Archives for posts with tag: Women’s Rights

When you think of the women’s suffrage movement what are some images that typically come to mind? Women marching down the street holding signs and wearing sashes or over exaggerated political cartoons depicting both pro- and anti-suffrage sentiments are usually what people think of. However, there was another method used to spread the message of supporting women’s rights; art. Art in the form of fashion design and music were methods that were utilized during the women’s suffrage movement of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Bloomer Waltz

The Bloomer Waltz, 1851, William Dressler, paper, L: 13 x W: 9.75 in. Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, New York, Gift of Harry Shaw Newman Gallery, N0001.1945.

Bloomers were employed as a symbol for women’s rights in the 1850s when Amelia Bloomer wrote an article about the clothes after seeing her friend Elizabeth Cady Stanton wear them. [1] While bloomers were not meant to be a sign of protest or nonconformity, they soon became a symbol of the women’s rights movement. However, there were many negative views on bloomers as some people believed they were unflattering for women to wear and due to their similarity to trousers, women who wore bloomers were seen as threats to men and their role in society. [2] Many forms of media portrayed bloomers in a negative light, but one advocate of the movement was music. While there was still music being written that was critical of bloomers, there were also those composers who wrote music that supported the fashion statement.

 

Music was used for dances known as bloomer balls, which were dances women were supposed to attend wearing bloomers. In the sheet music “The Bloomer Waltz” by William Dressler the piece was meant to be used during a dance that was supportive of the bloomer outfit, as opposed to some dances that were put on in order to critique and diminish women who wore bloomers. Dressler’s support can be seen in both the music itself by the way it was written, and also in the cover art of the piece. Musically, Dressler’s piece was written as a waltz that was meant to be performed during an event so people could dance while it was being played. Many musical techniques such as key, time signature, and dynamics are used throughout the piece to give it a lively feel. The cover art also portrays a woman wearing bloomers looking off into the distance. As opposed to looking caricatured and unattractive, the woman looks realistic showing that the piece was not making fun of bloomers or those women who chose to wear them.

While bloomers were a short lived fashion, as was the music written for bloomer balls, the impact both made was impactful. Both men and women were able to use forms of art to make a statement and challenge the norms society had for women.

-Allison Costantino

[1] Antonia Petrash, More than Petticoats: Remarkable New York Women (Guilford, CT: The Globe Pequot Press, 2002), 51.

[2] Gayle V. Fischer, Pantaloons and Power: A Nineteenth-Century Dress Reform in the United States (Kent, OH: Kent University Press, 2001), 91

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Toys can often tell more about a culture and its values than they initially let on. We control what we market, and more specifically who we market to. In stores, it is not difficult to separate the toys meant for boys from those meant for girls. There distinct and subtle indicators that alert the customer to items that are gender specific. The Easy-Bake Oven is a popular toy that has appeared in different forms throughout the years.[1] Due to imagery associated with its advertising, as well as a gender specific color scheme, this item is obviously intended for girls rather than boys. Closer examination of the Easy-Bake Oven gives insight into modern gender equality issues that the Women’s Rights Movement have been combating for years. Although women gained the right to vote in New York in 1917, they continue to battle misguided beliefs and traditional gender stereotypes in their pursuit of true equality. The belief that an oven, and by extension domestic life, is best suited for women is a sign that we have not made as many strides in our search for equality as we might think.

Easy-Bake Oven 2009

(Fig.1) Easy-Bake Oven, 2009, plastic, 14″ x 7″ x 8″. (Cooperstown Graduate Program), Cooperstown, New York, T2013.078.1a.

This 2009 example of an Easy-Bake Oven (Fig.1) features many similar design choices to a previous model from 1963 (Fig.2). While the shape of the oven has changed, there are certain visual traits that have remained in both the object itself and its packaging. One of the most notable features are the colors used in both models of the Easy-Bake Oven. Viewers can immediately note that the colors are lighter in shade. Turquoise blues appear on the body of both ovens, and pink features on the box of the 2009 model. These colors, especially pink, would indicate that these items are intended for girls only. Pink is considered a feminine color, and would therefore classify the Easy-Bake Oven as a “girl toy”.[2]  In addition, the visual materials of the 2009 Easy-Bake Oven, such as the box (Fig.3), exclusively depict girls playing with the toy. If it was not clear before, this would undoubtedly confirm who was playing with an Easy-Bake Oven.

Easy-Bake Oven 1963

(Fig.2) Easy-Bake Oven, circa 1963, plastic, 21″ x 16″ x 8.25″. (Cooperstown Graduate Program), Cooperstown, New York, T2013.079.1.

 

Easy-Bake Oven Box 2009.jpg

(Fig.3) Easy-Bake Oven, 2009, cardboard, 16″ x 8″ x 9″. (Cooperstown Graduate Program), Cooperstown, New York, T2013.078.3.

While we like to think that we have made advances in our search for universal equality between 1963 and 2009, we continue to tell girls they belong at home by tailoring toys that perpetuate and condition them to this stereotype. The prominence of toys geared towards young girls that promote domestic life indicate that we still believe those should be the spheres they inhabit. We continue to force our children into outdated gender roles, and enforce these beliefs with the toys we market and purchase for them. They lack of change in our mentality towards the Easy-Bake Oven and what it represents illustrates the work still required regarding gender equality.

By: Michael Barone

[1] “Easy-Bake Oven,” The Strong National Museum of Play: National Toy Hall of Fame, http://www.toyhalloffame.org/toys/easy-bake-oven.

[2] Erica S. Weisgram, Megan Fulcher, Lisa M. Dinella, “Pink gives girls permission: Exploring the roles of explicit gender labels and gender-typed colors on preschool children’s toy preferences,” Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology 35(2014): 402.