Advertising and Women: Visual Rhetoric of the Post War Era

Advertising and Women: Visual Rhetoric of the Post War Era

I. Issue Overview

The role of women in the workforce in today’s modern world has deep roots and has overcome many struggles. The idea of a working mother and wife has become the norm in the United States. It went from being a taboo, to being unfavorable to being accepted and finally, being encouraged. How did this current status for women take shape and develop over time? One of the most significant factors driving females into the workforce was World War II, after millions of men were drafted as soldiers to fight in the war. Almost 5 million women, refusing to remain financially handicapped after their husbands and fathers were overseas, began working in factories and industries of all kinds, replacing their male counterparts as breadwinners. However, after the end of the war and the start of the Cold War, the majority of these women did not continue to participate in the workforce and returned back to their roles as housewives. Advertising during that time played a huge part in shaping public perception about the roles of women, reaffirming their roles as feminine housewives. This research argues that the ideals for women that were promoted during World War II encouraged women to take on more masculine roles, while after the war, the focus was bringing them back to their old routine, inspiring mass consumerism and consumption and ideals of the American dream of a perfect household. By reviewing images of popular culture, this study suggests that visual advertisements’ rhetoric promoted a more feminine, domesticated view of women.

II. Position

Examining the advertisements portraying women in the workforce in the United States, women were mainly depicted as fragile and dependent on males. Propaganda encouraging women to join the workforce was still restricted to what is believed to be more feminine jobs, such as nursing or sewing. After the end of World War II, we witness a great surge in advertising for fashion, clothes, make up and domestic and house...

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