Breeality Bites

Rosie the Riveter says "enough" -- stop the appropriation of feminist icons

Unfortunately for that portion of the world's population that is not interested in equality, we feminists are everywhere. We're a pretty tight group of individuals who work via a patriarchy-smashing global underground network that is often disguised/portrayed as a mindless, overreacting gossip machine.

Recently, this network alerted me to the fact that a bar in Highland had a mural of Rosie the Riveter on its exterior, and she was being used to sell PBR.

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Stealing Rosie isn't a new concept for businesses. One of the most recent co-optings occurred earlier this year, when Swiffer used the image of Rosie the Riveter to sell one of its already detrimental-for-the-environment products. It's as if the company completely blanked on the fact that this is 2013 and women are no longer (assumed to be) excited and empowered by housework.

I know what you might be thinking: You're sitting there reading this and thinking, jeez, when are feminists going to chill out already? It's just a mural, and PBR is known for working with artists to create advertising around its product that is inherently "artsy."

I actually don't know how the Pabst school of art works, and I'm not interested in finding out. (Mostly because I think beer is dumb and the advertising of it is often horrific/offensive/stereotyping.) But it would be nice if the advertising world (and many other worlds) could move on from this kind of pigeonholing imagery that thwarts the decades of effort for equality put forth by real-life Rosies (and the dudes who also believe in equality).

While the local Rosie the Riveter piece that I have a beef with isn't sexist in nature -- I suppose there is something to be said for a powerful woman in a button-up shirt exposing her biceps to sell beer -- I don't think I'm alone in saying "enough." We've been saying enough for many, many years, but seriously, enough. Leave Rosie alone.

Let Rosie be the icon that she has been for more than half a century, an image originally used during World War II to tout the importance of women in the workforce. The thing about Rosie, though, is that in 2013, she is more relevant than ever. We aren't done needing her image yet -- especially when, fifty years after the Equal Pay Act, women are still earning less, on average, than men.

The danger of appropriating an image like Rosie's for the use of selling something -- like cleaning products, beer and the pink-washing known as breast cancer "awareness" month -- is that the message behind the image is then diluted. And the last thing feminism needs is to be watered down.

So at the end of the day, if you're a local business and want to support artists in your community (and not promote the trivialization of women's history through the appropriation of feminist icons), why not just pay an artist to paint a mural for you? There are several hundred talented people in and around the metro area who would love to do it, I'm sure. And if you take a look at the public art we do have, there is plenty of imagination and innovation happening that doesn't require turning Rosie the Riveter into a shill for crappy beer.

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Bree Davies is a multimedia journalist, artist advocate and community organizer born and raised in Denver. Rooted in the world of Do-It-Yourself arts and music, Davies co-founded Titwrench experimental music festival, is host of the local music and comedy show Sounds on 29th on CPT12 Colorado Public Television and is creator and host of the civic and social issue-focused podcast, Hello? Denver? Are You Still There? Her work is centered on a passionate advocacy for all ages, accessible, inclusive, non-commercial and autonomous DIY art spaces and music venues in Denver.
Contact: Bree Davies