The 1960s were a time of cultural and social upheaval, and the etiquette waters could be somewhat challenging to navigate. Proper, published etiquette rules were not always in step with the reality of home and office environments.
The decade rode in on a wave of spirited cheer and Camelot, but by the end, many considered the nation to be in mourning with no hope of peace. This tumult wreaked havoc on social understanding, but it also allowed many people to have opportunities that had long been closed off to them.
Women were embracing their education & career opportunities while at the same time striving to support home life successfully. In America, one of the questions of etiquette at this time began to involve equality: should men treat women as equals or, as in the past, should men serve as protectors?
Since etiquette is not only about how others perceive us, it is also about how we perceive ourselves, other questions addressed the types of voices women wanted to have, both in society and professionally. Many remembrances of the 1960s focus on the radical elements, on both sides, or they interpret everything in a text such as The Feminine Mystique (1963) in strict literal terms. But during those years, society as a whole was learning how social structure could fit into a changing landscape.
Whereas etiquette in the past was constricting, the 1960s launched the modern era of etiquette. We can embrace what we love from the past, enjoy the present, and explore all of the new opportunities constantly opening to us. Through it all, we can capture what is important to us and modernize the elements that are best for our lives.
Today, we can honor the 1960s by appreciating the many challenges that people faced and embracing the hard-earned wisdom. Social norms will always be changing, and yet we can always behave with grace. And we never, ever, need to slap a kindness in the face to stand on principle. Perhaps Joan Baez said it best, “If I have a baby in one arm and a guitar in the other, I’m not going to say no to a man who offers to open the door for me.”
Let us all respect the memory of both Emily Post AND Betty Friedan. Modern society is not an either/or proposition. Let us be polite AND empowered, humble AND confident, gracious AND strong. To answer the question posed above about the evolution of etiquette, let us all be equals & protectors of each other. Then, we will have truly learned from the past.
Written by The Glamorous Housewife Etiquette Expert: Sarah Carey