Getting a bit sick of Empowered Second World War Bicep Woman

(15 Posts)
ButThereAgain Thu 02-Jan-14 08:41:27

She's been rolled out on MN yet again , this time to illustrate the 'blog of the day' slot.

What does it mean that the go-to cliche image of a powerful woman is around 60 years old? Do we really have so few images of powerful women that we have to use the same one over and over?

I wonder whether image libraries are at fault in the range of images of "strong women" they have on offer. Contemporary touted image of female empowerment all seem to be tied to some product that we have to purchase to secure our empowerment -- constipation pills or yoghurt or some such. So they really illustrate weakness, insufficiency, dependence.

What are the mainstream non-commercial iconic images of powerful women since our brief period of being allowed to do the manstuff while the men were away killing one another in World War II? It seems a gesture of despair to look so far back in history to illustrate our strength. Surely there must be some place better to look?

aGnotherGnuletideGreeting Thu 02-Jan-14 08:54:51

Hopefully not "busy juggling mums"

How about strong women excelling in sport? I'm sure there must be some powerful images there

ButThereAgain Thu 02-Jan-14 09:03:48

Oh, god, yes, "busy juggling mums" is another one that fails, because it pins women to that ennervating business of losing themselves by spreading themselves thin.

Even the bicep woman fails, really, because it is saying "Look, you can be strong like a man is strong" -- which fitted the needs of the time, when women were going into heavy industry, but which tells us we are powerful by copying men (temporarily, while the proper men are busy). And since that woman's bicep is a rather puny one it does reinforce the fact that if physical strength is what it takes we will always be second-rate.

My favourite image of strong women just now is the lovely one in a TV prog the other day of Vanessa Redgrave and Olivia Coleman acting a complex interraction so beautifully in a scene with NO MEN, But that's not terribly helpful!

ApocalypseThen Thu 02-Jan-14 09:11:38

Also, bicepetta has her hair styled and makeup on - she's still not too threatening or unfeminine

dashoflime Thu 02-Jan-14 09:12:58

I agree.

Plus that image has it roots in a preachy work place motivational poster and wouldn't have been particularly empowering for its original audience.

Check out this

I prefer the Norman Rockwell Rosie the Riveter

ButThereAgain Thu 02-Jan-14 09:25:43

Thanks for that link, dashoflime. That's really interesting. Especially the suggestion that a feminised image of the worker is part of an attempt to "tame" working-class imagery by transforming it into a consensus-based one of workers and management together against a common external foe (Germany and then anti-capitalist Russia).

Bicep Woman is really very compliant. And, yes, the Rockwell version is fabulous, much better. That woman is NOT compliant. Her facial expression is "Fuck you, I'll do it when I'm ready." And all the details makes the image far less amenable to the kind of post-war career that bicep woman has had (promoting household cleaner, Mumsnet, and whatever else). Rockwell woman is dirty and aloof, she has her own agenda and won't easily be co-opted.

Perhaps it is hard for any true image of personal power to be co-opted for whatever purpose we might want to use it. Because the power within the image has to be put on a chain and led about when we enlist it for our own needs.

ButThereAgain Thu 02-Jan-14 09:58:57

Plus, Rockwell woman is BIG and she's EATING. That makes her subversive today!

If the weaker Bicep Woman image was originally about taming subversive power (i.e. substituting a consensual, safe version of workers' power in place of an oppositional version), then says something about why it has had such a successful postwar career. When it is used in advertising (e.g. of household cleaner) it is exploiting that same vibe of power made safe and compliant.

The only difference is that nowadays it isn't primarily about working-class power being tamed and made safe for capitalism, it is about female power being tamed and made safe for capitalism.

During the war women aided capitalism by participating in production, now we are constantly under pressure from advertising do the same thing by relentlessly participating in consumption. So Bicep Woman is used to convert the idea of empowerment into a strategy for selling stuff. Perhaps that is her significance on Mumsnet too. Although she is promoting the genuine feminist content that the site carries, Mumsnet is essentially a site to flog stuff to women by appealing to a rather tamed version of women as powerful. I don't think it can escape the danger that even its feminism serves that end.

Is it maybe partly to do with image copyright? I've no idea and agree it's a bit dull.

ButThereAgain Thu 02-Jan-14 15:19:24

Yes, I'm sure that cost plays a part in the selection of images, and I imagine that one is in all likelihood not subject to copyright.

Rooners Thu 02-Jan-14 15:32:34

I wish she would go away too.

sunbathe Thu 02-Jan-14 15:38:41

I think bicep woman has a much more 'fuck you' face and is a stronger look overall, staring directly out of the poster.

Rosie still uses makeup...

plco1223 Thu 02-Jan-14 15:46:30

The ultimate powerful woman for me, is and always will be Margaret Thatcher. This has nothing to do with her politics, they are not important in this. Although to be fair, Indira Gandhi is also up there in powerful women. So is Cory Aquino, but less so.

there is no current woman either in the media spotlight, or elsewhere that I can think of whom I admire as powerful, but I am happy to be enlightened

UriGeller Thu 02-Jan-14 15:47:19

The queen?

NiceTabard Thu 02-Jan-14 19:56:28

boudica?

NiceTabard Thu 02-Jan-14 19:56:47

elizabeth 1?

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