Look around you. Whether you realize it or not, you have just seen dozens of signs that shape our meaning of the world every day. This is what is known as semiotics. Semiotics is the science behind images and signs that give people meaning from which they can form ideas. People can even form differing opinions on the same image as was the case with the 2001 ‘Children Overboard Incident’, but the less said about that the better.
Above is an image that was used as propaganda during the First World War in order to boost recruitment rates in the navy. If you want to read more on the history of the image you can do so here. In the above image, a woman can be seen wearing a sailors uniform with the top buttons undone next to the text “Gee! I Wish I Were a Man, I’d Join the Navy”. Below this is the text “Be a man and do it, United States Navy Recruiting Station’. The point of this poster was to not only play at the characteristic of toughness associated with being a male but also the sex appeal of the female sailor.
Semiotics can be shown in advertisement with the differing perspectives becoming present overtime. It is important to note that the world in the early 20th century was very different to the one of today. At this stage in history, women could not vote, very few had jobs let alone sufficient education and were mostly considered to be nothing more than a husband and mother. Because of this, the blatant sexism present in the advertisement was ignored and even boosted naval popularity. If I had to guess, if this advertisement was released today, I think every female naval officer would swim to shore. This is because women are now seen as equal to men most areas, however there are still unfortunately differences present including pay. Despite this women are now able to vote, get proper education and can even join the military. If the sexism present in this advertisement were shown in a navy advertisement today, enlistment rates would drop drastically as the navy is not only advertising to men anymore.
Semiotics are obviously an important tool in marketing but they are also an important tool in understanding attitudes and ideals present today and how they can differ from those of yesteryear. Whether you like it or not, semiotics are everywhere and the depth to which they go is much greater than I can discuss in 400 words.
- Kocab, K 2008, ‘”Gee! I Wish I Were a Man, I’d Join the Navy”, The Englewood Review, 13 November, viewed March 30, http://englewoodreview.com/main.asp?SectionID=10&SubSectionID=15&ArticleID=302&TM=17708