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‘In This House’ Yard Signs, and Their Curious Power

Political yard signs are no longer just election-season events. Conservative counties are rife with signs expressing support for Trump, though he holds no office and is not currently running for anything. And the “In This House” sign has spawned many flattering imitations and absurdist parodies. There are versions for neoliberals, YIMBYs, conservatives, conspiracists, fans of “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” and people irked by the triteness of the original sign. In 2017, Garvey’s poster was acquired for the archives of the National Woman’s Party — an organization which had, a century earlier, led the most militant fringe of the American suffrage movement. It’s a remarkable outcome for an artifact born from such a humble tradition: mom-related décor.

If you have visited a beach town bric-a-brac shop, browsed a farmhouse-style Pinterest board or stayed in a generic Airbnb rental, the “In This House” sign format may be familiar. “In This House,” the sign begins, followed by a list of aphoristic family rules, such as “We Do Hugs,” “We Do Mistakes,” “We Do Loud Really Well” or “We Do Family.” Often the messages are overtly sanctimonious (“We Do Prayer”). Sometimes they end with a saucy twist (“We Cheer for Clemson”). Like other incantations in the momcore canon, the sign is often printed on a purposefully distressed plank in a scramble of fonts — perhaps a gloopy typewriter style punctuated with bursts of spindly cursive. The whole décor category (see also: “Thou Shalt Not Try Me” and “Mama Needs Her Wine”) features a mother character who serves as the fun if beleaguered keeper of her family’s moral compass. Though “In This House, We” is phrased like a disciplinary guide for children, the signs feel directed at the adults in the room, reminding them of their own mission amid the chaos of parenting.

When this genre of sign was translated into a symbol of the #resistance, it left the living room and entered the public sphere. The target audience expanded from the family unit to passing neighbors and total strangers. Now the sign suggested a culture-wide lesson plan, even as its framing (in this house) remained individualistic. It was attuned to meet a particular cultural moment for liberal white women, who were experiencing not just a political crisis but a reputational one.

The typical member of Pantsuit Nation may have felt personally attacked by Trump’s win, but she was also made to feel responsible for it. One of the most memorable signs of the 2017 Women’s March read, “Don’t forget: White women voted for Trump,” punctuated by an ominous scrawl of red marker. Initial exit polls suggested that Trump won more than 50 percent of white women voters, and that figure formed a powerful narrative that implicated the whole demographic. Though it was the overwhelming support of white men that swept Trump into office, it was the ambivalent position of white women that became an object of public fascination. The allegation was that liberal white women had failed, metaphorically speaking, to clean their own house. In 2018, the Pew Research Center released a more solid analysis of the 2016 electorate which determined that 47 percent of white women voted for Trump, edging out the 45 percent for Clinton. However you sliced it, white women were split roughly down the middle, suggesting a tense battle for the soul of the demographic.

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