“They don’t, but their name came from a place,” says Jovane, “where one of the ladies would come to the counter at the flapper bar and ask for a penny.” It’s the same story we tell about people with the term “fanny pack.”
“Flappers originated in England and are very much associated with their country, and often are referred to as the ‘country flappers.'”
“Flapper” had no cultural context. It was just a name and a way for a woman to get a penny. It was not a word with social or political value. What a new name for women in England!
As for flappers in the United States, they were called “baldies” back during the 19th century. In fact, the term was coined by a man in the 1860s in Washington state for a woman he had a fling with at the time. And the name stuck.
So why is this word so important?
Well, the word’s not so much about sexuality in a way that you might think.
For starters, it makes sense for “Flapper” to refer to a female. And women who work in public office also typically have this moniker. That should tell you something about their social status, right? “Well,” adds Jovane. “But not all women use one.”
And what about women who work in corporate America?
“People in corporate America have to get their title and position. The job title is important for women in a lot of industries because it’s not something you can easily change.”
To further complicate things, says Gail Levenson, a professor emerita at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, there aren’t many women in corporate America – just 4 to 6 percent as of 2014.
You also can’t make an argument in any way that calling a woman a “Flapper” is a sexist stereotype.
“If you look at it within the realm of business, there are some people who would say that it’s a little more of an occupational term than one that we should be able to apply to everyone,” said Levenson. “We’re not there yet.”
Another big question with women who work in private and government work as flapper is how to deal with a boss who doesn’t understand how their status in their work environment might actually translate into a personal life.