I Don’t Mind Living In A Man’s World Just As Long As I Can Be A Woman In It Meaning

Marilyn Monroe Illustration
Marilyn Monroe was a legendary figure in her time and well beyond. She was never the wiser than when she uttered the famous line "I Don't Mind Living In A Man's World Just As Long As I Can Be A Woman In It." Though the quote was most certainly a product of the times, which we'll get to, the quote nonetheless has resonated throughout generations of young women in America and elsewhere.

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We’ll get to who Marilyn Monroe was, the backdrop of the quote, and its underlying significance in the women’s movement, but first, as is protocol, let’s give the full quote as it was uttered:

I Don’t Mind Living In A Man’s World Just As Long As I Can Be A Woman In It.

Marilyn Monroe

Who Was Marilyn Monroe?

Though it might be sacrilege to some just to think, let alone ask such a question, Marilyn Monroe was ostensibly an actress and a model but she transcended society as a sex symbol. Known for her sexual liberation, beauty, and independence, she was a revolutionary figure to many women of the period who wanted to break free from the confines of conservative American life.

At a time when Divorce was considered taboo, she went through there high profile marriages including the author and legendary playwright (whom many students will remember as the author of The Crucible), Hall of Fame Yankee center fielder Joe Dimaggio, and, perhaps the least iconic, police officer James Dougherty.

Despite these well-documented marriages to famous people, she may be most famous for the scandal that emerged (after becoming a star) when it was revealed that Monroe had posed in fully nude photographs. However not only did the scandal not ruin her career, it perhaps even increased her nationwide image as a sex icon.

Marilyn Monroe struggled with addiction and depression throughout her adult life culminating in her death in 1962. Initially, debate swelled over whether it was an accidental overdosing or a suicide, but the consensus has shifted towards the belief that her death could only be considered a suicide. The news of her death, which we’ll get too, rocked the country and ushered in a debate about the role of media as a risk factor in suicide.

Living In A Man’s World

Marilyn Monroe’s primary years in the national spotlight occurred in between the periods known as First-wave feminism and second-wave feminism. The former, first-wave feminism as it is known today, secured the fundamental rights of women to vote and receive an education. However, after seeing women were still beholden to, and depressed by, only having lives that end in child-rearing, Betty Friedan wrote the 1968 book The Feminist Mystique which ignited the second wave of female activism.

Monroe for her part was primarily active from 1945 to her death in 1962 and therefore missed out on the conversation and development of the new era of feminist rights. Additionally, her inclusion as a figurehead of women’s rights and women’s liberations is controversial. Some see her sexual liberation as paving the way for second-wave feminism and others see her as reducing female independence to sexual independence.

What Did Marilyn Monroe Mean?

With all of this in mind, it’s a fairly straightforward explanation that, in Marilyn’s view, if men are going to get professional and societal benefits just for being men, then she shouldn’t be blamed or ostracized for utilizing those features that she was born with. The quote serves as both empowering other women to avoid caring about the stigmas placed on them by society, while simultaneously serving as a rebuttal (if not a middle finger of sorts) to those men who believe her behavior is inappropriate.

Monroe’s Impact on Society

However, while the question of whether Marilyn Monroe was good for women in the 40s, 50s, and 60s may be debated, her impact and importance to women of the time cannot be. Perhaps there is no better example than how AMC’s breakout hit show Mad Men chronicles the shock to society when it was announced that Monroe had passed away.

Roger Sterling, one of the partners at the fictional Manhattan ad agency that the show follows, enters to the scene of all the women in the office (almost all secretaries at the time) hovering over the television, crying their eyes out. Thinking little of it, he walks through the office and heads to his upstairs corner office where his assistant and longtime lover Joan awaits in the office, staring blankly out the window with her back turned towards him.

Roger comments about the women being “even more neurotic than usual” but he receives no response from Joan who sits there stoically looking at the window. Roger launches into his daily to-do list but still receives no response, physically or verbally, from Joan who hasn’t moved from her position at the window.

Eventually, Roger, realizing no response from his assistant, turns towards Joan and says “what’s with you?” Joan turns slowly allowing Roger, and the audience, to see a single tear coming from her face. In disbelief that Joan, an independent Monroe-Esque figure herself, would care about a pop star asks “Not you too?”, to which Joan simply responds “Yes, Roger, me too.”

Marilyn Monroe may have been a sex symbol, but one cannot deny the impact she had on a generation of women, whether they be fictional or not.

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