The Weird Familiarity of 100-Year-Old Feminism Memes

Adrienne Lafrance in The Atlantic:

SufferIt seems almost farcical that the 2016 presidential campaign has become a referendum on misogyny at a moment when the United States is poised to elect its first woman president. Not that this is surprising, exactly. There’s a long tradition of politics clashing spectacularly with perceived gender norms around election time, and the stakes often seem highest when women are about to make history. Today’s political dialogue—which often merely consists of opposing sides shouting over one another—echoes another contentious era in American politics, when women fought for the right to vote. Then and now, a mix of political tension and new-fangled publishing technology produced an environment ripe for creating and distributing political imagery. The meme-ification of women’s roles in society—in civic life and at home—has been central to an advocacy tradition that far precedes slogans like, “Life’s a bitch, don’t elect one,” or “A woman’s place is in the White House.” Much of the imagery that circulated in the early 20th century made fun of suffragists, even in illustrations that weren’t explicitly anti-suffrage. Mainstream humor at the time relied heavily on gender-based tropes and stereotypes, and political humor was no exception.“It made no difference that the bulk of this material was not intentionally anti-suffrage,” wrote Lisa Tickner in her 1988 book, The Spectacle of Women: Imagery of the Suffrage Campaign 1907-14, “It represented an enormous mass of material, and some very deep-seated prejudice.”

One common theme was the subversion of male and female roles in society—with men often depicted holding crying babies or doing housework, and women portrayed as ultra masculine and detached from home life.

More here.