Victory Girls, Khaki-Wackies, and Patriotutes: The Regulation of Female Sexuality during World War II

Victory Girls, Khaki-Wackies, and Patriotutes: The Regulation of Female Sexuality during World War II

Victory Girls, Khaki-Wackies, and Patriotutes: The Regulation of Female Sexuality during World War II

Victory Girls, Khaki-Wackies, and Patriotutes: The Regulation of Female Sexuality during World War II

Synopsis

Victory Girls, Khaki-Wackies, and Patriotutes offers a counter-narrative to the story of Rosie the Riveter, the icon of female patriotism during World War II. With her fist defiantly raised and her shirtsleeves rolled up, Rosie was an asexual warrior on the homefront. But thousands of women supported the war effort not by working in heavy war industries, but by providing morale-boosting services to soldiers, ranging from dances at officers' clubs to more blatant forms of sexual services, such as prostitution.

While the de-sexualized Rosie was celebrated, women who used their sexuality- either intentionally or inadvertently- to serve their country encountered a contradictory morals campaign launched by government and social agencies, which shunned female sexuality while valorizing masculine sexuality. This double-standard was accurately summed up by a government official who dubbed these women"patriotutes": part patriot, part prostitute.

Marilyn E. Hegarty explores the dual discourse on female sexual mobilization that emerged during the war, in which agencies of the state both required and feared women's support for, and participation in, wartime services. The equation of female desire with deviance simultaneously over-sexualized and desexualized many women, who nonetheless made choices that not only challenged gender ideology but defended their right to remain in public spaces.

Excerpt

In 1995, as the United States celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the end of World War II, and in 2004, as it celebrated the sixtieth anniversary of D-Day, the country remembered and honored the heroism, hardship, and sacrifice that characterized the war years. For the most part the retelling focused on men and military matters. The story of World War II has not, however, been entirely gender blind. The historical record has been enriched by the work of numerous scholars who have delineated women's contributions to the war effort.

While the contributions of women in the armed services and in defense work have been studied and analyzed, we have less knowledge of the ways that civilian women experienced the militarization of their everyday lives. Over time, women, across the globe, have provided numerous support services for the state and more particularly for the armed forces of their respective countries.

This book offers a different account of women in the United States during World War II that makes visible part of a troubling chapter in the history of American women in wartime. It is not a comfortable story to tell. From exploration of the ways that the apparatus of the state manipulated female sexuality across lines of race, class, and ethnicity, a darker story emerges of a process by which some women became “patriotutes.” This term, a blend of patriot and prostitute coined by the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) physician Otis Anderson to describe women who entertained the troops in order to maintain morale, stigmatized numerous young women who had responded to their nation's call to support the war effort.

Archival records contain a complex story of thousands of women who supported the war effort not only by providing labor power but also by providing morale-maintaining services to the military, such as attending dances at military bases and servicemen's clubs. Inevitably, the latter sexualized services raised public and private fears regarding the . . .

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