to 28 weeks and the voting age was reduced to 18.

The sixties saw an unprecedented revolution in fashion in which the UK through designers like Mary Quant and the Carnaby Street shops changed clothing forever from the somewhat staid post war styles to the modern ever changing fashions of today. The Women’s Liberation Movement started demanding equal rights for women and the end of patriarchy, which, in Britain, eventually led to the Sexual Discrimination Act and the Equal Pay Act in 1975.

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