A World War I Propaganda Poster
AWorld War I Propaganda Poster
Thisis about a photograph titled the ‘hopeless case`. The photographis all about femininity during the first quarter of the 20th century,a period when the world was involved in the First World War. Thefocal point of the picture is on two women wearing horseback ridingand fox hunting attire. The one on the left is wearing blue coloredhat and dress while the one on the right, a red colored hat anddress. In the background, the picture shows men wearing horsebackdresses. Some are preparing ready to leave with their horses andothers preparing their dogs for the hunting expedition. Horsespredominantly ridden by men in those days and had been used in warduring the pre-modern period of the 19th century (Shover 470). Horsesin this picture represent the dominance of men in society affairs.
Thisimage provides a subtle message about the transformed role of womenin the society during the war, though in a stereotypical way. Itattempts to communicate the apparent and actual position that womentook to support their society in all affairs including war. Bywearing horse dresses, the artist was keen to demonstrate thatfemales were not restricted to particular roles but could also playtheir role in significant tasks such as war and hunting.
WorldWar 1 was a product of 19th century cultural inclinations and,therefore, women were experiencing a transition that brought adilemma (James 110). This explains why the picture indicates womenare wearing horseback attire and posing as war riders and fox hunterswhile gossiping about the feminism of their peer. Perhaps, beingfeministic during the WWI period was strange and undesirable evenamong women themselves. The image was created to communicate thereservations of women bout their position in the WWI society. Wearinghorseback attire reveals a protesting gender that yearned to take uproles dominated by men. However, the picture seems to have somecontradiction. The same women appear to be gossiping about thefeminist of another woman behind them. Gossiping is assign of idlingand unpreparedness to take up the roles. The artist of the picturewanted to portray women as willing but not ready enough to take upmale roles in the society. Perhaps, it was a way of reiteratingwomen`s roles on the home front during the war. Communicating apositive message about the femininity f the war and at the same timereinforcing the stereotypes of the society about the females wascontradictory. That notwithstanding, such pictures played afundamental role in beginning the course redefining the position ofwomen in the civilized world and later across the world.
Apeculiar aspect of the image is the embodiment of beauty in thewomen, in the photograph. Beauty and less masculine features portraythe innate power of women. While men derived their power in theirmasculine look that gave them a place in the war front, women derivedtheir power in the beauty of their bodies. This image shows that thesame beauty could be used to inspire women to believe that they wieldthe same power as men and had played an important role on the homefront. The blue color represents a relaxed gender. The two women inthe image are wearing blue dresses among many men wearing redhorseback dresses. Blue portrays the women as cool and relaxed. Despite being the most vulnerable during the war, they are depictedas being relaxed to face the challenges. Though it is not clear whymen are having red jackets, it possibly means that they should viewthemselves as being in danger just as they think women are.
Today`saudience might view this image quite differently than the targetaudience that the artist had targeted at that time. Looking at thisimage, a contemporary woman would imagine of the women as preparingto go for a horse ride with men. In this century when women haveacquired most of the equality rights they began pursuing just afterthe Second World War, horse-riding is not the preserve of war.Considering that WWI was a precinct of traditional attitudes from the19th century, horse were symbols of war (Holsinger, Paul, and Mary144). Today, horses are symbols of prestige and wealth. This photorepresents a different theme in the 21st century from during the WWIgeneration. Color still plays a fundamental role in pictorialrepresentation. Blue still represents pleasance while red stillrepresents the danger. However, red represents other meanings such asauthority. An analyst of today would possibly perceive the menwearing red and riding horses as a show of wealth, influence, andauthority.
Posterswere critical in communication sentimentalism during the First WorldWar. Posters represented what people felt about issues such asfemininity and the role of women in the war. Women in American wonthe right to vote in 1920, just year after the end of the war.Pictorial representations of women during the war served to explaintheir participation on the home front. Though this excellent artistrymanaged to put the message forward, the entrenched gender stereotypesstill existed even in the artists` work as illustrated in the imageanalyzed in this article.
Holsinger,M. Paul, and Mary Anne Schofield, eds. Visionsof war: World War II in popular literature and culture.Popular Press, 2002.
James,Pearl, ed. Picturethis: World War I posters and visual culture.U of Nebraska Press, 2009.
Shover,Michele J. "Roles and images of women in World War Ipropaganda." Politics& Society5.4 (1975): 469-486.