“Holy…welp, the 40’s were…a different time. Goddamn.”
~AFFotD Editor-in-Chief, Johnny Roosevelt
Wow. Just look at that for a second, everybody. Let it really sink in. Don’t worry, there’s a reason behind it. We’ll get to that in a moment.
While it’s easy to assume that AFFotD exists as a singular location for all the fatty food and alcohol adoration articles you can hope to find from a website whose logo prominently features a shotgun toting Grizzly Bear, we occasionally do read. Shocking, we know. Sometimes, a book even strikes our fancy enough that we decide to do a full-scale book report on it (usually because they’re short and don’t employ any metaphors). Books are important, and not always because they get turned into much better, easier to digest movies. Okay, most times they are, but sometimes, books can teach us about ourselves. Or, in this one particular case, they can teach us to be embarrassed by ourselves.
Yes, that last link takes us to the 1943 War Department pamphlet, “So You’ve Decided to Hire a Woman and Train Her Like a Monkey or a Seeing Eye Dog to do Simple Tasks” (we may have taken some liberties with the misogyny we interpreted from the title).
Yup, it was a different time for the Greatest Generation. All the men had gone to war, and all the dogs had gone to war, so all the women had to be counted on to make things. The horror!
Anyway, fasten your seat belt, and prepare your “cringing at now comically outdated and borderline-offensive beliefs of the past” face, as we review this sumbitch for you.
AFFotD Book Review: 1943’s “You’re Going To Employ Women” by the US War Department
Well let’s just dive into this. This part isn’t outright terrible, but it’s not exactly a feminist-friendly picnic, now is it? This introduces you to the plight facing America—we need workers! Many of them will have to be women!—and tells the reader that, if you do as you were trained and add gravitas to phrases in italics, women can be even superior to men (in menial tasks of labor). Basically, the opening of this pamphlet reads like every time you’ve had someone kind of compliment you, while really implying that they’re better than you. This was very probably written by the same kind of father who would congratulate his son for getting good grades (it would have to be his son, because he’d probably have made sure that his daughters would have gone to sewing school or whateverthefuck passed for “women’s only” education in the 40s) by saying, “Wow, son. You got a B. I can hardly believe it. That’s so much better than you’ve ever done, or than anyone ever thought you could do, and there’s no way you could ever do better.”
To use modern terminology, the best way to sum it up would be that this pamphlet might be the very first instance of someone throwing shade at an entire gender.
We are then treated to some handy guides, each of which is accompanied by one of the above photos (okay so the last one might have originally said “and conscientious” but we thought the one we posted is more indicative of what the pictures seem to represent) for how to work with a female work force, because genders are homogenous and if you’ve ever had to interact with one member of a certain sex, you of course can interact with them all in the exact same manner.
Jesus Christ, 1943, that sounds like the most terrifying job interview process we’ve ever heard of, and we have some staffers who’ve had to take breathalyzer tests just to apply for a job. We were going to make a joke about what the physical examination would entail, because we were assuming it was going to be some combination of degrading and dehumanizing, but 1940s-style, like when Charlie Chaplin would audition actresses by making them strip naked and throwing pies at them, but then we saw the words “extreme temperatures” and “toxic substances” and we just wanted to find a grandmother to hug and say, “We are so sorry.” Suddenly that “favor…the local resident without small children or infirm dependents” thing seems less like an outdated “WOMEN OUT OF THE WORKPLACE” mindset and more like, “We don’t want to create any orphans after we make their moms handle lead and benzol all day.”
This first sentence might very well be the only time in 1943 that the word “Orient” was used in a way that wasn’t horrendously racist. Of course, imploring employers that women need to be “oriented more thoroughly than a man” on how to function in a workplace takes that racism and replaces it with good old-fashioned misogyny, so there aren’t really winners in this equation. It’s pretty much Newton’s Third-Law—for every surprisingly non-offensive statement from the 1940’s, there is an equal and sadly similar offensive statement.
And yes, for those of you keeping score at home, the third paragraph does mark the first time in this pamphlet that they straight up say, “Women only work in the kitchen and on housework, so the best way to train them is to have them pretend they’re doing kitchen and housework.” Because everything was horrible.
Now, we don’t want to get all progressive on 1943, but everything listed on these two pages are pretty much what we’d hope they’d do for any employee. Were safe and clean conditions somehow “radical concessions” to a workplace environment back then?
Oh, here we go. This is where it literally starts reading like they’re training a horse or a raccoon or literally anything other than a human being. The fact that they tell us “WOMEN CAN BE TRAINED TO DO ALMOST ANY JOB YOU’VE GOT” in all Caps somehow makes this even worse. Thankfully there’s only one page left, how bad can this get?
Nope, there it is. End it the worst possible way, 1943. Just…
Okay guys, we’re really sorry we put you through this. That was pretty rough. Here, we’ll clear the taste out of our mouths with something actually empowering from that era.