About Respect

Respect Study Guide

Table of Contents:

Background | Social Conditions During the Decades | Discussion Questions | Worksheets & Activities
References | Appendices

Worksheets and Activities - Before the show

  1. Have students watch one or more of the following movies:
    1. A League of Their Own (The story of the Girls Baseball League that began during WWII)
    2. Iron Jawed Angels (struggles towards female suffrage)
    3. One Woman, One Vote (72 years of the women's suffrage movement
    4. Not for Ourselves Alone (women's struggle towards suffrage and equality)
    5. Love Me or Leave Me (The Story of Ruth Etting)
    6. The Triangle Factory Fire Scandal (about the 1911 fire at the mostly-female employed factory, where working conditions were so bad many women perished)
    7. Mildred Pierce (a 1945 career woman ended up with terrible marriages and a troubled daughter—the price to pay for success)
    8. Standing on my Sisters' Shoulders (the story of the Civil Rights Movement through the eyes of some courageous women)
    9. Norma Rae (a woman trying to unionize a garment factory)
    10. The Devil Wears Prada (a tough business woman triumphs. This movie shows a female leader who is cold, decisive and competitive. She has none of the so-called feminine qualities of caring, inclusing or flat hierarchy. Students can be asked if her behaviors would be seen differently if whe were a man.)
  2. Have students visit these websites to learn more about women's history in the past 100-150 years.
    1. Women's History
    2. National Women's History Project
    3. Biography: Women's History
    4. NYPR Archives Celebrates Women's History Month
  3. Have students identify five songs, either current or oldies, that express something about themselves, or write one of their own. The lyrics should relate to how they see themselves, some situations in their lives, etc. Bring the students together for discussion. Either put them in groups of 3-4 for 30 minutes and have them talk about what issues were common in the group and then make a presentation to the larger group, or hold a discussion with the whole group, asking students to talk briefly about their songs.
  4. Have students interview their older family members, asking them about their experiences as husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, volunteers, friends, employees. What stories can they tell? What are their favorite songs? Talk about when and how things might have changed? How is it different for the younger generations of women? Ask students to take good notes and either write a paper or be prepared to share portions of the interview in class.

After the show - #1 Worksheet on Underlying Assumptions
RESPECT: A musical history of women

At the beginning of the 20th century, women could not vote, they were barred from many professions, and married women had few rights. During the century, women gained fairer legal status and also went through their own journey from dependence to independence. Women went from being property of their husbands to becoming presidents of corporations.

RESPECT uses popular music to trace the progression of women during this period. Top-40 music, because it sold more records, is an indication of how the culture viewed women during the various decades. Research has shown that expectations impact outcomes. Therefore, the expectations society placed on women has influenced women's development. Top-40 popular music is one way to explore those expectations.

For most of the century, women's voice in popular music was one of the Compliant dependent. My man, I love him so; he beats me too, what can I do? I want a cave man who gets angry at me, and I need him desperately, because my highest goal is to be Bobby's girl. Anyway, a woman's place in this world is under some man's thumb. So, I'll stand by my man and if he leaves me, it's the end of the world.

The tune changed in the sixties. Women were coming out of denial, just as they were entering the workplace in larger numbers and starting to move out of the clerical pink ghetto. Legislation to undo past wrongs was passed: Equal Pay Act, EEOC, and Title IX for equality in school athletics. You don't own me was the angry plea of the Rebel, crying out for independence, followed by the assertion: I am woman hear me roar. And if he leaves? Well, I will survive. It's the beginning of a strong woman's voice in popular music, but it was sung with anger, from the accumulation of pain and injustices through the ages.

By the early eighties, denial had dropped. The bubble was burst and cynicism took over. Women learned there were no Prince Charmings. Princess Di helped us see that. So, what's love got to do with it, anyway? sang the Cynic.

As women finally started moving into higher levels of management in the late 80s and 90s and they were starting their own businesses in record numbers, popular music followed this trend. Songs crooned that I learned to depend on me, and to look for the hero within myself. It was a new era and the voice of women in popular music was that of mature and responsible adult. Able to take care of herself. To be alone or in a relationship, but as an equal partner. With new opportunities and Wide Open Spaces to live life. The progression is shown below with this developmental model:

Era Archetype Icon
1900-early 60s Compliant (dependent child)

Jezebel (seductress or manipulator


Mary Pickford’s film roles (teens and 20s)
Harriet Nelson (50s)
Greta Garbo (20’s films)
Betty Boop (30s)
Marilyn Monroe
Late 60s to early 70s Rebel (rebellious teenager) Janis Joplin
70s to 80s Wonder Woman (warrior young adult)
Cynic (young adult)
TV’s Wonder Woman
Bionic Woman
Princess Diana
Tina Turner
90s Lilith (responsible adult) Oprah Winfrey


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