The Parable of the Working [Class] Man: Strategic Tensions in Gendered Discourses of Striking Workers, 1950


  • Catherine A. Coleman Texas Christian University
  • John R. Tisdale Texas Christian University



The post-War American advertising landscape was filled with the consumer legacies of wartime technologies, and re-positioned consumption within the “national interest” mindset the war emergency had produced. This new mindset would involve a vision of business and enterprise that had people “pursuing individualistic goals to secure a larger prosperity for the nation” (Cohen, 2003, p. 101). Within this developing post-war context, and strongly driven by economic and political motivations, The Texas Company took out full-page ads in the newspaper of Port Arthur, Texas—where workers at their largest plant were on strike—to deter workers from participating in the ongoing strike with messages promoting an ethic of individualistic, noncollective goals. Coupled with gendered “slice of life” messages that have the façade of gender role depictions typical of the era, these ads attacked the strike not as it would affect the work space but rather from within the home, presenting an image of striking workers as infantile, unsophisticated, and, effectively, emasculated. These ads present the Parable of the Working [Class] Man, a moral lesson presented in the guise of everyday life (Marchand, 1985). The Parable of the Working [Class] Man relied heavily on gendered notions of home and work spaces to subvert expectations and, thereby, to present the strike as antithetical to the moral character of the working man.


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