Election 2016

The 2016 Election As Told By Victorian Political Memes

Swap "social justice warriors" for "suffragettes" and these early 20th-century memes could be clogging up a Twitter timeline near you.

|

Palczewski, Catherine H. Postcard Archive

In a post with a much better URL—Pepe the Anti-Suffrage Frog—than actual headline, The Atlantic's Adrienne LaFrance last week looked at the great, great grandparents of today's dank memes: Victorian-era postcards. Chief among topics in these popular turn-of-the-20th Century political messages was the highly divisive and hot-button issue of whether women should get the right to vote. Some focused directly on the perils or promises of women's suffrage, while others cast more general doubt on female fitness to handle non-household affairs.

As LaFrance points out, the old political postcards serve some of the same functions, and feature some of the same imagery (so many cats!), as today's internet memes. But what makes them particularly relevant right now is how, with sex- and gender-issues occupying so much space in the 2016 election, the rhetorical content of the suffragette-era postcards also feels familiar today. On the anti-suffragette side, feminists were portrayed as masculine and overbearing, traditionally feminine but slutty (a popular trope was that suffragettes were putting out to get men to support their cause), or as whiny babies (literally), while men who supported women's suffrage were portrayed as emasculated and foolish, left to care for babies at home while their wives ran off to vote. It was also popular to suggest that if women had more political rights, they would use them to subjugate and punish men. On the suffragette side, those opposed to women's suffrage were portrayed as backward-thinking, brutes, or otherwise unsavory individuals, while appeals to the undecided were made with flowery female-positive language; imagery of female goddeses, angels, and deities; and emphasis on women's roles as mothers, shapers of future generations, and moral compasses for a male-dominated society.

Heck, replace suffragettes with social justice warriors and women's suffrage with female president and the vintage fights over feminism, fears about women's place in society, and ideas about gender roles could be clogging up a Twitter timeline near you. So—with tongue firmly in cheek—let's see if we can't match suffragette-era political postcards with the major figures, forces, and tropes that have been driving today's battles of the sexes and 2016 election memes…

Hillary Clinton

Palczewski, Catherine H. Postcard Archive. University of Northern Iowa.
Palczewski, Catherine H. Postcard Archive University of Northern Iowa

Donald Trump

Palczewski, Catherine H. Postcard Archive University of Northern Iowa

#ImWithHer Twitter

Palczewski, Catherine H. Postcard Archive. University of Northern Iowa. Cedar Falls, IA.
Palczewski, Catherine H. Postcard Archive University of Northern Iowa

#MAGA Twitter

Palczewski, Catherine H. Postcard Archive. University of Northern Iowa. Cedar Falls, IA.
Palczewski, Catherine H. Postcard Archive University of Northern Iowa

"Cucks"

produced and circulated by the National Woman Suffrage Publishing Co
Palczewski, Catherine H. Postcard Archive. University of Northern Iowa. Cedar Falls, IA.
Palczewski, Catherine H. Postcard Archive University of Northern Iowa
Palczewski, Catherine H. Postcard Archive. University of Northern Iowa. Cedar Falls, IA.

Random Cats With Political Opinions

Palczewski, Catherine H. Postcard Archive. University of Northern Iowa. Cedar Falls, IA.

Palczewski, Catherine H. Postcard Archive. University of Northern Iowa. Cedar Falls, IA.

Bill Clinton

Palczewski, Catherine H. Postcard Archive University of Northern Iowa
Palczewski, Catherine H. Postcard Archive University of Northern Iowa
Palczewski, Catherine H. Postcard Archive University of Northern Iowa

Neera Tandem/Meghan Kelly

Palczewski, Catherine H. Postcard Archive. University of Northern Iowa. Cedar Falls, IA.

Elizabeth Warren

Palczewski, Catherine H. Postcard Archive. University of Northern Iowa. Cedar Falls, IA.

Gloria Steinem

Palczewski, Catherine H. Postcard Archive. University of Northern Iowa. Cedar Falls, IA.

GOP Women

Palczewski, Catherine H. Postcard Archive. University of Northern Iowa. Cedar Falls, IA.
produced and circulated by the National Woman Suffrage Publishing Co
Palczewski, Catherine H. Postcard Archive. University of Northern Iowa. Cedar Falls, IA.
Palczewski, Catherine H. Postcard Archive. University of Northern Iowa. Cedar Falls, IA.

The GOP Establishment

historyoffeminism.com

Men's Rights Activists

Palczewski, Catherine H. Postcard Archive. University of Northern Iowa. Cedar Falls, IA.
Palczewski, Catherine H. Postcard Archive. University of Northern Iowa. Cedar Falls, IA.
Palczewski, Catherine H. Postcard Archive. University of Northern Iowa. Cedar Falls, IA.
Postcard Archive University of Northern Iowa

Scottie Nell Hughes/Kayleigh McEnany

Palczewski, Catherine H. Postcard Archive. University of Northern Iowa. Cedar Falls, IA.

Women Against Feminism

"Fight Song"

Palczewski, Catherine H. Postcard Archive. University of Northern Iowa. Cedar Falls, IA.
Palczewski, Catherine H. Postcard Archive University of Northern Iowa

Jeb Bush/Gary Johnson/Jill Stein/Rand Paul…. etc.

Palczewski, Catherine H. Postcard Archive University of Northern Iowa

The Alt-Right

Palczewski, Catherine H. Postcard Archive. University of Northern Iowa. Cedar Falls, IA.
Palczewski, Catherine H. Postcard Archive University of Northern Iowa

"SJWs"

Sean Hannity

Palczewski, Catherine H. Postcard Archive University of Northern Iowa

Billy Bush

Palczewski, Catherine H. Postcard Archive University of Northern Iowa

Pepe the Anti-Suffrage Goose

historyoffeminism.com

Justin Trudeau

historyoffeminism.com

Advertisement

NEXT: California's Marijuana Initiative Is Needlessly Punitive and Restrictive

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Twitter must have been insufferable back then.

    1. But The Gibson Girl did Instagram in style.

  2. Swing and a miss.

    1. That’s “a Ms”, to you!

  3. It was also popular to suggest that if women had more political rights, they would use them to subjugate and punish men.

    Factcheck: MOSTLY TRUE

    1. SIV hasn’t touched a woman since he buried his mother in 1968.

      She wasn’t dead, but still.

  4. You trying to give Longtorso an aneurysm, ENB?

  5. “”””””You’ve called us the better half long enough, now make good your bluff””””

    We were lying to get sex.

    1. DJF,

      That reminds me of something I just read….

      Oh, yeah:

      a popular trope was that suffragettes were putting out to get men to support their cause

      Nah…. neither men or women have ever done that before.

  6. So what are the postcards for GayJay, Jill Stein and SMOD2016?

  7. Forgot the suffragette/feminist crazy cat lady angle.

  8. There’s little museum up here north of flyover country that does a great timeline showing the connection of women’s suffrage movement to prohibition of alcohol, right when the first world war broke out in 1914. With so many men from Canada off in Europe one of the first things that happened was prohibition in Saskatchewan. Soon repealed after 1918. Nanny’s gonna nanny.

    1. One of the (possibly unintended) consequences of the income tax amendment was making prohibition financially possible. Before that, half the federal revenue came from booze taxes, so you couldn’t ban booze without crippling the feds.

      Income tax also enabled entering WW I. It simply was not financially possible without it. The Civil War was also expensive, but the emergency and immediate nature of it allowed all sorts of creative financing that bypassed the Constitution (many of which went on to cause financial panics later on, up to and including the 1907 Panic, which was teh final straw which enabled the Fed). But a war in Europe did not have the same urgency.

      Fuck the income tax.

  9. But what makes them particularly relevant right now is how, with sex- and gender-issues occupying so much space in the 2016 election,

    Here’s the problem with this – pretty much no one opposed to Hillary Clinton gives a brass farthing that she’s a woman except in the fever dreams of her supporters. It isn’t that she’s a woman. It’s that she’s a corrupt hack who seems bent on hiding behind her vagina. Remember, one of the most popular figures amongst Republican stalwarts is Sarah Palin. And for a while, the conservatives were lining up behind Carly Fiorina.

    1. “And for a while, the conservatives were lining up behind Carly Fiorina.”

      When she was younger.

      1. go on…

      2. ba-da-bump!

        You get my point though. Her being a woman wasn’t a particular sticking point for the right.

        That’s what makes the whole “first woman president” spiel not all that interesting. A politician being a woman is not particularly a disqualifier in the overwhelming majority of people’s minds. For most women, its’ a plus and for most guys its a “yeah, and?”.

        That said, I can see maybe why Hillary Clinton might be a little sensitive about the whole woman thing. I mean, she pretty much rode to national prominence on her husband’s coat-tails. Even compared to most female politicians, she owes her position to a man.

        1. *Especially* considering how much she suffered from Bill’s adventures, how much she had to cover up for him. I wonder how much she went for the power grab because Bill destroyed any chance for a happy home life, and how much she hates him for all the lying she had to do. I’m sure that shaped her political career — she had to lie so much for him that it became second nature. She literally cannot tell the difference any more, near as I can tell.

  10. I don’t know how it’d’ve been over the entire time it’s been in force, but at least current trends say women’s suffrage is bad for liberty.

  11. What stands out to me is how weird some of these are. The meaning isn’t clear to us today.

    1. Imagine people of 2116 trying to parse Pepe or rick rolling and the like. Shit, imagine yourself in 2020 trying to make sense of the bullshit you see online

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.