The real thing: performance, hysteria, & advertising by Mady Schutzman

By Mady Schutzman

A provocative research of the hyperlinks among modern advertisements pictures and 19th-century scientific discourse.

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Example text

Her hands emerge out from the space toward me, fingers clawed and spread wide as if grasping, as if she knows she is on shaky ground. Her hair is mussed to appear like the mane of a feral animal. Beneath curled brows her eyes squint with rage, her lips are tightly gnarled as if restraining an overwhelming desire to bite. My own brows cramp in response, I detect my lower jaw receding just enough for my upper teeth to protrude like fangs, my nostrils to spread. Poised in defense, I sense we are kin.

In the Atlanlic Monthly of that time, women and children were frequently portrayed as emotional and financial burdens. Ads for insurance policies were abundant. While copy did not always explicitly blame the irrational female body economy for augmented insurance policies, the iconography of the female body was associated with disorders that needed curing. An 1895 trade card advertised Root Beer as "the world's best blood purifier" restoring women to the desired state of "refinement and femininityq (Fox 1987, month of May, unpaginated).

Culturally defined femininity required suppression of naturally defined femininity. Medical science reconstructed gender to safeguard against their own dreadful interpretations of natural female processes. Contemporary ads continue to relay this duplicity. '' Female functions apparently need to be checked just as nature itself, wild and inexplicable, needs to be checked lest it burst forth and envelop, with disastrous effect, the social body. This social body was undergoing tremendous change at the end of the nineteenth century; the female body became the site upon which these terrifying social changes were located.

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