The icon of Rosie the Riveter challenged the gender stereotype of American women in mid-20th century America. Rosie the Riveter is significant because, despite being a woman, she was also a worker, which was typically seen as a masculine role. Whilst many women had worked before World War II, it is important to note that not many white middle class women worked. For these women, their role was seen to be in the home, looking after their husband and raising children. However, since the war created a labour shortage, white middle class women were able to work in jobs that could no longer be taken by men, many of whom were fighting in the US army. Rosie the Riveter’s ethnicity is important; since she is white, the character suggests that the role of women who, previously, could only aspire to be housewives, were capable of working in the same world as men. Rosie the Riveter acted as an icon to challenge the idea that women were not welcome in the workplace.
Rosie the Riveter is also important in the period soon after World War II. Whilst women were still far away from gender equality, they had made significant steps towards it during World War II. However, after the war, many women were forced to give up their jobs to returning soldiers, as society still asserted that a woman’s place was in the home and a man’s place at work. Whilst during the 1940s Rosie had been a symbol of how women were capable of contributing to the workforce, during the 1950s it had become an icon of a bygone era for women. Rosie the Riveter continued to be used as a feminist icon, showing how women were fully capable of working in the same jobs as men.
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PLEASE EXPLAIN HOW ONE OF THESE TWO IMAGINARY ICONS, SYMBOLIC OF AMERICA, REFLECTS ISSUES OF MASCULINITY OR FEMININITY IN MID-20TH CENTURY AMERICA.
Following America’s entry into World War Two, a new form of industrial labour was needed to meet the production demand, especially since large numbers of men who once worked in the factories had been sent to fight overseas. The U.S. government therefore launched a propaganda campaign to encourage women to join the workforce and the fictional character “Rosie the Riveter” was born.
In order to attract females to roles which were previously male-exclusive and promote the new “ideal” woman, 1940s Rosie blurred the gender line. In J. Howard Millers 1942 depiction, she retained her female sex appeal with a heavily made-up face, styled hair and slim figure. Yet, she was also the embodiment of strength as she flexed her muscles and she oozed confidence with her intense gaze, under the caption, “We can do it!” Women all around the country were drawn to this simple image as it convinced them that they could be beautiful and still be capable of participating in the war effort without feeling guilty about being a working mother. A lesser known portrayal is Norman Rockwell’s 1943 cover of The Saturday Evening Post. Again, Rockwell’s Rosie had some feminine features such as her nail polish, compact and sandwich (which could be interpreted as a nod to her domestic side and traditional female role). However, in this version Rosie was even more masculine than she was a year earlier. For example, her muscular arms were ridiculously oversized, she now had a powerful piece of machinery resting on her lap and her clothes were dirty to remind viewers of the demanding jobs she was now doing thanks to the war. Here, the message appeared to be that husbands on the battlefield would take pride in their wives if they weren’t afraid to get stuck in and do their bit; after all, the war would end sooner if more women worked.
“Rosie the Riveter” had a great impact on 20th century America. While husbands were at war in Europe, their wives occupied almost every aspect of industry and the number of women in the workforce increased by 57% between 1940 and 1944. While working conditions and pay were not always equal to what men enjoyed (and many women were laid off when the war ended), the experience of working outside the home allowed them the opportunity to prove their worth to the male-dominated American society and it gave them a permanent sense of empowerment. Therefore, it is not surprising that Rosie has since become a feminist icon as well as one of the great American icons.
Alana Johnston (QUB)
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These two photos show very different images of women in the Civil Rights Movement. Coretta Scott King is seen as having a stereotypical female role in society at the time as a supporting wife and loving mother. She is presented as a warm and peaceful woman. However this picture does evoke comparisons to white women of the period perhaps suggesting a common bond between all women. Rosa Parks, however, appears as a dangerous female criminal. She has a untidy appearance, which may have been a common stereotype of african american women at the time. The prison photograph suggests the evil that many whites saw in the Black community at the time. Although both of these women represent the civil rights movement, they are very contrasting images which show Coretta Scott King as a gentle, peaceful mother and Rosa Parks as a dangerous criminal.
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Hi all, felt I should share this photo with you as I found it quite interesting. This photo attacks gender stereotypes head on and does a great job at defeating them. The image portrays a women in the captain America outfit against a background of destruction , this confronts gender stereotypes of female timidness or innocence in the face of dangerous, this is further by the cuts and bruises on her body, which we assume comes from combat.
The image is from this Tumblr account: http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/female%20captain%20america
The account also has a large number of superheroes portray by females as alternatives.
Ii believe it is a very interesting topic especially as recently, the ban on women in combat roles was lifted in the US.
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