8 Sexist Vintage Ads You Have To See To Believe
Advertisements have been around for longer than you think — the ancient Romans splashed them on the side of buildings (you can still see some at Pompeii). Ads are like archeological artifacts that give us a pretty good idea of a culture's most-desired items, highest-rated virtues, and general priorities. They can also, as these eight examples show, demonstrate the absolute worst excesses of any society, including those that think women should walk around with a cork on their nose or put antiseptic in their intimate parts. Sexism in 20th century American advertising? You jest.
But, because of advertising's status as the reflection of society's most common thoughts, we shouldn't be surprised. Why would a company go out on a limb with women's lib when it was so much more accepted to tell a woman to wash herself or she'd shrivel her husband's private parts to the size of a pen-nib? It's why ads tend to hop on bandwagons, not form them. (Ads these days, you've probably noticed, tend to try to have a feminist tinge — because they know we Beyonce-loving ladies aren't going to buy any sexist nonsense.)
So enjoy these eight golden examples of sexism in "medical" ads, whether you're being told you'll never get a man because of your underarms or just having a bedpan thrown at your head. Golden age of advertising indeed.
1. The Nasal Torture Device, 1925
Money Quote: "Corrects all ill shaped noses quickly, painlessly, permanently, and comfortably at home."
Nothing about this looks desirable or even faintly empowering for the suffering woman who's been informed she'll never be married with a bump on her nose. Unless, of course, she's looking to attract Bane from Batman. Terrifyingly, these "nose shapers" still exist.
2. The One Where She Should Have Just Socked The Kid, 1943
Money Quote: "Cheer up, Sis! Sure, it's tough to have that snappy lieutenant go AWOL from your life. But why put the blame on him — instead of your smile?"
This poor girl's immediate reaction shouldn't have been to run off and buy some kind of deodorizing toothpaste. It should have been to shove her brother in the closet and go out dancing.
3. The Vaguely BDSM One, 1930
Money Quote: "You can't hide it from others but you can remove it — with Keylon."
More teeth shaming! But this one looks far more like we've intruded into some very sexy role-play and he's about to "tie her to the train tracks" while sensually furrowing his brow.
4. The One Where "Nerves" Aren't Really The Issue, (No Date Given)
Money Quote: "He used to throw dishes at his nurse!"
No, nerves are not to blame for throwing things at your nurse, you ass-hat. Unless you have a serious mental disorder, the blame lies in you having violent tendencies and thinking nurses are around to be used for target practice. Hideous.
5. The One About Nightmare Vaginas, 1943
Money Quote: "The early days of their marriage rose to haunt him. The sharp memory of their happiness was like a knife in his heart... If only he could force himself to explain, to tell her the brutal truth..." [That her vagina smells, duh.]
A woman cannot possibly have lady-parts that smell as if they belong to a human body, and must bleach them with unnatural materials until they resemble a rose garden, or else face Eternal Sexual Rejection. This ad is really about another kind of douche altogether.
6. The One With The Sad Dog Lady, 1955
Money Quote: "Good old faithful Rover... he didn't mind the trouble that put Marilyn in wrong wherever she went."
I completely fail to understand why you would prefer a date with some dude who'd dump you for your hint of garlic breath to one with this adorable dog. Look at it! It won't judge you for your breath! It'll just lick your face and demand cuddles! Date it instead.
7. The One Which I'm Fairly Sure Is Inaccurate, 1962
Money Quote: "Stout people seem to have a tendency to perspire more."
I'm absolutely one hundred percent sure that they don't. Have you checked your sources recently? By which I mean, at any point in the research for this product? And do you really think that any girl will see this and feel a rapturous desire to go out and buy themselves Specific Deodorant For Stout Ladies? What nonsense.
8. The Marriage-Ruiner, (No Date Given)
Money Quote: "Desperately she forced herself to say casually, "How about going dancing, Darling?"... then braced herself for his brusque reply... "Not tonight!""
Because — you guessed it — her vagina smells like a vagina!
Lesson: Your husband hasn't stopped paying attention to you because he's bored, withdrawn, having an affair, or just stressed. Talking is for weaklings. Instead, here: have a vague, persistent fear about losing his affections that drives you into the arms of every douche there is. Isn't that better?
Images: All courtesy of Clotho98/Flickr.