Visual rhetoric is a picture or short video clip that is intended to convey a particular message to a specific audience. It is deriving meaning from images in the same way as one can derive meaning from verbal or aural signals, and it can be said to be a change in people’s perceptions of pictures. They were first used for cosmetic purposes to attract the mind, but they can now express feelings as well. The fundamental truth is that the image’s shape, color, structure, scale, and other features are not random. Instead, the artist selects them on intent, and visual rhetoric analysis is the medium by which the author’s views on a certain piece are revealed. With more development and advancement in technology, visual rhetoric is becoming a popular and interesting way to pass information. In this era of technology, images are no longer for aesthetic purposes but carry with them cultural meaning as well. This form of analysis finds application in many fields including art history, linguistics, business and technical communication. Another popular occurrence of visual rhetoric is in the advertising industry. The purpose of any piece put to display as an advertisement is to build an argument for the product in question and convince the reader or listener of its quality and performance. For that matter, people who come into contact with the images have to build a relationship with them. Otherwise, the message becomes arbitrary. Therefore, three characteristics are important; that the image should be symbolic, be to a specific audience and for the purpose of passing a message and have human intervention.
Rosie the Riveter Poster
The visual rhetoric analysis below is about the “we can do it!” war poster which came to be commonly referred to as Rosie the Riveter. The character Rosie was at the time a cultural icon representing the ideology of the inclusion of women in the wartime workforce not as militants, though, but in the behind the scenes jobs. Today, the icon very well represents the feminist view, defending and liberating women in their areas of oppression and inequality.
The poster dates back to 1942 by a freelance artist known as J. Howard Miller. The Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company commissioned the advertisement. It was part of a large commission of adverts by the War Production Coordinating Committee of the company. The main aim of the poster was to convey the American ideology of patriotism especially during the time of the war. Moreover, it was to encourage hard work and the inclusion of everybody in the efforts towards the war regardless of gender.
During this time, America was deep in the world war. Scores of young men were sent to fight for their country overseas leaving behind mostly the women, children and elderly. The departure of the men left many jobs unattended, which only meant that the women were to do them. However, the majority of the women themselves had not worked beyond the confines of their homes their entire lives. The goal of this campaign was to convince the women to take up the jobs and be part of the war. Moreover, though a majority of the men agreed to the idea, some needed to be persuaded. Thus, the poster mainly targeted the women and then to a lesser extent the men who were yet to be comfortable with the idea of women working outside their homes.
The amazing effect of the poster was to instill a “we can do it” spirit of the women who before were considered inferior and forced to settle for home jobs. With women working to build tanks, ships and bombers for the war, the knowledge quickly spread around that they were too were capable of these jobs. The strength of the women was clearly illustrated, and her efforts towards the success of the war were equally commendable. A new era was then born, the era of women enlightenment and empowerment.
The outstanding colors of the poster are red, white and blue which no American could miss noticing. They are the same colors that appear on the American flag. These colors communicate to the spirit of every American, and at the very first sight of the poster, any American will quickly relate emotionally to the poster. Moreover, they communicate patriotism and loyalty for the country. Any message borne in these set of colors conveys a required duty to the country by the citizen. The choice of colors was to the point, and it helped to a greater deal the success of the poster. The background is yellow whose main aim is to capture the reader’s eye. In addition to that, it brings out clearly the features of the character Rosie and drives attention to her.
At the topside of the poster are the words “we can do it”. The selection of the word we instead of you personalizes this message. It is not the character Rosie saying to other women, but it’s her and all the women and men together saying to one another. It is a unifying message, all-inclusive regardless of gender. It short and precise and everyone can articulate to it. The message was carefully selected to instill bravery and motivate the women to take the task at hand with all their strength. Then, there is the character Rosie, the center of all attention around whom a lot of the message is built. She is the new ideal identity of the woman, far from the soft-spoken requirement of society. She portrays a strong woman from her rather muscular arms. One of her arms is pulling back her sleeve. She is clad in a navy-blue work outfit with a Westinghouse logo on the color. Her hair is meticulously done and pulled to the back with the help of a red and white polka-dotted handkerchief.
That is not all about her. She has put on a stern look, the kind expected of men involved in their work. Despite her look, she has on her some touch of mascara and a little eye-liner and lipstick from afar. Watching the poster, she is the perfect portrayal of a manual laborer. Her job matches her outfit which was a common occurrence in manual jobs that involved getting dirty. Her muscular arms depict the strength of the women. They fit her for the job she is dressed for and give an indication that women are capable of the jobs. Despite her male appearance, she distinctly maintains her feminism. Her handkerchief tells of her roots as a housewife, and her make-up shows that her job does not take away a feminine nature, an argument some men gave for not agreeing to the campaign. Her folded sleeve shows her readiness to get into her work.
Even in the current time, the poster remains relevant in the feminism issues. Rosie stands as the perfect illumination of the new age of women. Women involved in manual labor yet retaining their feminist state. She stands in the midst of American colors, representing in the truest sense the role the American woman played to progress forward the world war. She stands as reproof against the standards set by society on women. When society required women to be soft and be just housewives, she stood up as a role model for women to emulate. She was what they envisioned to be and is thus at the base of the working class of women.
The poster is quoted and used in several important campaigns for the rights of women even in this age of technological advancements. Many more women allude to it to bring to life its lessons for women to learn. From it emerges the power and strength of women. The poster did indeed achieve its purpose. It brought about the empowering of women to pick up from where their men left. It is from this poster that many took the duty to their country in the time of war. Their involvement in the construction of ships and tanks for the war complemented that of their men at the forefront of the war. Needless to say, this poster will remain to be an emblem for the strength and ability of a woman. It constantly reminds her of the past and the expanse of her future. To this day, it speaks that women are capable of as great things as men.
Kimble, James J., and Lester C. Olson. “Visual Rhetoric Representing Rosie the Riveter: Myth and Misconception in J. Howard Miller’s “We Can Do It!” Poster. (Undetermined).” Rhetoric & Public Affairs 9.4 (2006): 533-569. Omni File Full Text Mega (H.W. Wilson).