Bra Burning (1968)

Fred Shapiro fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU
Wed Mar 12 15:31:17 UTC 2003

On Wed, 12 Mar 2003, Laurence Horn wrote:

> "Pared down" is certainly a value-neutral label for this particular
> truncation.  At the time it was widely recognized that the short form
> was a signal of dismissiveness, and that some male leftists (and some
> male non-leftists) who used it would not have been caught dead
> referring to the National Liberation Front in Vietnam or various
> black liberation movements then extant as "lib".

Exactly right.  Male leftist Mark Rudd is quoted as referring to his
girlfriend going to "chick lib" class, I believe.  But "lib" was taken
over by the media and the dismissiveness came most forcefully from the
media.  Ultimately, the term "women's liberation" itself was stigmatized,
and fell out of use, because of the derision directed at "women's lib," as
"male chauvinism"  was stigmatized because of the derision directed at the
term "male chauvinist pig."  On a nonlinguistic level, bra-burning, which
is regarded as pretty much a myth by chroniclers of the women's movement,
served to stigmatize feminism as a whole.

Again, I discuss all this in detail in my 1985 American Speech article,
"Historical Notes on the Vocabulary of the Women's Movement."

Fred Shapiro

Fred R. Shapiro                             Editor
Associate Librarian for Collections and     YALE DICTIONARY OF QUOTATIONS
  Access and Lecturer in Legal Research     Yale University Press,
Yale Law School                             forthcoming
e-mail: fred.shapiro at     

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