Sexualization of World War II

From pin-up girls on the sides of military airplanes to USO clubs to propaganda on the homefront, the sexualization of women (and subsequent sexism) was everywhere during World War Two. 

Male artists produced images of sexualized women for magazines and posters which became wildly popular with the troops. The USO opened social halls across the country, with the two most famous being in New York and Los Angeles. These clubs did not allow women in unless they were employed by the USO to dance and flirt with the servicemen. The United States government produced propaganda posters that were distributed to the public that depicted women in ways that were very appropriate to the times. Women were supporting the war effort, but in the eyes of the government they were specifically supporting the men fighting in the war and not patriotism or anti-fascism.

These seemingly innocuous aspects of American culture during WWII contributed to a change in how society viewed women. The rate of reported rapes increased by 45% during the war years. There was a pornography boom in the 1950s. Women were viewed as sex symbols/objects in the public eye and popular culture for the first time in American history.  


Curated by Taylor Hedenskog, History 4910, Fall 2016.