Elvis Was a Feminist

By Viets, Elaine | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), September 8, 1996 | Go to article overview

Elvis Was a Feminist


Viets, Elaine, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


Dyed hair, diet pills and flashy duds are no bar to being a feminist.

Consider that famous feminist, Elvis Presley.

"The association of Elvis with the women's movement, the revolution, ought to upgrade our estimate of his value in the history of our culture a in our history," said Professor Joel Williamson of the University of North Carolina. Elvis helped liberate Southern white women, the professor said. He explained how in a 26-page paper delivered at the Second Annual International Conference on Elvis Presley at the University of Mississippi. Professor Joel is no crank. He's a serious scholar. Maybe that's why he makes an Elvis concert sound so high-toned. Those screaming girls who tried to rip off Elvis' clothes were liberating themselves, he said. They took control when they stampeded at the Gator Bowl, treed Elvis in a men's room shower and took his belt and boots. "They were rather literally seizing power from established and resisting authorities, and their performances a their achievements a ought to be recognized as an early chapter in the history of the women's revolution in mid-20th-century America. It is highly significant that it happened in a region, in a part of the nation, that was furtherest back in the women's movement at large, a Victorian enclave in the modern world." He means the Deep South. Professor Joel said " . . . white Southerners, in imagining black people as highly sexual creatures and themselves as highly cerebral, denied their own sexual nature in some considerable degree and consequently suffered a measure of frustration in sexual relations. "The Elvis phenomenon represents a substantial effort to reclaim that part of themselves." He accurately describes Elvis' "first great audience" a the sheltered white Southern girls born about 1940. "No lusting by women allowed; no sex outside of marriage; no overt expression of admiration for and appetite for the male body; no overt expression of themselves as sexual creatures. Southern women a and Southe rn girls a were reared to exalt the spirit, if need be, at the expense of the body. …

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