Gender Roles In The Chauvinistic Society

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The advert I have chosen is a poster from World War 2. Featuring a color illustration of an attractive young woman dressed in olive-coloured work clothes, gazing happily and fondly at a piece of machinery.

Up until the First World War, society had well defined roles for women in the private sphere and men in the public sphere. world war 2 had a deeper impact in the sense that more men went overseas and the world was faced with the Great Depression. The Great Depression left many households in deep financial difficulties and losing the men to war made it harder for many to survive, pushing women to take on the jobs.

The great depression and world war 2 left indelible marks on the american society. Rosie the riveter amongst other advertisement icons of the time, left their marks on advertising. Through the 1940’s, ad copy continued to portray women primarily as homemakers or objects of sexual desire. The conflict between womens actual role in society and the ways in which advertisers portrayed that role, came to the forefront during world war 2. While wartime propaganda encouraged women to labor for the country and family, advertisers urged female factory workers to remain glamorous and keep the home running smoothly.

An advertisement which has shown to portray these exact phenomenons is the advertisement that I have chosen. The advert states to have been created by the department of Repression, Oppression and Chauvinism. This does not only add to the ways in which females are seen at the time but also suggests how women had a lack of control over their own doings and work in which they performed.

Repression means the use of force or violence to control a group of people. This suggests that the women of the 1940’s were forced into the norms of the society. Possibly being forced by men from the department of Repression, Oppression and Chauvinism. As we know adverts from the 1940’s are now being contemplated as being highly sexist, however, at the time this was the norms, to illustrate a woman. Another way in which the use of the word Repression is significant in the stereotyping of a woman, reflects how the women of the time was fully controlled by men and society and without their will. As repression suggests the use of force and violence when looking at the cambridge definition it could be interpreted that women would be physically hurt if they did not follow edicate at the time.

Oppression is the situation in which people are governed in an unfair and cruel way and prevented from having opportunities and freedom. This is supported in the advert when it is stated “turns out you gals are useful after all”, this suggests that women had not had the opportunity to show their importance in society and that men had only now realised that women could be used effectively by society as well as men could. The women had not had the freedom to try and have these jobs and had been governed and pushed down by men in many years. The women in this era was only needed out of home at the time when men went into war and therefore could not withhold their jobs and placement in the society of the 1940’s america. The women were still suppressed from the men and the true need and want for them on the job market was only shown in a time of no other option. The women were pushed around like a bobo dolls, only pleasing the men's and society’s wishes - not their own.

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The last word from the department was chauvinism. This can be defined into the strong and unreasonable belief that your own country or race is the best and most important. This also portrays how racism at the time was still a big part of the united states society. Through advertisements this was also seen as the advertisements were of caucasian people of the society. There was a big lack of advertisements portraying african americans and if portrayed, this was in a negative association and was enhancing the power of the caucasians of the country. Another way in which chauvinism can be defined is the belief that women are naturally less important, intelligent or able than men. The ways in which women were shown in advertisements links very well to this definition of chauvinism. And also suggests that male dominated and discriminated women from themselves. The advertisement links to this exact definition as the sentence “turns out you gals are useful after all” has a sense of

So to summarise the importance of the advert being created by the department of Repression, Oppression and Chauvinism. It shows that the 1940’s america were against women rights, had dominant male roles and that women at the time could be described as conventionally attractive to the man folk through advertising. The most insurmountable of these barriers took the form of gender discrimination and stereotyping. The advert is a perfect example of this and the portrayal of the woman in the advert is being attractive, adds to the meaning of women being seen by society as having to always look good and keep themselves feminine even though the work supposedly being done by the women in the advert is of hard work and labor. The beauty standards and expectations of how a woman should look was of high significance, however there was a big lack in the expectations of the abilities in which a woman has.

This advert has an overtly sexist message that women are not true workers unless absolutely necessary. It was meant to swell up a feeling of patriotism in women, while continuing to classify women as inferior to men. A way of showing women what place they have in society and continue to withhold them of trying to crash the gender roles.

A range of colors are portrayed in the advert and especially the white “aura” which has been drawn around the woman in the advert is significant. The colour white is an inherently positive colour associated with purity, virginity, innocence and perfection. All of these being qualities that women and girls should have withheld. The colour around her also suggests the joy in which the woman is experiencing from the work in which she has been given and could therefore be a source of manipulation on other women at the time.

The olive coloured work clothes that the woman is wearing brings with it a sense of hope, health and renewal as the colour green is associated with. These were all things that wives of the soldiers at the time needed, women at the time then believed they would gain this from taking on jobs. Olive green also represents the traditional colour of peace and has a strong military meaning and therefore gets the women looking at the advert in the 1940’s remembering their loved ones in war making them believe that when taking on jobs they are doing it for them.

The yellow background colour represents hope. In the 1940’s yellow ribbons were worn as a sign of hope as women waited for their men to come home from war. Yellow is an attention getting colour, and when used in combination with black, it is one of the easiest colour combinations to read and see from long distances. This advert is easy to be seen from a long and will therefore get more people to notice it - more people will be able to see it.

The makeup worn by the “model” in the advert contains a strong political message. It was reported that Adolf Hitler had voiced his distaste for the bright red shade, effectively turning wearing red lipstick during World War 2 into a political statement. Cosmetic advertisers introduced politically charged ad campaigns at the time by launching red lipsticks with names like “victory red”. Encouraging women to embrace beauty upkeep as part of their civil duty during the war. Advertisements quoted “good for the morale of the nation”.

The shape of the lip was known as the hunters bow and was influenced from the stars of the screen and was at the time, a thing seen as beauty and beauty standards. Women would believe that by getting the jobs it would enhance their beauty, after looking at the advertisement. The brows shape at the time had also become more bushier compared to the thin brows during the 1910’s - 1920’s. This was a low maintenance brow for the hard working women as they did not have as much time for makeup as before the war began. Wearing makeup was seen as a part of a woman’s duty, a way to remain ‘feminine’ while taking on traditionally masculine roles in the war effort.

“turns out you gals are useful after all” This statement presents the clear standard of women at the time; society viewed women as “useless” until they were needed during World War II, then they became “useful” as placeholders for the men when they went off to fight. Even when encouraging women to enter the workforce, there is a subtle twist to maintain a sense of inferiority. Propaganda during the 1940s was made to try to convince women to leave behind their normal standards assuming a new role in society and joining the war effort. However, on the other hand, this statement could also have a positive meaning as it could portray how men had finally realised the womens actual potential and that their eyes had been opened. It could be a positive sign of the gender roles already starting to crash and that rights of women would change for the positive after the war. 

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Gender Roles In The Chauvinistic Society. (2021, October 26). WritingBros. Retrieved June 17, 2024, from
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