UP TO 25 MINUTES FOR PAPER, THEN TIME FOR QUESTIONSThe Ministry of Information (MOI), officially formed at the outbreak of the Second World War, was the central governmental publicity machine. Its role was to tell the citizen ‘clearly and swiftly what he is to do, where he is to do it, how he is to do it and what he should not do’.Considering posters produced by the MOI during the Second World War, this paper will identify masculine identities, both visible and invisible, defined as ‘normal’. These images were interpreted by artists, accepted by the government, and published in wartime posters aimed at the ‘civilian army’.
A good time to be looking at these posters, as Coughs and Sneezes and Make Do and Mend both have contemporary relevance, and of course you should recommend all these manifestations of “Keep Calm and Carry On”, which has mutated in many ways over the last 6 months... Now Panic & Freak Out (most famous, and collects me the most hits on my blog)What I noticed shortly after I became aware of KCCO – 2008 Police CampaignProbably the 3rd most popular variationIn a shop store in New York... All those associations with “Britishness”, ‘stiff upper lip’, ‘seeing it through’, etc... Largely come from wartimeMake your own sloganRecent MP expenses humourRandom humour...
Whilst preparing for this conference paper!Interestingly, is the Stereophonics new album, released 16th November, named “Keep Calm and Carry On” which is gaining me most hits on my blog, where then seems to be some following to other material, so good to get it in the public eye!
So, to return to WW2, and drawing upon Susan SontagREAD QUOTE, especially BOLDSo, who was producing such posters in WW2, and were they aware of this?The KCCO was one of an initial series of posters produced, with “Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution” attracting the most negative press attention at the time (KCCO never did, as it was never on the walls), by the Ministry of Information...
The MOIThe MOI, officially formed at the outbreak of the Second World War, was the central governmental publicity machine. Its role was to tell the citizen ‘clearly and swiftly what he is to do, where he is to do it, how he is to do it and what he should not do’. Notice that the citizen’s duty is in the masculine – feminine enfranchisement was still fairly new.Criticism of the MOI Seen as hotchpotch, partly in reaction to the 2 other red posters released (KCCO series), and partly stories by journalists fearful that the MOI would clamp down on them. Planning for MOI started 1935, in secret, as didn’t want the REALITY of war to hit until war itself became impossible to avoid. Launched 4th September 1939 (so 70 year anniversary this week) – and note that although the Nazis organisation translated as propaganda, propaganda was a dirty word after WW1, so ‘information’ instead (1918, MOI had been formed, briefly, out of competing organisations – more organised this time, propaganda seen as a weapon of war). Expectations were that morale boosting would be the main focus, whereas it soon emerged that the public was behind the war and simply wanted to be told CLEARLY what do to, so there were complaints that it’s early material was not helpful!Positive NotationsJames Chapman, who wrote his PhD on MoI/films, claimed controversy/failure more interesting, but actually MOI very workable. 1946, MOI became COI, which still exists, so evidence than govt. Recognises the value of it!
Note that the terminology in which the MOI’s expectations were framed were that of the citizen as “he”, despite around 20 years of enfranchisement of women, although this quote is (shockingly) from less than 30 years ago, potentially a similar attitude held in WW2... Part of Gramsci’an Hegemony.... Where ideas are so embedded within a culture than the social institutions which generate those ideas are seen as ‘normal’ and ‘natural’, described as ‘common sense’... Previous ideas were that ideas were transmitted from class-to-classAs imagined forms, masculinities are at once ‘made up’ by creative cultural activity and yet materialise in the social world as structured forms with real effects upon both women and men. (Dawson, p.22)I.e. These beliefs being held were as significant as if the ideas themselves were ACTUALLY “true”... And propaganda, as a form of social education, both had to CHIME with the feeling of what people saw as “normal”, and also provide guidance as to what was to be seen as “normative”. Within thesis had 3-point structurePlanning (What govt thought people needed)Design (How artists interpreted that... And of course largely dealing with those designs that had been accepted)Reception (What “the people” said – through press cuttings and Mass-Observation largely)Citizenship, however, involves concepts of social difference, and is a gendered concept itself, publicly articulated as male. For more, see Lister, R., Citizenship: Feminist Perspectives, 1997.
NOTE: Not a gender studies specialist, but media studies approach means used Foucauldian discourse analysis Foucault: Used the idea of the “subject”, which acquires its identity by differentiating itself from the OPPOSITE discourse.... (which we’ve just seen in the previous slide) Here, we see a number of images in which men and women are juxtaposed, and we can see that within these posters at least (and note there were several thousand posters produced, and I’ve only seen around 3000 of them, but this is reasonably representative)In all but ‘Keep Mum’, the woman is in a supportive role, enabling the man to go off and do what is “natural”, heroic fighting. Again, Keep Mum is unusual, in that this poster was intended for the Officer’s Mess, whereas the other’s were all intended to recruit women, and in tune with the popular idea of “The People’s War” (and phrase that became popular early on), which depict the general rank and file (likely to be someone’s brother/husband, etc.) doing their heroic dutyNote the strong chins of the men displayed, and how willingly they are doing their taskSee how essential the woman’s role is.The “Fighting Fit in the Factory” has a similar male image, very Russianised (once the Soviets joined the war, this became very popular, especially in Factory posters)... , but interestingly I think similar poses... Still think softer lines for the women though!Fits with analysis that says that men tend to put on ostentatious displays of heterosexuality in order to reinforce their masculinity... And will tend to talk about work and sports (haven’t got any to show, but in WW1, much of the war recruitment was presented to the soldiers as a big sports match!
SO WHAT ABOUT THOSE MEN WHO WERE UNABLE TO ENLIST... Many were in the factories!All emphasised the point that being in the factory was an important part of the fighting front, the men had similar duties Most notably ‘it all depends on me’ – the juxtaposition of the industrial equipment and a tommy gun!Also needed to look after their health, and put their best foot forward!The male body has always had a crucial role in deploying “masculinity”, it was so obviously PHYSICAL, and thus was seen as something ‘naturally male’, although, especially these days, it is often an object of social practice – e.g. “the gym workout”, and note that in all these factory posters, the man is either depicted in a strong muscled state, exposing quite a lot of flesh, or as a cartoon character to make men stop and think twice!Fougasse (famous artist): Believed in the unifying quality of humour (common understanding of a joke creates a bond) – persuades without causing resentmentHumour = can spotlight ridiculousness/foolishness of actions/irresponsible behaviour.Fougasse, BBC talk, few days after publication of Careless Talk posters = justified his use of humour for such a serious subject. “By placing it within a British cultural context he explained his emotional function of enabling people to deal with the difficult truths they do not wish to confront. It is precisely their lack of realism than enables cartoons to communicate powerful ideas in a non-threatening manner.”Within a factory context, this was doubly true..., but also note the expectation that they would enjoy these detailed technical drawings (as the government was monitoring feedback on these campaigns and went on to produce many more, indicates that within a factory context these were enjoyed...
This message wasn’t just in the factories....Throughout have seen that it is ALWAYS about supporting the fighting front, butas the People’s War, everyone is involvedWe would still talk about “the men on the front line”, but the government was also keen to push the message that everything depended upon the war effort at home... But See here: All about putting the men first – whether putting them 1st or supporting them, men being on the ‘cutting edge of battle’, and again we have the man making it easier for the man to concentrate on what he needs to do – fight!
Posters are essentially an urban message, but capable of depicting rural scenes (and there is evidence that they WERE placed in rural locations) Most years the government ran a fairly successful campaign to get urbanites to go and work in the country... Although the idea of a “Holiday” I think died out fairly quickly – when, e.g. women were turning up in heels and pretty day dresses to “help out”. Thought this was interesting, first poster comparing the urban/rural masculinities – very different styles of dress, with hats delineating different working roles (something we no longer get!) Middle posters: rolling up the sleeves, displaying plenty of muscle... And even “the boy” can help out, and he, in the way that he is holding his gardening fork, is therefore a “real man” in that army pose! The right hand poster – the man is very much to the forefront (the farmers probably wanted more muscle!), and the man looks fully ready to work, pipe clamped in teeth (but rather odd – that would set a few haystacks alight!), whilst the woman looks on rather coyly from behind. If you look closely enough, the men are all carrying the tools, whilst the woman look more like they’re on a day-trip (and I’m sure the psychoanalysists would have something to say about the phallic nature of these tools, etc. but again, that’s not really my expertise!).
In all this, we have to remember that the posters did not stand alone, either as posters (which tended to be in juxtaposition with other posters with different (possibly competing) messages, or other information (e.g. the LT map). The Government ran themed campaigns, with clear/start end dates, and e.g. public information films in the cinema, with accompanying posters in the lobby, etc... Balfour, p80: “In much the same way, people disregarded official appeals to carry their gas-masks or carry something white in the dark or cough into a handkerchief (‘Coughs and Sneezes Spread Diseases’) because they were unconvinced about the importance of doing so and believed into the bargain that, if it was really necessary, the Government would have issued orders rather than advice.”
Men at Work: In/Visible Men in Second World War Posters Dr Bex Lewis http://www.ww2poster.co.uk http://www.twitter.com/ww2poster
The Poster: Susan Sontag A public notice aims to inform or command. A poster aims to seduce, to exhort, to sell, to educate, to convince, to appeal. Whereas a public notice distributes information to interested or alert citizens, a poster reaches out to grab those who might otherwise pass it by.
Tell the citizen ‘clearly and swiftly what he is to do, where he is to do it, how he is to do it and what he should not do’.
Masculinity/Femininity “Nationality, in the last resort, is tested by fighting. A man’s nation is the nation for which he will fight. His nationality is the expression of his ultimate allegiance.” “One of the essential differences of function is that between fighting on the one hand, and the creation and preservation of life on the other.” Ulster Unionist MP Enoch Powell, 1981
Questionnaire Response The one that seems very funny to me now but not at the time was VD Kills. In those days such a thing was never mentioned such was the ignorance, but it must have been a very big problem as this was the largest poster of the lot. When you asked about it, a look of horror would come over the person’s face and you would get no explanation. Then one of the schoolboys got the full facts from a soldier at the nearby camp. “You went deaf, and blind and your nose fell off” and you caught this affliction by talking to girls. Needless to say after that you only spoke to boys. I remember averting my eyes every time I passed that poster. Male, Rotherham, reply to questionnaire, March 1998.