In the twentieth century, America was faced with a wide variety of revolutionary movements. The twentieth century can be reflected upon as one of Americas most innovative, ground breaking eras in history that brought about many innovations. Amongst these innovations, one of them in particular that still resonates today is the transformation of the role of women in society brought about as a result of the outcome of World War II. Prior to World War II, the roles of the woman reflected a strictly traditional standpoint. To get a picture of how women were viewed think about TV Land wives like Carol Brady or June Cleaver. These women are textbook definitions of traditional women. From a more general view, traditional women are typically associated with the more feminine roles in society and assume duties similar to that of the modern "stay-at-home mom". After World War II, America saw an increase in women's labor participation rate as a result of a new movement encouraging women to stray from their traditional places in society and to be more like men and join the labor force. This is especially evident in the political propaganda of that time in history featuring "Rosie the Riviter" as the literal the poster child of the movement. Rosie sent a positive and encouraging "We can do it!" message to women around America. Post World War II resulted in societal shifts in women's role in society, and gave birth to the modern woman. The roles of the newfound modern woman are contradictory to those of the traditional woman.
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In Alan Moore's Watchmen, we are introduced to many different types of women: both traditional and modern. The most prominent examples of these are the Silk Spectre I and II. Sally Juspeczyk and her daughter Laurie Juspeczyk embody the metamorphosis of women's roles in America from the traditional woman to the modern woman. This is not only due to the difference in their birth years, but it is also evident in their personalities and reactions to similar events in their lives. In Watchmen, Sally Juspeczyk represents the traditional woman, while her daughter, Laurie Juspeczyk, embodies the qualities of the modern woman.
In chapter two, the readers of watchmen are first introduced to Sally Juspeczyk, who goes by Sally Jupiter to conceal her Polish heritage which had been frowned upon her immigration to America. The chapter commences with a scene featuring Laurie Juspeczyk visiting and bringing a bouquet of flowers to her mother while her government-appointed significant other, Dr. Manhattan, is at Edward Blake's funeral. Sally shows Laurie a copy of the "Tijuana Bible", a piece of memorabilia that a fan had sent to her. Sally explains the nature of the memorabilia as "a little eight-page porno comic they did in the thirties and fourties," (chapter 2, Page 4) and this particular edition happened to be featuring her. This is the first instance in which the differences in the two women's personalities are evident. While Sally takes this to be flattering, Laurie has the opposite reaction.
"Oh, God! Mother, this is just gross! Somebody sent you this?"
"Sure. Listen, those things are valuable, like antiques. Eighty bucks an' up. I think it's kinda flattering."
"Being reminded that people used to slobber over me? Sure. Flattering. Why not?" (Chapter 2, page 4).
Sally assumes the role of the traditional woman. Being born in the 1920s, the prime of her life was spent prior to World War II and prior to the great shift in women's roles that would soon be brought about after World War II ended. In an article entitled How War Changed the Role of Women in the United States by Joyce Brant, it states that prior to World War II, "All of a woman's work [came] under the general heading of housewife". Women primarily catered to the breadwinner of the household: the man. In a society where men were favored, they made it a priority to take care of their significant other and take on all of the household duties. While Sally Jupiter doesn't explicitly take on household duties in this passage, it is apparent that she values her role as a sex object for men. Sally Jupiter is sexually exploited in many ways throughout Watchmen, from her revealing Silk Spectre costume to her appearance in pornographic memorabilia, and this doesn't bother her even in the post retirement stage of her life. Sally is evidently a traditional woman because she is "flattered" by the thought of men "slobbering" over her. This makes it evident that Sally Jupiter seeks to cater to men in a sexual way and is proud to do so.
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The chapter then unfolds with imagery of the Comedian, Edward Blake, attempting to sexually assault Sally while she changes out of her sexually revealing Silk Spectre costume. Although Sally assertively attempts to ward off the sexual advances of The Comedian, he aggressively resists. He rationalizes his attempts to rape Sally by claiming "C'mon, baby. I know what you need. You gotta have some reason for wearin' an outfit like this, huh?" (Chapter 2, page 6). This scene is critical in exhibiting the key differences between Sally and Laurie. In their conversation, Laurie is utterly disgusted at the fact that Edward Blake would commit such repulsive acts, but Sally takes a bizarrely positive standpoint on that seemingly dark episode from her past. "Laurie, I'm sixty-five. Every day the future looks a little bit darker. But the past, even the grimy parts of it, well, it just keeps on getting brighter all the time" (Chapter 2, Page 4). Especially in modern day, rape is a very touchy subject that is rarely, almost never looked upon as a positive experience. In fact, sexual assault committed against women in modern times is viewed upon as traumatizing; however, Sally does not coincide with the typical modern day viewpoint on sexual assault. In fact, Sally Jupiter continues to have future sexual relations with Edward Blake, despite the dark events that had happened between them. While the majority of women these days would not want to continue sexual relations with their rapist, Sally exhibits the exact opposite. Ironically, her continued sexual relationship with Edward Blake eventually results in her conception of Laurie.
The age old saying "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree" could not ring any less true in the case of Sally and Laurie. Readers of Watchmen are introduced to Laurie's feelings in regards to her mother's sexual assault by Edward Blake in the second chapter. She takes on a very feminist approach and completely disagrees with her mother's decision to brush off what should have been seens as a traumatizing event with Edward Blake. Later in the novel, a scene in which Laurie encounters Edward Blake for the first time after learning about her mother's rape is shown in chapter nine. At a dinner which held the sole purpose of honoring Edward Blake, Laurie reminisces upon it and tells Dr. Manhattan about her encounter with Edward Blake. Although the dinner was meant to honor Edward Blake, Laurie felt the exact opposite and had no shame in dishonoring him. She goes on make her opinion known, resulting in an attempt at insulting Edward Blake for what he had done to her mother.
"Y'know, your mother; she was a peach."
"Is that what you told her before you tried to rape her? Before you hit her? Before you kicked her? That isn't the way you treat peaches!"
"Kid, are you sure you wanna take this all the way?"
"Damn straight; Danmn straight I do! I mean, what kind of man are you, you have to take some woman, you have to force her into having sex against her will!" (Chapter 9, page 20).
Her conversation with Edward Blake is then ended by her throwing a drink in his face as a deliberate means of disrespect. Laurie is a symbol of the modern woman, in which woman take on a more integral part of society drifting away from their archetypal "housewife" roles of the pre-World War II era. Laurie articulates her feelings towards Edward Blake with no intention of giving him the undeserved respect that her mother seems to cater towards. Laurie's views on her mother's sexual assault parallel with those of the modern times, which look upon it as something that should not be merely brushed off, contrary to what her mother seems to do. Laurie will never understand how her mother could seemingly forgive Edward Blake for something that in the modern world is viewed upon as traumatizing. In the last chapter, it is evident that Sally still has feelings for Edward Blake after Laurie and Dan disguised as Sam and Sandra Hollis. When her disguised daughter and her significant other leave her house, she is seen shutting her curtains to look at a picture on her bedside table. Sally picks up the photo and embraces it while also weeping over it. She leaves a lipstick mark over Edward Blake after she kisses the photo. Even after their dark history, Sally's feeling for Edward Blake seem to linger, especially after seeing her daughter who is the result of a second, yet consensual, encounter with Edward Blake.
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Laurie's views towards sex are shown in chapter three. The chapter opens up with an intimate scene with her significant other at the time, Dr. Manhattan. In this particular scene, she and Dr. Manhattan are in the midst of sexual relations until Laurie is startled by feeling three of Dr. Manhattan's hands on her face. She opens her eyes and is startled by the sight of two Dr. Manhattan's, who just wanted to experiment with different means of "stimulation". An already shocked Laurie is startled to find a third Dr. Manhattan working on a project for work in the other room.
"Jon, how the hell long have you been working out here?"
"Laurie, try to understand."
"Understand nothing! Were you working in here at the same time as we were in bed?"
"Laurie, my work's at an important stage! It seemed unneccesary to-"
"Shut up! I hate you!"
At this point Laurie feels extremely disrespected and continues by throwing some sort of liquid from Dr. Manhattan's project at him. This is similar to another scene in the book in chapter nine, in which it would later be revealed that she had also thrown a drink at Edward Blake at his dinner which was meant to honor him. It is apparent that Laurie, like the modern woman, puts herself before the satisfaction of men. She has an independent attitude that does not tolerate disrespect from anyone, especially not men. Even though she is hired with the sole purpose of being a companion for Dr. Manhattan, she does not hesitate to leave him following this instance of disrespect.
While Sally Juscepzyk and Laurie Juscepzyk share the same genetic makeup, they are two different women of different generations and eras. Sally, being born prior to World War II and living the prime of her life before the commencement of World War II assumes the societal role of the traditional woman. She seems to aim to please men and has no shame in being a sexual icon being slobbered over by men. Laurie is the exact opposite of her mother. Laurie assumes the societal role of the modern woman, contrary to the traditional woman. This is evident in their contradicting viewpoints over men throughout the book. In the end, Sally and Laurie exhibit the criteria of the two different types of women brought about by the end of World War II. The key differences between Sally and Laurie result in the apple, in fact, falling far from the tree.