Janis Joplin: The Hippie Blues Singer as Feminist Heroine
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The women’s liberation era was treacherous for all heroes and heroines. The 1960s and 1970s shook up culture more than politics, and the cultural terrain moved even more quickly than social foundations. Amidst this rapid change, young people had difficulty finding heroes and models in the traditional fields of politics, business, and sports. The new 1960s heroes were increasingly activists or entertainers, especially musicians and singers. Because American women had seldom found heroines in politics and business, and precious few in sports, the change seemed less revolutionary for the new aggressive feminist heroines.
Most feminist heroines were activists, yet some were just actors or singers. Women entertainers had always been viewed frivolously, and women activists had usually been ladylike. Thus the new female heroines were more revolutionary in their way than Abbie Hoffman or Bob Dylan. Whether activist or artist, they were all cultural models. How they lived and what they did often was more important than what they said. They were models of life and not exponents of ideology. In short, they were countercultural heroines.