Saturday, June 12, 2010
Vintage Venereal: World War II Era
Two themes emerge from this collection of posters warning about venereal diseases (now called sexually transmitted infections). One, it's unpatriotic to catch one and two, women are the carriers - men are the victims. Contrast these images with posters from the WPA era. I found only one poster that directly targeted women by implying returning soldiers could give them syphilis. Another urges soldiers to maintain a "clean America," which may mean men should get treated before passing on their STIs to the women at home. But most of these posters place the blame squarely on women, and are speaking directly to men, as if only men can suffer from these infections. If STIs are unpatriotic, then women, especially prostitutes must be unpatriotic, unAmerican. Another thing to note: all the images are of white people (well, and skeletons). There may have been posters with images of black Americans, but I couldn't find any.
This poster was painted by Salvador Dali in 1942. He just wanted to help the war effort. Notice the skull? Women equal death.
Even Donald Duck was enlisted in the misogyny!
This is the only poster I found that is speaking directly to women.
Just a few more images of venereal disease personified as a woman. Not from the 1940's.
If anyone knows of anymore great vintage STI posters, please post a link in the comments.