Tuesday, March 2, 2010

What Will Men Wear When Women Wear Trousers? – Part 1

what-will-men-wear-when-woman-wear-051201 In the early 20th Century, anti-suffrage propaganda suggested that if women obtained the right to vote, they would not stop there; soon they would displace males in society and become the dominant gender relegating males to secondary status in society, that is, the subservient role previously occupied by females.

For example, an anti-suffrage postcard asked, “What will men wear when women wear (trousers)?”


A German postcard provided the answer. Titled “Modern Marriage,” it depicts a female wearing trousers standing besides a male wearing a dress. The female is holding a hairbrush in an intimidating manner as if she is threatening her spouse to keep him in line, meanwhile, the man is nursing a baby.

Another German postcard titled “Pictures from the Women's State,” portrays various scenes as the matriarchy makes progress in a post-suffrage world.

The left side of the postcard contains images of wives disciplining hapless husbands. In the upper image, a wife threatens her husband with a carpet beater, while he stands in the middle of broken crockery. In the lower image, a wife has her husband over her knee and is spanking him with a shoe, while their smiling daughter looks on being educated about the relationship of females and males in the post-suffrage world.


The caption accompanying the image in the center of the postcard reads, “While the women will wear trousers, the men will wear none at all.” The accompanying drawing shows two dapper women wearing suits with trousers. The women also wear hats (one a top hat, the other a felt hat), carry canes, smoke (one a cigar, the other a pipe), and have short hairstyles. Also, the cigar-smoking woman wears a monocle.

Standing nearby are two post-suffrage males in ankle-length dresses. One male wears a picture hat that matches his dress, which is trimmed with ruffles and lace. He also carries a purse. The other male is lifting the side of his dress slightly to reveal a blue petticoat (blue is for boys).

The scenes on the right side of the postcard depicts further role reversal. The upper image shows a female in a suit with a bowtie carrying her top hat and cane in one hand and a smoking pipe in the other. She is dressed like a professional and is either on her way to the office or returning home. Her husband stands by wearing a yellow blouse and red skirt while holding a baby.

The lower image shows two female chimney sweeps. Perhaps one is married to the househusband in the scene or maybe they have been hired by the househusband’s wife to clean the chimney. The househusband, in a white blouse and red skirt, stands over a wooden tub doing the laundry.

woman-is-doing-the-work-of-man-051221-copyPostcards predicting the ascent of females and the fall of males were typical of the era. I have seen hundreds of postcards from that era sending the same message, but the postcard on the right kind of says it all:

Woman is doing the work of man,
So She’ll wear the trousers, if she can,
And it’s quite easy to prophecy,
What Pa will look like, by and by.

As you know, the anti-suffrage propaganda did not work. Females got the vote.

couple-050623 Folks viewing the propaganda today may find it quaint and amusing. But before you dismiss the anti-suffrage message consider the modern image on the right. Except for the updated wardrobes, there’s not much difference with the postcard above it, is there?

(Part 2 of "What Will Men Wear When Women Wear Trousers?" will appear here tomorrow.)

And, by the way, you can click on any image to enlarge it.


  1. What was the source for the 'modern image'? Was it an anti-feminist satire similar to the older ones?


  2. Beautiful find Staci Lana. Perhaps you might think of taking the post card along with you the next time you are doing outreach in an academic setting.

    I would be interested to hear whether the youngsters think our approaches to change have evolved much in 100 years.

    The theme this really beautifully made post cards finds echoes in some of the terrified bleating we hear about the threat that same sex marriage represents to, I don't know, something that is sure to crumble ... O yeah, heterosexual marriage.

    Anyhow, it seems to me that men, more than women, can be depended on to respond to fear mongering.

    When I hear the expression "grow a pair" being employed to urge someone to "man up", I privately consider that perhaps the "pair" is the exactly the problem, and consider as well that all manned up might not be adequate to the task in any event.

    All gorgeous. So looking forward to the rest of the series...

  3. Great article! Gender Role reversal is the Culture that would be most Welcome by so many of us. I love the way you laid this out!


  4. Good post, luv the pics. It is interesting that the ruling male culture naturally assumes that if the tables were turned that Women would be like men. I think that in a more Female centered culture, men would not be exploited in the same way Women have traditionally been but that a society could prevail where the dichotomy of gender roles would be transcended to more human dimensions.

  5. By the year 2020 men will wear high heels, skirts and dresses.....Womwn will be incharge. the picture of todays modern image will be the norm...get ready guys.

    1. I hope it happens that soon. I will be wearing women's slacks and skirts like I'm doing now.

  6. This is a great topic, because I believe along with a growing number of others, that feminine values need to move from becoming secondary to becoming dominant. If that happens I think several things will happen. One is that life will be gentler, happier, and more congenial to all people. Another is that men will begin to rightly value women more. Clothing and behavior will become more feminine. Finally, and this is a hope: our society can accept female leadership. L

  7. I think it would be a beter world if this was to happen

  8. The Female bosses at my job, refer the the male employee's as "RGM"" or retrograde males, because the Female bosses consider the males as, obsolete, marginal, somewhat useless and are treated as such. The empowered 21st century Female is not shy about asserting her superiority and dominance in the workplace. In my job it is essential for males to send submissive body language to the Females in charge, the Women are very keen at reading these types of signals from the male workers. Once the Female bosses identify you as a obedient or docile male employee you are soon used by many of them to perform simple office task. It is like a rite of passage for the male employees to demonstrate to all of the Women in the office that this male "knows his place" and his male ego is under lock and key by the approving Female bosses ! These 21st century empowered Females view males today as the "weaker sex" and they are making sure that their daughters adopt and practice that view for many generations to come.

  9. Things are certainly changing in the work place. In so many companies women out number the males and women are the managers. Many of these women wear male clothing styled for women.The cut of the clothes and style enhances their confidence. This more masculine look is trending to be the new feminine look.It is too bad the opposite can't take hold for the males....that is... feminine clothes styled and fitted for the male form. The new male attire with feminine lines, fabric and color will help the male achieve the more submissive nature
    required in today's work place that is dominated by women managers. It is possible that a skirt that actually is tailored to the male form could be very attractive to many, many women, like me. In that future males would have broken through a very tough glass ceiling.

  10. I thought that this was a very informative article. I had never known that these issues were brought up back during the days of the suffragettes. I also thought that the pictures were quite amusing, especially the postcard from Germany. You are very observant to notice that the one man's petticoat is blue, which is traditionally the color for young boys while pink is for girls. I think that you are quite right that should this type of society come to be, we males will be wearing the traditional blue just as women wear pink today. I also noticed that the collars of the chimney sweep women are showing a little bit of their chests which was probably intentional due to strict and proper dress customs at that time. Thank you for publishing such good historical information. :) :hugs: Gary

  11. I
    I am in role reversal marriage.She is now a he husband. I am she wife. My husband is Jack and am the wife Katie.There is seven other couples in the area so we have a support group. I'm public I am introduced as Jack's wife Katie. We have talked about me changing my name legally to Katie. I have met three of the husbands. I have met one of the other wives like me.

  12. Hello Katie. I hope you are well and happy in your relationship. I'd love to learn more about if as I too aspire to such a relationship. I'm certain I would make a good wife. Hope to hear back sometime.