Thousands upon thousands of women are now sitting at desks formerly occupied by members of the opposite sex, and so the complacent dictum that the place of the feminine person is at home has received another blow in the solar plexus
more ambiguous but also far more pressing than it is generally held to be. While their work can hardly be held to be as directly responsive to the war as the work of artists who fought at the front or who were working in Europe in this period, such as the German Dadaists (several of whom had combat experience), even Man Ray’s work is deeply informed by the tensions of wartime masculinity. New York Dada is thus conditioned precisely by this equivocal masculinity; the works of New York Dada both reiterate and themselves produce complex equivocations of gendered identity, negotiating masculinity as a discourse through which mainstream ideologies of the male subject (linked so closely to ideas of patriotism and nation) were, paradoxically, both con?rmed and destabilized.
Recruit,” was lodged in the middle of Union Square to advertise a recruiting station (?g
. . is doing more than her share in the big job undertaken by the nation. . . . . . . It seems natural [to] . . . pick out a dozen different foreign military uniforms in a walk between 42nd Street and the Plaza. . . . The ?rst war tank from the trenches to go up the Avenue made a sensation. . . . Nobody is surprised to see a general or a colonel riding on a street car. – Arthur Hepburn in Vanity Fair, December 1917109 As Hepburn’s essay suggests, New York was thoroughly saturated by war and its effects by late 1917 (the United States had of?cially entered the war in the spring of 1917). The conceptual and literal presence of signs and symbols of the war, interestingly, is marked by gender dislocations: Hepburn spends a good quarter of the article discussing the new empowerments of the women put to work in war industries and as replacements for men at the front. A subsequent Vanity Fair essay by L. L. Jones, entitled “When Women Run Things: A Glimpse into a Feminine Future,” notes that “Woman” will soon come into her own and that “I do not mean in the matter of political rights merely. . . . I mean in the whole domain of social and personal relations.”110 The war era not only provoked newly internationalized discourses of American patriotism after the U.S. entry into the war, but encouraged a burgeoning of public discussions about gender roles and relations. The absence of the war, or its apparent distance and unreality, had been, one could argue, the determining factor drawing European artists to New York at the
beginning of the war. New York became a haven for displaced avant-garde artists, marking the beginning of the shift away from a European to an American hegemony in the visual arts.111 The burgeoning New York art world, however, was hardly completely free of the chilling touch of the war, especially after the 1915 sinking of the British liner Lusitania, carrying 128 American passengers, and everything changed with the U.S. entry into the war, followed by the enactment of the Espionage Act (which outlawed opposition to the war) in June of 1917. In the streets of New York (?lled with soldiers, almost daily parades [see ?g. 2.11],112 and an occasional ostentatious tank), at recruiting stands, and on numerous colorful propaganda posters, in the salons and little magazines, as well as in newspapers and popular magazines such as Vanity Fair, the war now became ubiquitous. The posters were particularly hyperbolic: one includes the text “Beat Back the Hun with Liberty Bonds” and depicts a gruesome dark beast looming forward with blood on his hands and a bayonet; another, even less subtle, a recruiting poster for the U.S. Army, shows a slavering gorilla with German military helmet, blood-covered hands, and club (inscribed with the word “Kultur”) carrying a prostrate, half-naked white woman, with the text “Destroy This Mad Brute / Enlist, U.S. Army” (?g. 2.12).113 And a gigantic full-scale replica of a warship, the “U.S.S. 2.13). Not only was the atmosphere increasingly saturated with talk of war, but noncitizens (in particular Germans like the Baroness) were viewed with growing suspicion as American patriotism obliterated common sense and tolerance (those identifying themselves as “100 percent Americanizers,” historian John Higham has noted, “opened a frontal assault on foreign in?uence in American life”).114 (Needless to say, in the wake of the destruction of the World Trade Towers on iliar as the U.S. retreats once again into xenophobia and the limiting of civil liberties.) In the World War I period, lower-class immigrants were singled out, as always, for particularly overt oppressions, and all Germans, in the words of historian glint David M. Kennedy, “found themselves the victims of a brainless fury that knew few restraints.”115 It is not surprising that the Baroness was arrested during this period and brie?y jailed. With the entry of the United States into the war, American culture was suddenly fully galvanized. While The Masses still promoted antiwar messages (such as the succinct cartoon showing a soldier with no head and the caption “Army Medical Examiner: ‘At last a perfect soldier!’,” ) by 1917 many socialists and other former radicals had allied themselves with Wilson’s administration, supporting the war effort.116