Date of Award
Senior Scholars Paper (Open Access)
Colby College. American Studies Program
"Images of Women in American Popular Culture: The Post-World War II Legacy" examines popular images of women in light of American social, political, and economic history after World War II. The paper is structured not as a mere catalogue of the postwar images of women but in terms of significant themes that affected those images. The first chapter presents ideas and attitudes about American women and their role as evidenced in speeches given by American social and political leaders in the post-World War II years. The significance of these speeches is not only in the ideas and attitudes about women that are evidenced, but also in the manner with which these were voiced. The way in which woman's role after World War II was discussed qualifies the attention paid to women's economic, social, and political rights and suggests that this attention was a mere reaffirmation of traditional ideas couched in a rhetoric of egalitarianism. The second chapter, "Images of Women in Post-World War II Advertising," examines dominant images of women in advertising. Significantly, women were the primary American consumers during the postwar years; when advertisers played on American fears of infiltration and identity, they did so at the expense of female identity. Chapter Three. "Female Sexuality in the Postwar Years" examines the challenge posed by factual data on female sexuality to the idealized female role. The 1953 Kinsey Report on female sexuality affected images of women in a negative way. even though Alfred C. Kinsey had intended a positive, educational effect on humanity. Rather than portraying an integration of female sexuality with other identities that women acknowledged. In the post-Kinsey years images of women began to suggest that sexuality was a dangerous and insidious part of women's lives. In this way images of women become increasingly fragmented and distorted. Finally, the fourth chapter. "Isolation and the Decline of the Female Image, II" further explores the fragmentation and distortion of female identity and examines the dynamics surrounding this phenomenon. Not only were some women isolated geographically (through suburbia) in the postwar years, many women experienced isolation through the ideology of separation of function between men and women. Because this ideology was unrealistic, popular images that were already fragmented and distorted further deteriorated. This post-World War II deterioration of female images provides today's historian with an important documentation of attitudes about American women in terms of popular images of women. The deterioration leaves American women a legacy of fragmented and distorted identity.
Women in popular culture, United States, History, 1945
Recommended CitationBeever, Jennifer, "Images of Women in American Popular Culture: The Post-World War II Legacy" (1983). Senior Scholar Papers. Paper 21.
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