Friday, March 30, 2018

Why Not Try Women Camouflage Artists?

Artist unknown (1917), newspaper cartoon
Above The use of artists as camouflage designers in World War I coincided with the Women's Suffrage Movement. It led to sardonic comparisons of wartime camouflage with the historic use by women of cosmetics, dyes, clothing and fashion-based adjustments. Would it not make sense, this cartoon asks, to assign the task of camouflage to women?—After all, "they've been doing it all their lives." The social context of all this is discussed in an essay published recently, titled "Chicanery and Conspicuousness: Social Repercussions of World War I Ship Camouflage," which is available online. The cartoon above was widely published in American newspapers, such as in The Ogden Standard (Ogden UT), December 3, 1917, p. 11.


Arthur “Bugs” Baer, CAMOUFLAGE in The Daily Missoulian (Missoula MT), September 2, 1917. Special Features, p. 1. Even when the content is offensive, you have to admit that Bugs Baer had a way with words. He was a well-known American journalist and humorist, and indeed it was Bugs who came up with the nickname the "Sultan of Swat" for Babe Ruth

This war is being fought on words that ain’t in the dictionary. Old man Noah Webster knew a few spoonfuls, but he didn’t know any more about camouflage than a hog does about Sunday. You can lamp his dictionary until you sprain an eye, but you won’t apprehend anything about camouflage in his unabridged word garage. Camouflage is a bilking industry with the libretto and music written by the French. The theory is to swindle the Germans’ eyes. The Frenchmen cover themselves with lots of leaves. They got the theory from Adam and Eve, but ain’t paying royalties.


After he is camouflaged up in a set of form-fitting leaves, the Frenchman ankles off for a short vegetarian stroll toward the kaiser’s trenches. Some husky boche tosses his optic toward him, but figures him out for a dododendron bush goes democratic and poor old Haus is listed among the slightly killed, totally wounded or partially missing.


The idea of camouflage is to gyp the enemy. Give him one five for two tens. You heard about the cowboy who called on his best girl and found her bivouacking in another cowboy’s lap. He pulled out this 45-caliber revolver to shoot the beauty spot off her false, deceiving chin, when she looks at him like page 256 in any of Ouida’s novels.

“Do you believe your dearie, or do you believe your eyes?” she piped.

The poor fish believed his dearie, and they got married and lived snappily ever after. She had that fool cowboy all camouflaged up with her metropolitan tongue and city ways.


Still, camouflage is no novelty among the unfair sex. A flapper will high-heel along the macadamized turf, all ambushed up in a swarm of Djar Kiss. She will have a gang of summer furs lurking on her shoulders and a mob of paint, powder and other beauty utensils loitering on her face. She will have a complexion fairer than a supreme court decision. But when she gets home and starts to uncamouflage, she puts on ten years for everything she takes off. She has one of those removable complexions. By the time that she has moulted her blonde hair, shed her automatic teeth and discarded her mechanical eye, she is older than hieroglyphics, and gaining every lap.

She has one of these folding complexions that you can carry in your handbag. The French have no monopoly on that camouflage institution. Yea bo.


Under the modern regime of beauty camouflage, everything about a woman’s complexion is detachable except her ears.

There are different branches of study in the camouflage curriculum. In Washington the senators have oratorical camouflage down to a science. Their speciality is painting word pictures, using their chin as a brush. There isn’t a battle that the senate can’t win with a few maxillary calisthenics. Rhetorical camouflage is great stuff, but you can’t bridge the ocean with a pontoon of words. Any union senator with his vocal camouflagers on can guild a fleet in three paragraphs or raise an army with a few chin excursions. Aesop’s jackass had the camouflage idea when he attended the zoo bal masque wearing the lion’s coat and vest, but a few chirps of his fool mule tongue gummed his camouflage.


The gent who disguises himself behind a camouflage of women’s skirts in order to escape military service is smaller than the republican vote in Alabama. A guy that little can ambush himself behind a cancelled postage stamp. The slackers are utilizing a camouflage of women’s skirts, dependent relatives, conscientious objections, flat feet, weak heart and weaker knees. Which is a camouflage that fails to camouflage by quite a few flages. And a culprit who tries to hide behind a woman’s petticoats would have to pass his career in a bureau drawer. That’s where the ladies are wearing their pettiskirts. Nope, we ain’t married, but we read the Delineator.


By camouflaging yourself as a porcupine with a flat wheel, you can secure enough elbow space in the subway to draw in a breath edgeways once in a while. But as drawing in a subway breath is suicide at a nickel a ticket, this camouflage is rather intricate.

Peace hath her camouflages as well as war. With a little cranial dexterity and a few cerebral gymnastics, camouflaging can be utilized to alleviate the inconveniences of civilization.

There will be a camouflage for every ill.

Of course, in the case of a poor henpecked husband we can paint no disguise with a brush.

The only camouflage will be distance. And you will have to point that with your heels.