This nationwide recognizable image of Rosie the Riveter with her bicep flexed, feminine beautiful looks, overalls and bandana looking like she is proud and patriotic is currently viewed as the iconic embodiment of women’s rights, but the purpose poster was created was much different. This poster of Rosie was originally created to recruit women to help in factories during World War Two (WWII). This advertisement was created by J. Howard Miller as an addition to a series of posters for the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company. In the poster the Westinghouse logo is clearly seen just under the woman’s arm, and the badge on her shirt collar is the badge employees wore. (Sharp)
The ‘We Can Do It’ image can be viewed rhetorically because it was created and displayed for one reason, but today we see it as something different. Different people have a different view of the poster. Douglas Ehninger defined rhetoric as the ways in which humans “may influence each other’s thinking and behavior through the strategic use of symbols” (Foss 141). The image of Rosie influenced women to join the workforce during WWII, they presented a familiar woman but she was wearing clothes that showed she was working in a factory which was unfamiliar to women at this time. Today the poster is used for women’s rights. Visual imagery from a rhetorical perspective also has grown with the emerging recognition that visual images provide access to a range of human experience. (Foss 144). The image helped change the concept of what we thought about women.
The article ‘concepts we live by’ stated our concepts structure is what we perceive, how we get around the world and how we relate to other people (lackoff/Johnson). Women were known as people who stayed at home and took care of the house and children. This concept wanted to be changed by the factory that put up this poster making it seem okay for women to leave the house. “Our conceptual system thus plays a central role in defining our everyday realities” (Lackoff/Johnson) along with this poster and the power in women they changed the conceptual defining of women.
We defined semiotics in class as the way words, images, and objects are used to display meaning. In semiotic analysis a separation is made between content and form, and attention is focused on the system of signs that makes up a text. (Berger) Text and images work together, and their separate abilities are used to persuade meaning is strengthened with the use of both at once. It is a strategic combination of ad slogans and visual propaganda from WWII that promoted the fact that working women during the war were white, beautiful, and patriotic.
The true rhetoric in this image is not its purpose, but what this image has evolved into overtime. Having a woman represent a factory employee is noteworthy, But our rhetoric of the poster as a feminist emblem is interpreted as Rosie shouting encouragement to other women.
This image is important to the broader topic my group is studying because we are looking into the women’s rights movement.
Berger. "Semiotic Analysis." Print.
Foss, Sonja K. "Theory of Visual Rhetoric." Chapter 9. Print
Lackoff, and Johnson. "Concepts We Live By." Web.
McGrath, Casey. Rosie the Riveter, a Reluctant Symbol of Patriarchy. Web. 15 Mar. 2012.
Sharp, Gwen. Feminist Icon. Web. 15 Mar. 2012.
Author: Sarah C.