Thursday, March 02, 2006

Babes in Warland

Just surfing the web and this image caught my eye. My first thought: "Man, she's really servicing that missle!".




My second thought was this. Opportunities that became available for women during WWII became a social angle that allowed them to participate in public life and "do a man's work". But were they really? Since the entire mahood of the nation was projected overseas, in one sense they were still "taking care of the men" by doing what was necessary to enable the troops.

They filled a necessary vacuum, and in the process, helped the U.S. Military topple the Axis powers.

To what extent did this assist the women's movement in the 60's? I imagine a lot, but obviously, I don't know the details.

5 Thoughts:

Anonymous kyahgirl said...

I'm not an expert on this either but I do know that the wars, especially the 2nd world war, had a huge impact on the social changes in the last half of the 20th century.

When the war ended and the men returned, women were expected to joyously give up their jobs and return to a life of domestic bliss. A very large sector of society had discovered the freedom and stimulation of doing something of importance for wages. Caring for their families was, up until then, the 'acceptable' way that women could do something important. Its no wonder that enormous changes ensued. I can't even imagine how angry and embittered I would be if someone expected me to get back in my box, just because the men were back.

There are whole 'studies' on the impact of this on our culture. I've seen some documentary style shows on it.

When I was growing up in the 60's and 70's I certainly felt the ripple effect. People like Betty Friedan and Germaine Greer wrote some pretty influential book around that time that impacted me quite a bit. Might be the subject for a post. Betty Friedan died recently.

Thursday, March 02, 2006 10:16:00 AM  
Blogger Bspot said...

It's interesting to notice how these unsettling changes played themselves out on American television. I say "unsettling" not to suggest they were wrong or bad overall - but, of course, it must have been tough for both husbands and wives to figure out how their marriages were supposed to be restructured, to fit women's new ambitions.

Early shows like "The Honeymooners" and "I Love Lucy" in some ways reflected what must have been going on at home, in households across America. They may even have helped people realize they weren't isolated in having difficulties.

I may have the timing on some of this wrong. I know TV was still quite new around 1960ish, when JFK beat Nixon in the presidential election partly because the former looked better on TV than the latter. But even if it was much earlier that these sex role changes began, during and just after World War II, we all know the process continued to gather steam for decades to come.

In "The Honeymooners," which predated "I Love Lucy," the wife is still a housewife, but she's pissed off about it. Her husband, Frank (am I remembering his name right?), played by the great Jackie Gleason, is a bumbling idiot who can barely tie his shoes without his wife's help - but his pride prevents him from acknowledging it, and it takes the full length of a given episode for him to be forced to realize his wife was right all along about this or that.

I can't remember her name, but I remember her rolling her eyes, and whenever she utters his name, "Frank," it is uttered almost without exception in a tone ranging from strained, begrudging patience to outright contempt.

The male response, channeling his humiliation by trying to reassert dominance in the only way left, says, famously, in so many episodes: "One of these days Alice [brandishing his fist in the air] ... one of these days, BAM, right in the kisser!" This may be one of the only public references made in that era to domestic, spousal violence (i.e. wife battery).

However, by the end of almost every episode, the couple, having solved the challenge of the day, melt into marital bliss together: silly Frank realizes he couldn't handle life's complexities without his wife as leader, and she remembers the motherly affection she has always had for him; after all, his incompetence is cute, in a way.

In "I Love Lucy," the lady of the house still has no permanent fulltime job, but she's chomping at the bit, frequently trying her hand at some ridiculous project or another or even a paid gig or two.

The whole picture of marital discord, and bumbling foolishness, on the part of one spouse that is barely tolerated by the other, seems to me to have appeared in our culture only after World War II, no?

By the time we reach "All in The Family," we may still have Archie's wife Edith playing the disempowered housewife (albeit obviously commanding far more common sense and decency than the man of the house). But front and center we also have her daughter, Gloria, a liberated woman of the '70s.

Thursday, March 02, 2006 1:46:00 PM  
Blogger pawlr said...

Kyahgirl-
I wouldn't want to be put back in a box either, that's for sure. Thanks for your thoughts. I looked for the book you mentioned but didn't find it; however I did find this article by Greer that she wrote about Friedan after her death.

Bspot-
From "Honeymooners" to "Lucy" to "All In The Family" - they do all share so many similarities and differences. As a child, I loved to watch Lucy's crazy schemes; she had so much energy.

Thursday, March 02, 2006 5:40:00 PM  
Anonymous kyahgirl said...

pawlr thanks! That was a great article!
I read both of those books as a teen (The Feminine Mystique and the Female Eunuch) They contributed to a lot of my developing female personna and also impacted my stance on religion. I consciously chose to leave the Catholic faith around the same time.

Friday, March 03, 2006 10:45:00 AM  
Blogger Demotiki said...

It looks like she's using an electric screwdriver. This must be one of the first representations of the "screw-gun" ever made public.

Friday, March 03, 2006 11:44:00 AM  

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