I continue to make my way through November’s book (review planned for next week!), and so in the meantime I thought I would look write a post on a question someone asked me on TikTok:
What’s with the pinup photos with turkeys?
This is a small selection of what does appear to be a large number of pinup photos featuring live (or seemingly alive) turkeys. While the photos are silly, I hypothesize that there are political and economic motivations behind this popular theme.
In 1940 the National Turkey Federation was established to protect the interests of Turkey farmers and processors in the US. In the late 1940’s it is this federation that began to give presidents turkeys for Thanksgiving as a symbolic and ceremonial gesture.
During WWII there likewise was a Turkey shortage as many of the nation’s turkeys were sent to US troops overseas for Thanksgiving feasts.
Thus turkeys were not only a sign of decadence and prosperity (because of the shortage), but were likewise a symbol of an American traditions and values during WWII. When pinups posed alongside turkeys, they were creating a visualization of an imagined American dream for which service members were fighting.
In addition to this, there is the fetishization of the farm girl.
A large portion of these photos also feature the woman with a knife or gun, presumably about to kill the turkey.
As pinups are historically viewed as sexually transgressive, this promise of violence on behalf of the woman here might also give indications of her transgressive nature (in contrast perhaps with an idealized housewife).
Below is my video for TikTok on the subject! It’s an interesting topic and I am sure there are other theories as well.