joan

I chose this image to analyze for several reasons. First and foremost, it is an excellent piece of propaganda from World War I, and I’ve always enjoyed how forthright these posters could be about equating consumerism with patriotism in a time of war. This particular poster is not different in that regard: it tells me that, as a woman, my role in this war is to buy things.

Next, the image is an interesting conflation of traditional gender roles and nationalism. Not only does it tell the women of America what their role in the conflict is, it makes this role special and unique to women.

Finally, Joan of Arc is such an apt image to use for my research project. Joan of Arc, in a religious ecstasy, led the armies of France to victory in many important battles of the Hundred Years’ War. Furthermore, she was a skilled military tactician and held influence over political matters. That she played such an active role in France’s conflict makes her an important figure: that she did so as a woman dressing as a man makes her one of the figures I look to for inspiration in this project.

That this piece of propaganda uses Joan of Arc’s image to push traditional American gender roles is problematic to say the least. Joan of Arc is not the image of a woman who canned tomatoes in her pinafore and bought war bonds on the homefront: she fought openly as a woman, dressed as a man even when the battles were ended, and was burned alive for it. She was not the plucked, delicate, and rouged figure we see here. She was soldier, a leader of armies. And she is one who modern historians say may have been transgender.

Whether she was or not, she exemplifies the questions I hope to answer and the ideas I would like to explore. Her gender was and is relevant to her role in the wars, and I want to find out why. I have pinned this photo above my desk, and I look to her for inspiration.

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