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The Second World War: Strengthening Traditional Gender Roles

2732 words - 11 pages

Gender equality has always been a large issue in the world, and it has only been recently that vast strides have begun to take place. Many people argue that women’s rights began to improve through the roles women had to fill, during the Second World War, while the men were overseas in battle. This thought is a common misconception as gender equality only began to gain traction in the late 1960’s, due to a younger generation; the baby boomers. The Second World War strengthened traditional post-war gender roles. When the war ended, women went straight back to their traditional housewife roles. Women’s contributions to the North American economy during the Second World War did not initiate a ...view middle of the document...

Even though women were given the opportunity to fill occupations that were intended for men, most of the jobs available were not gender bending roles, many were still very gender biased. For example in North America circa 1945, 70% of the CWAC (Canadian Women’s Army Corps) workers were either clerks (62%) or cooks (8%) , and the leading number of women working during the war were participating in unpaid volunteer work .

Gender inequalities were not only witnessed in the positions available to women, but also in regards to wages and benefits they received. In comparison, filling the same position, females in the workforce would be paid significantly less than their male counterpart. Women were paid two thirds of what a man’s salary would have been . Women in the service were also denied dependents’ allowances5, which is a bursary given during ones training if you have kin who are wholly dependent on you financially . In July 1943 the Department of National Defense ended up increasing women’s wages to 80% of a man’s salary and granted dependent’s allowance to the service women. However they did not give these bursaries out to support the women’s husbands5. These improvements made for women in the service was due to the National Council of Women, who publically voiced their complaints about the gender inequality observed in the workforce. Even though the Department of National Defense attempted to address these inequalities, women were still outraged that they were not being compensated an equal salary as the men they were replacing.

During this period, while women were filling the position of men in the workplace, the government found it necessary to produce propaganda posters to remind them of their true role in society. Illustrating how to retain their femininity while playing a part meant for a man. People felt threatened by the notion of women filling the role of the patriarch. Fearing women may identify with this newfound masculinity, setting a new benchmark that threatens the status quo and America’s perception of the ideological matriarch . To combat these concerns, 45% of American propaganda produced during the Second World War depicted females personifying what American politicians considered to be the ideal image of a loyal and dutiful wife . “Figure 1” reveals insight into how American men received the presence of women in the workforce. The poster is reminding women that it is a privilege to be able to serve in the workforce, and that it is only because of men that this privilege has been granted . A headline by McCalls’ reads’, ‘She does a man's work in the ground crew servicing airplanes, but she hasn't lost any of her glamour, sweetness, and charm’ . Females were constantly prompted to retain their femininity; the reason for this was clarified by the extensive propaganda campaign entitled Women in Necessary Service’s . Articles found in Women in Necessary Service’s addressed popular concerns held by women such as,...

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