15 Normal Things That Were Unacceptable a Century Ago


Societal norms and cultural expectations can shift dramatically in the span of a century. What was once deemed unacceptable or scandalous may now be regarded as perfectly normal or even celebrated. As we delve into the past, it becomes evident that the evolution of societal standards has been nothing short of revolutionary. So, let’s explore 15 things that were scandalous 100 years ago but are now commonplace.

Women Wearing Pants


In the early 20th century, pants were seen as a symbol of male attire and power, and women who donned them were viewed as rebels against traditional gender roles. It wasn’t until the 1920s and 1930s, with the influence of fashion icons like Coco Chanel and the practicality of women working during World War II, that pants began to gain acceptance in women’s fashion.

Public Displays of Affection


In many societies, publicly displaying affection, such as kissing or holding hands, was frowned upon. Such acts were considered private matters best kept out of the public eye. While certain conservative cultures may still frown upon PDA, they are widely accepted and seen as a normal expression of love and affection.

Women Driving Cars


Earlier, women were thought to lack the physical strength and mental acuity required for driving. However, with time, as more women began to assert their independence, female drivers became more common. Today, women drivers are as ubiquitous as their male counterparts.

Interracial Relationships


Anti-miscegenation laws prohibited marriages and relationships between people of different races in many parts of the world, including the United States. These laws were not fully overturned in the U.S. until the landmark Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia in 1967. Today, interracial relationships are widely accepted and celebrated in many parts of the world.

Women Voting


The fight for women’s suffrage was a major social movement in the early 20th century. Women who demanded the right to vote were labeled as radicals and faced significant opposition. Women were not granted the right to vote until 1920, after the 19th Amendment was ratified. Now, women’s suffrage is a fundamental democratic right in most countries.

Dancing to Jazz Music


Jazz music was once viewed as wild because of its African American roots. The improvised style of jazz and the dances that accompanied it, such as the Charleston, were considered provocative and immoral by many. Jazz has since become a respected and beloved genre, with its early critics often forgotten.



The bikini made its debut in 1946 and was initially met with shock and outrage. The idea of a woman wearing such a revealing swimsuit was offensive. Early bikini wearers were shunned and banned from beaches. Today, bikinis are a staple of beachwear and fashion.

Men Having Long Hair


Long hair on men was generally associated with artists or radicals and considered unacceptable by mainstream society. The counterculture movements of the 1960s helped change perceptions, and long hair on men became a symbol of rebellion and individuality.

Women in the Workforce


The idea of women working outside the home was discouraged 100 years ago. Women were expected to focus on domestic responsibilities. The two World Wars and the feminist movements of the mid-20th century played significant roles in changing these norms. Now, women in the workforce are not only accepted but also a critical part of the global economy.



Access to and discussions on contraception were considered taboo. Laws like the Comstock Act in the United States made it illegal to distribute information about contraception. The development of the birth control pill in the 1960s was a turning point. It marked contraception as a basic aspect of reproductive health.



Many societies used to view divorce as a moral failing and a sign of personal failure. Legal and societal barriers made it challenging for individuals, especially women, to divorce. Modern attitudes towards divorce have shifted considerably, with many viewing it as a necessary option for those in unhappy or unhealthy marriages.

Body Piercings and Tattoos

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Piercings and tattoos were considered scandalous in the past. It was mainly due to their associations with marginalized subcultures, moral and religious disapproval, social stigma, and health concerns. Over time, changing cultural attitudes, improved safety practices, and the influence of popular culture have helped transform them into widely accepted forms of self-expression.

Same-Sex Relationships


Considered immoral, same-sex relationships were criminalized in many parts of the world. LGBTQ+ individuals faced severe discrimination and persecution. The latter half of the 20th century and early 21st century saw significant strides in LGBTQ+ rights, and many societies now recognize and celebrate queer relationships.

Unmarried Couples Living Together


Living together without the legal and religious sanction of marriage was perceived as morally dubious and indicative of a lack of commitment and respectability. This behavior often resulted in social ostracism, severe judgment, and damage to one’s reputation, particularly for women, who were held to stricter standards of virtue.

Women Smoking


Smoking was seen as a male activity symbolizing independence and sophistication, traits reserved for men. Women who smoked publicly defied these conventions, challenging traditional notions of femininity and propriety. This defiance provoked strong disapproval and moral outrage, leading to women smokers being stigmatized as unladylike and facing social ostracism.

Written by Bruno P