Faulty Munitions: Effects of Wartime Propaganda on Gender Socialization

| 1 Comment

By William R. Landry for all women on International Women's Day, March 8, 2012

we can't win fig.1.jpg

One way to gauge a nation's progression toward gender equality is to analyze the historical fiction it has produced. According to Finke (1996), fiction is generally less politically coercive than government sanctioned media because authors generally focus on text as an art form rather than maintaining hegemonic agendas. There are, however, exceptions. While analyzing a series WWI and WWII posters, I discovered a female author named J. G. Sime, who, during WWI, was commissioned to use her vaguely feminist fiction to help coerce women who sought freedom from domestic servitude into serving the war effort instead. Her story was reprinted widely during the Second World War due to the effective nature of its propaganda.

Juxtaposing Sime's story with war posters demonstrates how the notion of gender equality was used to bait hundreds of thousands of women to join the war efforts. This paper describes common key elements in the posters that were supposed to have signified the empowerment of women. Further investigation reveals how phallic symbols and erotic innuendo subliminally convey the impending sexual liberation of woman workers, while serving to malign those who wished to maintain the new status once the wars had ended.

According to Arnheim (1969) the shape of a visual form is not limited by its physical dimensions but extend to the psychological forces that instruct the viewer on how to react through preconceptions to its status. For example, we know that the status of a photo is static, but that a film involves motion. We adjust our senses respectively to experience them because we are conditioned to their status. Similarly, as Nelson (2002) states, "socialization prepares persons for statuses they either now occupy or will occupy sometime in the future and for the roles attached to those statuses." He also   refutes the media's claims of being "our best friends and companions" (Nelson, 2002). The shape, or status of wartime posters makes people believe they are experiencing important and helpful truths (Jowett, Garth, and O'Donnell, 1999). The "unidirectional" mood and status of mass media inherent to wartime propaganda convinced "all the members of a demographic category" (Nelson, 2002) to rise to the occasion of improved social status, but did not tell them the status would be revoked. That type of bad form persists in the federal government to this day; Bill C-10 proposed to financially penalise films that openly disagreed with its public policy of anti-gay rights, for example.

Symbols, characters, objects, and even text are considered form. Rather than describing posters individually, this paper describes the key forms they share, thereby exposing their messages.

English: Join us in a victory job poster

Image via Wikipedia

For example, all women depicted are white, non-descript, between the ages of 18 and 35, and ostensibly represent most women for whom the campaigns were intended. They wear various labour uniforms and their heads are covered by hats or handkerchiefs. Every woman exudes the earnest countenance of pride for having enlisted their services at home while their men go off to fight. They operate machinery or hold implements traditionally used by men, such as wrenches, large drills, mallets, farming tools, voice amplification cones, swords, and munitions. The large slogans are dramatically explicit: Women In The War, We Can't Win Without Them; Women Awake! Your Country Needs You, On Her Their Lives Depend; The Girl He Left Behind Is Still Behind Him; Find Your War Job: I've Found A Job Where I Fit Best.
 

However, other posters make implicit suggestions about how women can best serve their countries. The question of satisfaction is implicitly sexual, and upon closer inspection of each poster, a pattern of phallic symbols and erotic innuendo emerges as the women are gripping or handling equipment in subtle yet sexually suggestive ways, which alludes to the idea that sexual liberation can be attained by taking matters into their own hands, so to speak. If men have the capacity to be "happy and satisfied" away from the company of women, then women should have this freedom as well by striving to become more like men. This is definitively illustrated in a poster that states: I Wish I Were A Man.

This "agency-transmitted" gender socialisation falls under the precepts of the "media outlet[...] determin[ing] the specific expectations and skills they wish to endorse." Although Nelson (2002) states that the consequence of this is either "mutually reinforcing or contradictory and conflicting," in this case, it is both; women did find a level of unprecedented liberation and status, though not all of them achieved this by becoming more like men, rather, by promoting the reality of feminist strength. It is the latter group, according to Woollacott (1994), who faced the well-documented and disastrous consequences of post-war vilification. Women who were reluctant to part with the liberation advertised were often labelled as loose and dangerous carriers of sexually-transmitted diseases.

Be a "WOW"-Work to Win - NARA - 534582

Image via Wikipedia

 

Sime's story Munitions! (1917), was first published in the federally funded Saturday Night magazine which according to Keshen (1996) practiced hegemonic and biased dedication to wartime propaganda. The story's form is closely linked to the poster campaign; narrative is replaced with a manipulative form of social realism where nothing occurs except getting a job manufacturing munitions. Much like the figures in the posters, the main character, Bertha, is a blank slate - a flat, stock model with whom the average female reader was expected to sympathise and emulate. She is living a "half-dead life" (Sime, p.44) as an "excellent servant" in the "well-ordered house" of domestic servitude (Sime, p.38). Upon learning of the opportunities provided by the local munitions factory, she leaves her housekeeping job for a position at the factory which is "insistent and creative." Bertha labels those who choose to produce munitions as a means of achieving a "sense of freedom" as "self-respecting girls," while those who do not must forgo the possibility of being "extraordinarily happy" (Sime, p.33). Much like the posters, the story makes vague allusions to the sexual liberation of the "munitionettes" by hinting at, but never describing their "masculine" behaviour and the "unprecedented candour" that came "streaming out" on the bus-ride to the factory (Sime, p.40). Sime relies heavily on slogan-like platitudes of "[i]t's time we lived," and "...it's great out there" (Sime, p.42), while downplaying the "noise and discomfort and strain" of the work as a small price to pay for such "liberty" and "joy" and "relief" (Sime, p.43).

The story makes no mention of the copious women who became infertile or contracted debilitating illnesses from poison at the factories; who were killed or irreparably maimed in explosions of faulty munitions; who promptly lost their jobs and were relegated back to domestic servitude and second-class citizenship upon the men's return. Most women who tried to resist were quickly denigrated as unfit mothers, unworthy wives, and social rabble-rousers. Many of these feminists were institutionalised, because who but crazy women would want the jobs of men? The women who resisted this hegemonic duplicity have paved the way for true gender equality, yet it is writers like Sime who get touted as part of our literary heritage.

 

 References.

 Arnheim, R. (1969). Art and Visual Perception: The Psychology of the Creative Eye. Berkely, CA: The University of California Press. Print.

Finke, Ronald A (1996). "Imagery, Creativity, and Emergent Structure : Consciousness and Cognition." 5.3: 381--393. Print.

Jowett, Garth, and O'Donnell. (1999). Propaganda and Persuasion. 3rd ed. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications. Print.

Keshen, J. (1996) Propaganda and Censorship: During Canada's Great War. Edmonton: University of Alberta Press. Print.

Nelson, A. (2002). "Development and Socialization in Childhood and Adolescence." In Gender in Canada (2nd Edition). Toronto: Pearson Prentice Hall. 112-160.

Sime, J. G. (1917) Sister Woman. Ottawa: Tecumseh Press. Print.

Woollacott, A. (1994) On Her their Lives Depend: Munitions Workers in the Great War. Berkeley: University of California Press. Print.

Many other posters were described than appear in this blog.

1 Comment

polo ralph lauren outlet online
polo ralph lauren outlet online
ray ban sunglasses discount
pandora jewelry
cheap uggs
discount oakley sunglasses
pandora charms
coach outlet store
nike air max
cheap oakley sunglasses
nmd adidas
ray ban sunglasses
discount ray ban sunglasses
ugg boots
canada goose outlet
polo ralph lauren
ugg boots
toms shoes outlet
ugg outlet
pandora jewelry
michael kors outlet online
cheap jordans
coach outlet
pandora jewelry
jordan shoes
cheap uggs
adidas shoes
longchamp uk
air jordans
canada goose
christian louboutin
cheap jordans free shipping
michael kors outlet clearance
kate spade outlet
coach outlet
canada goose outlet
ugg outlet
cheap ray ban sunglasses
hermes birkin
michael kors canada
coach outlet
gucci outlet
coach outlet store online clearances
cat boots
moncler jackets
ralph lauren sale clearance
superdry
canada goose uk
ugg shoes
louis vuitton outlet
pandora charms
nike outlet
beats by dre
birkenstocks
nike store
ralph lauren outlet
coach bags
ugg boots
michael kors outlet
coach outlet
ultra boost
canada goose outlet
doudoune moncler
ralph lauren outlet online
ralph lauren uk
cheap jerseys
ugg sandals
ugg outlet
hermens bags
canada goose clothing
pandora jewelry
coach outlet
pandora outlet
coach handbags
canada goose sale
mulberry handbags
michael kors outlet
ugg outlet
ralph lauren outlet
tory burch outlet
cheap uggs
louis vuitton outlet store
coach outlet
louis vuitton outlet online
cheap jerseys from china
michael kors handbags
coach outlet store online
oakley sunglasses
moncler outlet
moncler jackets
coach factory outlet
birkenstock sandals
longchamp outlet
adidas yeezy boost
burberry outlet
jordans
coach factory outlet
coach factory outlet
ralph lauren uk
coach outlet
louis vuitton factory outlet
polo ralph lauren
north face outlet online
mulberry uk
oakley sunglasses
ray ban sunglasses
adidas outlet
longchamp handbags
cheap uggs
timberland boots
pandora charms sale clearance
ugg outlet
adidas nmd
michael kors outlet
red bottoms shoes
louis vuitton
oakley sunglasses
adidas yeezy
hermes handbags
louboutin shoes
canada goose jackets
michael kors handbags
nike shoes
ugg boots canada
cheap oakley sunglasses
pandora outlet
coach outlet online
michael kors handbags
burberry outlet
oakley sunglasses
tory burch outlet store
moncler coats
polo ralph lauren outlet
ugg slippers
coach outlet
ugg slippers
polo outlet
ralph lauren outlet online
ugg sale
pandora charms sale
ralph lauren outlet
canada goose sale
louis vuitton outlet
ralph lauren outlet
toms shoes outlet
pandora jewelry
coach outlet
hermes outlet
adidas yeezy
ugg boots on sale
coach outlet
adidas nmd
ugg outlet store
canada goose coats
coach outlet store
ray ban sunglasses
ugg boots
harden vol 1
fred perry polo
michael kors outlet online
kate spade handbags
coach outlet
nmd adidas
pandora charms
jordan retro
ugg outlet store
nfl jerseys wholesale
louis vuitton outlet store
pandora
cheap mlb jerseys
rayban
ray ban sunglasses
polo ralph lauren
mbt shoes
valentino shoes outlet
adidas superstar
cheap jordans
coach outlet store
louboutin shoes
michael kors outlet
kate spade outlet store
adidas nmd
cheap mlb jerseys
rayban
coach outlet store
air max 2018
adidas yeezy boost
canada goose outlet
valentino shoes
moncler outlet
toms outlet
coach outlet
michael kors handbags
ugg boots outlet
ugg boots
ralph lauren outlet online
ralph lauren outlet
christian louboutin outlet
cheap ugg boots
toms outlet
christian louboutin outlet
coach outlet
coach factory outlet
fred perry
tory burch outlet
coach factory outlet
yeezy boost 350
ugg outlet
cheap uggs
ugg boots for women
mbt shoes
burberry outlet canada
ugg ustralia
ugg boots on sale
polo ralph lauren outlet online
polo ralph lauren outlet
coach outlet
coach factory outlet
nike outlet online
canada goose jackets
coach factory outlet online
coach outlet online
uggs clearance
ralph lauren outlet
red bottom shoes
fitflops sale
michael kors outlet
coach factory outlet
ugg outlet
cheap ray ban sunglasses
nike air max
michael kors outlet store
coach canada
hermes handbags
michael kors outlet
ugg boots
nmd shoes
louis vuitton outlet
moncler outlet
coach factory outlet
coach factory outlet
james harden shoes
pandora jewelry
adidas superstar
uggs canada
coach factory outlet
ralph lauren outlet
north face outlet
pandora uk
christian louboutin
michael kors outlet store
ralph lauren uk
michael kors canada
christian louboutin outlet
ugg boots
jordan retro 11
adidas shoes
moncler jackets outlet
michael kors factory outlet
ugg sandals
yeezy 350 boost
air jordans
louboutin shoes
yeezy boost
hermes bags
canada goose
cheap ray bans
coach factory outlet
burberry sale
oakley sunglasses
ralph lauren outlet
birkenstock sandals
air max 2017
canada goose jackets
uggs
ugg sale
christian louboutin outlet
canada goose outlet
longchamp uk
pandora charms sale clearance
louis vuitton outlet
ugg outlet
nike huarache
kate spade
kate spade handbag
hermes handbags
nike outlet
uggs outlet
ugg outlet
toms shoes
coach outlet
canada goose outlet
coach outlet
cheap ugg boots
coach factory outlet
adidas shoes
canada goose sale
coach outlet
coach outlet
coach outlet
mulberry outlet
coach outlet store
coach factory outlet
salvatore ferragamo shoes
ugg boots
kate spade
cheap jordans
michael kors outlet
ralph lauren outlet
red bottoms
ralph lauren outlet
ugg australia
ugg outlet
uggs on sale
uggs
coach canada
pandora charms sale
polo ralph lauren
michael kors handbags
air jordan shoes
longchamp bags
nike shoes
michael kors outlet
polo ralph lauren outlet
ray ban sunglasses
canada goose jackets
polo ralph lauren outlet online
longchamp handbags
coach outlet
cheap oakley sunglasses
kate spade bags
michael kors outlet clearance
birkenstocks
ugg outlet online
supreme uk
ray ban sunglasses discount
michael kors outlet
michael kors outlet store
polo ralph lauren outlet online
pandora outlet
coach factory outlet
adidas yeezy
yeezy boost
canada goose
cheap jordans
canada goose sale
nike shoes
ugg outlet
ralph lauren uk
cheap ray ban sunglasses
ugg ustralia
kate spade outlet
mlb jerseys cheap
christian louboutin
timberland outlet
moncler
moncler jackets
toms shoes
ralph lauren sale clearance
michael kors outlet
ugg boots
adidas outlet
adidas nmd
coach factory outlet
coach factorty outlet
north face jackets
yeezy boost
cheap jordans
pandora jewelry outlet
moncler outlet
ugg outlet store
ugg boots
cheap jordan shoes
nike outlet store
louis vuitton outlet online
adidas outlet
nike cortez
coach factory outlet
uggs on sale
michael kors outlet
superdry uk
ugg outlet
michael kors outlet
canada goose coats
salvatore ferragamo
coach outlet
fitflops
michael kors uk
ugg boots
ugg shoes
cheap nfl jerseys
pandora charms
adidas yeezy
moncler outlet
ray ban sunglasses
coach outlet
ugg outlet
ralph lauren outlet online
nike shoes for men
canada goose outlet
canada goose jackets
20171006yueqin

Leave a comment