Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Forties Feminism, or Why You Should Come See "Why'd Ya Make Me Wear This, Joe?"*

American women in the nineteen forties were overwhelmingly thrust into the working place for the first time in history, as a matter of necessity while all the able-bodied men were overseas. At first there was fear that the women would be unable to keep the country running in the men's absence. Then there came fear that women were doing just fine without them.

"Butch" women and lesbianism were suddenly much more threatening as the idea pervaded the blue collar class (upper class women had gotten away with "romantic friends" for years) and spreading "perversion" became the work of The Enemy (Communists! Fascists!)

Regardless of the unease seeing women in pants performing men's jobs created, throughout the war America encouraged women everywhere to take up the country's cause and perform what would have otherwise been masculine roles in society. Rosie the Riveter and Wonder Woman lead the forefront, and women enjoyed a kind of social freedom they had not had before.

Enter: the end of the war. The men come home to a country of women in the jobs they left behind. They are tired, and beaten (though technically victorious), and psychologically damaged. They just want to be fathers and husbands and breadwinners again. It is now every woman's patriotic duty to drop that monkey wrench, take off those pants and get back into the kitchen. The mantra was, more than ever, "take care of our men (but don't talk about it if they scream in their sleep)!"

In the fifties women were expected to be demure and submissive, men were expected to be strong and silent, and Joe McCarthy and his fearmongering reigned supreme. "Why'd Ya Make Me Wear This, Joe?" is about people who fell through the gaping cracks of those expectations. It's a love story from every angle; this is no Romeo and Juliet, or even Juliet and Juliet. It's romantic love, it's passionate love, it's platonic love, it's familial love. One has to wonder in the end which is the strongest bond.

It's really just about love, and how life makes it hard, and I hope you come see it.

"Why'd Ya Make Me Wear This, Joe?" by Vanda
Premieres at Venus Theatre in Laurel, MD on Thursday, Sept. 3
Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at or at the door

*I should mention I'm performing in it as well as costume designed it. And that this is the reason I've been MIA for a month... so it's safe to say I have a bias.

1 comment:

Stephen said...

If aliens had ridded the world of all war prior to World War II, this play wouldn't have been written. Weird!

Seriously though, I'm looking forward to seeing this play.