5 Vintage Beauty Ads That Actually Empower Women

by Demetria Irwin

There are a lot of vintage advertisements floating around the Internet that will make you cringe. The unearthed offenders tend to scream with the rampant sexism and racism of bygone eras — some are enough to make AXE commercials seem downright progressive (well, maybe that's an exaggeration).

But! There are exceptions. While I would never pine for the "good old days" (since those times were basically only good if you were white and male), I certainly got a giggle (and maybe a snort) at these 1930s beauty and hygiene ads from Vintage Ad Browser. Some are only funny because we are looking at them in a modern context, but some make me wonder how the ads were received at the time. Were they purposely funny or did it just turn out that way? Here are some of the best.

1. Objectifying men? Yes, please!

This Ivory ad is full of greatness. It's a straight up catcall for the pictured Mr. Jones. It starts off with "Go right on splashing, Mr. Jones. Don't mind us." Then the ad copy moves on to "You look as cool as a sprig of mint, if you don't mind the personal remark." So, we are being total creeps by peeping in on this guy's bath and then we throw him a corny line? I kinda love it. He looks so...vulnerable.

2. Gain weight and get more dates!

Can we live in a world where women are encouraged to gain rather than lose pounds in order to get guys? If this ad existed today, the model would be showing off her butt and the 10-pound weight gain would only be acceptable if it was 100 percent in the boobs. Also, can I have that swimsuit? Seriously. It's divine.

3. Hey Tom, you stink.

This Lifebuoy ad would have been better if she actually told homeboy, "Hey, you stink," but that fact that she thought it brings me joy too. I also like how these pre-television era ads (this one is from the early 1930s) told a whole story. Look at all of that copy! Outside of "advertorials" and the deadly side-effects of unnecessary medication, you don't see that many words in ads anymore.

4. Pooping is good for you

You know how people joke that women never fart or poop? Yeah, well back in the day, doctors (OK, well people who make laxatives) had to make sure that little girls understood that girls do in fact poop and not pooping is bad. Somehow this laxative ad manages to get through an entire page of copy without using the word feces or bowel movement. It uses the term "elimination." How quaint!

5. Poor Marvin

According to this Listerine ad, Marvin has money, charm, and good looks, but he is also dateless and friendless. Why? Marvin has halitosis. The copy reads "Halitosis (unpleasant breath) is the damning, unforgivable social fault. It doesn't announce its presence to its victims." Victims? I think we are being a little dramatic.