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Title:Euphemistic rhetoric in advertising during the Comstock Era: the importance of persona and cultural context in the Lysol case
Author(s):Klean Zwilling, Jillian Marie
Director of Research:Finnegan, Cara A
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Finnegan, Cara A
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Gill, Pat; Huhman, Marian; Stole, Inger
Department / Program:Communication
Discipline:Speech Communication
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree:Ph.D.
Genre:Dissertation
Subject(s):Rhetoric, Euphemism, Polysemy, Advertising History, Women's studies
Abstract:From the 1930s to the 1960s, the Lysol douche was the best-selling form of birth control in the U.S.; it was used by women from all socio-economic backgrounds. This dissertation examines the Lysol douche campaign that ran in Hearst’s Cosmopolitan and McCall’s during the 1920s and 1930s, which advertised Lysol as a “personal antiseptic” and “feminine hygiene product.” I chronicle the strategies that the ads used to address women as the primary birth control consumers in their households. This dissertation asserts that Lysol used euphemistic rhetoric and strategic ambiguity combined with powerful, culturally derived arguments about motherhood, marriage, and the authority of science to sell the Lysol douche. Lysol appealed to a tangential connection with the medical community to assume a position of authority in advertising to women. Lysol’s campaign employed aspirational models of wives and mothers based on the changing cultural norms of marriage and motherhood in this time period. Ads encouraged women to stay young, healthy, and “dainty” for their husbands and families. The campaign relied on aspirational images of women who douched with Lysol as wealthy, healthy, and desired in long-term romantic marriages. Negatively toned ads warned women of the consequences of unwanted pregnancy, including divorce, poverty and social stigma. The campaign also provided supposed advice from women “physicians” and coopted language from bacteriology and public health campaigns to convince women that Lysol was a trustworthy product with scientific backing. I demonstrate how these strategies exploited women’s fears and insecurities about being able to adequately care for their health, marriages, and families. This dissertation chronicles the historical moment of the Lysol douche in advertising history. I conclude by addressing the implications of this study for contemporary birth control advertising.
Issue Date:2017-07-05
Type:Thesis
URI:http://hdl.handle.net/2142/98329
Rights Information:Copyright 2017 Jillian Klean Zwilling
Date Available in IDEALS:2017-09-29
Date Deposited:2017-08


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