October 06, 2008
riveting imageism tinged by double standards
When I saw a picture of this button in today's Detroit Free Press, I was, well, riveted!
But I immediately realized I was falling behind the times. I'm late to the "Rosie" game, because I see that Sarah Palin's face on the iconic image has already drawn feminist criticism:
Today a colleague of mine showed me an article in the Washington Times from a rally in Lancaster, PA, where people held signs of the iconic Rosie the Riveter with Palin's face photoshopped in. In the background is a sign with PTA, spelling out Palin Takes America - even though Obama's policies are stronger on education than McCain's. In my hunt for the article online , I discovered a lot of people are using the Rosie the Riveter sign to show their support of McCain/Palin. There are t-shirts, posters, buttons, etc. I am astonished at how people who likely know & care zip about women's history or women's rights and could care less when Clinton or Pelosi are treated sexistly by the media or who don't think calling Palin "hot" and "sexy" is sexist, are repositioning a traditionally feminist icon like Rosie for themselves!! And I would be thrilled that they were embracing women's history if they were also embracing policies that benefited women which many famous women's history figures fought for!A feminist historian I am not. However, the original image is not Rosie the Riveter per se, but is based on an image produced more for wartime propaganda purposes than to promote modern feminism. (Feminists may like it, but that doesn't mean they "own" it.)
Not to pick nits, but "sexistly" a word? (Yes.) If so, how about "racistly"? (Yes.) Christianistly? (No.) Fascistly? (Yes.) Communistly? (Yes.) Capitalistly. (Almost.) Feudalistly? (No.) Economistly? (Well, almost!)
Enough with the istlyisms, OK. (Typistly speaking, my fingers are tired of linking them.)
Concludes the author,
I think it's INSULTING for his supporters to be using Rosie like that.Well, as insultingisms go, it's not the most insultinglyist thing I've seen.
The "Rosie" image traveled from coast to coast, being picked up by the New York Times, and the LA Times, it even generated a copyright debate, with one irate activist writing to the president of the Rosie the Riveter Trust (I had no idea there was such a thing), and demanding that something be done:
Today, September 10, 2008, a photo on the front page of the Los Angeles Times, revealed that the McCain campaign is using placards with a picture of Rosie the Riveter with the face of Gov Sarah Palin superimposed on the picture and using the same slogan "We Can Do It" as in the original picture.The president of the Rosie the Riveter Trust wrote back, gently breaking the news that the image is in the public domain:
This graphic has been in the public domain for many years. Thousands of people have used it (or misused it) for every conceivable purpose. Rosie the Riveter Trust has no control whatsoever over its use.There's a lot of misinformation floating around about the image, which many people think is the original Rosie the Riveter, which technically it is not.
The image most iconically associated with Rosie is J. Howard Miller's famous poster for Westinghouse, entitled We Can Do It!, which was modeled on Michigan factory worker Geraldine Doyle in 1942.As to Geraldine Doyle, she was a 17 year old girl who pressed metal for Westinghouse for a week, and over time her image was claimed as "Rosie":
In 1942, the 17 year-old Geraldine spent a week working in a Michigan factory pressing metal as an early replacement worker for men who had gone off to war. During her brief tenure, a wire photographer took a picture of her she soon forgot. That image - re-imagined by J. Howard Miller while working for the Westinghouse War Production Co-Ordinating Committee - would soon become iconic both for the war effort and for the forever changed society it fostered.I cannot find the original photograph anywhere. If it was in fact in Modern Maturity magazine (now AARP), someone ought to be able to find it easily, and considering the history, I'm surprised someone hasn't. (Skepticism over whether it exists might be merited, but I don't have time to do more than raise the issue.)
According to Ellen Goodman, angry women have exploded in rage over the Palin Photoshop:
What finally sent her over the top was the poster. There was Sarah Palin as Rosie the Riveter, flexing her biceps under the motto: "We Can Do It!" The image was the same on the T-shirt my friend had left over from the primaries. But with a crucial difference.Hmmm...
While the political junkie in me can comprehend that there would be feminist anger over who has "owns" the image in the moral sense, it's not accurate to say they've Photoshopped Sarah over Hillary. That's because Hillary was photoshopped over the artist's iconic depiction of someone else. There's this T-shirt, and other examples like this magnet, also shown here:
So, the contention by the man concerned with copyright infringement that "it is a shame to use the historical contributions of women during WWII for political gain by the McCain campaign" is a bit disingenuous.
Everybody has glommed onto "Rosie" for one reason or another. There's a sexist version of a woman holding a coffee pot, a "sock monkey" version, and while I'm not sure why, the Ron Paul campaign even got into the act -- although I do think "Ronnie the Riveter" is a bit of a stretch.
Most egregious of all, there's a racist version of the image here. I say "racist" because Barack Obama has been Photoshopped in, and because all criticism of Obama is racist, then all humorous Photoshopping must be too.
Frankly, I think they were going easy on Barack the Riveter.
Because all the women -- including Sarah Palin, Hillary Clinton, and Nancy Pelosi -- were depicted wearing the same headgear as the original worker, while Obama was not!
See? Here's Nancy!
Why no one is calling such a double standard "sexist," I don't know.
I guess I should be glad no one has suggested that ridiculing women's headgear is "tinged" with Islamophobia.
posted by Eric on 10.06.08 at 11:00 AM
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