Vintage ads depicting abused and domesticated women


WebUrbanist has a collection of vintage ads that remind me how far we women have come since the days when it was apparently okay to liken a woman to a floor mat and stomp on her head.



  1. What I find most odd is that several of these ads are actually directed toward women. The tiger rug is for Leggs which are pantyhose. The coffee one is also for the wife/grocery shopper of the house. Is this just satire and we’re taking it out of context?

    1. i do not think these are satires. although these ads are directed towards women women could be represented in ways because many women have internalized patriarchal values to such an extent that they do not find these images abusive.

  2. No, Sally, this was serious marketing in the day. Your troubles can only be alleviated by pleasing the man more.

    Women’s Liberation (aka “Second Wave”) happened for a reason. Like, women needing liberation from something.

    Kinda like how the Second Wave is hitting Saudi Arabia now, with its own cultural take of punching finger-pointing enforcers in the face…

  3. It’s hard to believe society was ever like this. I’m glad nowadays things are better for our women. The only downside is our obsession with political correctness.

    1. The people “obsessed with political correctness” are the people objecting to it all the time, decade after decade. Note that nobody ever speaks up to support it. PC is the ultimate straw man.

  4. It’d probably be wrong to mention that these are kinda hot.

    Y’know, in a *totally wrong* sort of way…

  5. The “A clean house is a sign of a good life” one is a shoop. I can tell by the pixels, and having seen many a shoop in my day. That, and we’ve got the exact same tin sign hanging on a door that says “A clean house is a sign of a wasted life.”

    1. dole#6
      You young people are so funny, where do you think the idea for your tin sign came from?

      What, you think that advertising could not have been like this before you were born? Before there was cable TV, personal computers and cell phones? You probably cannot even imagine life without your cell phone or PC, but they’ve only been around since the 70’s…

      It was a very different society in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s than what we have now. The older that you get, the more you realize how much you didn’t know when you were younger

    2. Yeah, the “Good Life” one would be a lot more convincing if they hadn’t used Arial.

    3. @ # 6 confirmed we have the wasted life one on our fridge as a magnet, part of a series.

  6. The fact that many (most?) younger readers would assume these ads couldn’t be anything but satire does indeed show how far we’ve come.

    Regretably, the fact that dog whistle expressions like “political correctness” are still tossed about un-ironically shows how far we’ve yet to go.

    1. I wasn’t trying to say that political correctness is bad. I was referring to over-sensitivity in our society. That’s generally what the term “political correctness” is used to refer to. For example, when people are offended if you say “waitress.” I understand why someone could be offended by the word, but I don’t think getting mad over it is justifiable. People are just accustomed to using it to refer to female waiters and its use isn’t meant to be offensive. People need to chill and recognize where the actual issues in our society are (we have plenty).

      1. Yeah, “policeperson” and “fireperson” never really caught on as job titles. ;)

        People do need to chill, but (ironically) they need to stay vigilant, too. “Polite and considerate” goes both ways, and nitpicking rarely helps. QED: the internet.

        I think being ID’ed by gender in your job description is a matter of some social finesse. It actually has been for some time.

        My favorite anecdote comes from a writer’s lunch I attended a few years ago in Manhattan. Some unassuming male referred to an absent colleague as an “authoress”. The women authors there didn’t look offended, but it was an oddly antique term, and they had querulous expressions on their faces. “Authoress?” they said aloud. “Huh?”

        I leaned forward and said, “A she-author?” I shook my head. “Such a creature is only known to legend!”

  7. Toolbag @#3 & Church @ #5:

    The Don Drapers of the time knew all about selling with innuendo.

    It’s having to live with subservience as the norm, and having any meaningful alternatives seen as deviant or simply impossible, that led to Women’s Lib.

  8. I think there is definitely an aspect of tong-in-cheek satire to these kinds of ads, and viewing them in this way is definitely taking them out of context.

    There are strange things being suggested by these, sure, but you can’t take them too literally.

    Considering how bland, annoying, and poorly-designed modern advertising tends to be, these are refreshingly catchy and humorous. Can you imagine opening a magazine today and seeing ads like this? It’d be cause to actually look at the ads rather than ignore them.

    I think you could almost even get away with something like the “That’s what wives are for” line – that seems like it was a joke even then, and it’d obviously be a joke now.

    That said, there’s a bias toward remembering what was good and forgetting what was bad, and there was certainly a lot of bad or off-the-mark advertising in the “old days” too. The Leggs ad, for example – I’m really not sure what that’s supposed to suggest. It’d certainly catch your eye, I guess.

  9. soongtype @#4, Kerov @#7
    This doesn’t apply to you personally, soong, but…

    The phrase “political correctness” is usually used to stifle alternate ideas, even as it decries the stifling of alternate ideas. It is an Orwellian gem of Newspeak that a Draper would have justly been proud to have cut.

    It’s usually just someone defending their right to talk like an asshole, which is a lot less compelling than claiming victimhood to invisible censorship.

    I prefer my PC to stand for polite and considerate. It’s never a censorious requirement. Why, it’s even a genteel conservative sentiment. It just makes assholes fess that they only want to act like assholes.

    1. “Political correctness”: Free speech ends right after I’ve told you what I think of you and right before you tell me what you think of me.

  10. Perhaps we are a generation of fuddy-duddies needing everything to be safe, thinking that if we throw a “fuck” and a “c*nt” in our speech that we’re pretty edgy?

    The coffee-spanking ad IS totally hot, and sadly, as far as my google-fu allows, not available in high resolution anywhere on the internet.

  11. I think it is pretty funny that the “Is it always illegal to kill a woman” one is an ad for postage scales. I guess postage costs were a big source of anger back then…worthy of murder.

  12. Still think the tigerskin is humor gone awry. Leggs weren’t made until 1969 per wikipedia and I can’t imagine why they would swing pantyhose marketing toward male viewers. I think people were fairly savvy about women doing most of the shopping early on in marketing, thus soap operas. The others yes obviously women were totally oppressed for some time in our society but I was alive in the 70s and things were just not at that level then.

    1. “…yes obviously women were totally oppressed for some time in our society but I was alive in the 70s and things were just not at that level then.”

      Like around 500+ generations… The commenters here are obviously pretty young on average so a failure to comprehend the milieu is understandable.

      But “Sanitized Tapeworms”? WTF?

  13. penguinchris @#11

    Oh, the joke is certainly there, but the assumption is the women will just laugh along, because if they don’t there’s something wrong with them. The lack of respect isn’t ironic, it’s assumed.

    This is the era of Aunt Jemima wearing a nappy, and Funny Face drink mix with pictures of “Injun Orange” and “Chinese Cherry” being some of those hilarious faces.

    We’re still in the zone where pointing out someone as a “bigot” or “male chauvinist” came with hard evidence, not some convoluted postmodern hypotheses. And the bigots hadn’t adapted to being challenged yet.

  14. I wonder if we’ll all feel a blush of shame in 30 years when our grandchildren take a look back at Axe commercials… then again, I already do.

  15. The woman rug ad is for Mr. Leggs pants, not for L’eggs pantyhose. You can find the text here:

    As for the spanking for not fresh-testing your coffee, I agree that there’s a modicum of humor in the original intention–remember Ricky taking Lucy over his knee in “I Love Lucy”?–but the attitude that treated women as child-like creatures who might be disciplined by their husbands that this ad references is sickening enough to kill the funny for me.

  16. You all need to watch the Killing Us Softly series of documentaries by Jean Kilbourne, about the images/portrayal of women in media. Seriously the best summary of how the images of women in media has changed from the 50’s to the present.

    Very much worth watching.

    People need to chill and recognize where the actual issues in our society are and part of that is recognizing that we still have inequality and one of the way that shows through is through the words people choose to use. Sure “Waitress” is pretty inoffensive, but the question remains WHY do we need to denote gender in titles? We don’t, so why bother?

    1. “WHY do we need to denote gender in titles? We don’t, so why bother?”

      We don’t NEED to, it’s just an artifact of our language, and butchering our vernacular to conform to some arbitrary consensus on what ‘offensive’ is tends to put a finer point on gender differences when really we ought to be ignoring what is implicit in our words and focusing on what is intended in our words.

      A woman can be a policeman, or a fireman. Think of such words as conjunctions of “police” and “human”, or hell, “woman” – it makes no difference if you’re dropping the “hu” or the “wo”.

      1. it’s just an artifact

        If it’s just an artifact that’s out of date and has no meaning why keep it?

        And no, specifically speaking a Woman cannot be a Fireman or a Policeman, because they are not a “man”. I know this is just semantics, but these same semantics are what kept Women from BEING firemen or policemen for decades. Now that they’re let on the force you can’t hide behind those self same semantics and say they don’t matter when they did, for years and years and years. If the title doesn’t matter, then it doesn’t matter if you change it.

        Its not about avoiding offending people, it’s about being respectful and truthful.

        1. “but these same semantics are what kept Women from BEING firemen or policemen for decades.”

          You’re arguing for the omission of an anachronism that caused anachronistic gender bias. Since the semantics no longer function as tools of oppression, why remove them? Our language is awkward enough without the word police sterilizing everything down to “flight attendant” and “server”.

          It’s clearly an exercise in futility when one considers that gender is a huge part of grammar and conjugation in French and Spanish (among many other languages). It quickly becomes an impossible task to endeavor to completion save for inventing an entirely new language framed around the concept of gender neutrality.

          1. Since the semantics no longer function as tools of oppression, why remove them?

            But my point is they do. Using “anachronism that caused anachronistic…bias” serves to reinforce unstated biases, gender or otherwise.

            We’ve “sterlized” our language to remove racial “anachronism”‘s (to some extent) but we won’t to remove gender ones? And even suggesting that we do seems to raise some ire, I find that interesting.

          2. I’ve enthusiastically adopted the gender-neutral term “waitron” in place of “waiter/waitress.” I particularly relish the further dehumanization of the serving class by making it sound like they could be easily replaced by simple robots or conveyor belts!

        2. There are MANY good reasons not to change words like “policeman”, that may be sexist.

          Firstly, it’s awkward as hell.
          You’re talking about adding an extra syllable.
          And it sounds very awkward and forced, although, it may become less so if it actually catches on.

          Secondly, I resent anyone trying to change our language for moral reasons, even if I don’t disagree with their underlying beliefs.
          And there’s a big cloud of insincerity around it.
          Whenever I hear someone using one of those forced made-up words, it puts me on edge, because I know I have to walk on eggshells around them, because they’re likely a powder-keg of feminist rage, just waiting for me to say something offensive.

          Thirdly, top-down language reform is a slippery slope that I fear will become a race to the bottom, to excise or transform all words that offend someone.

          Finally, it really does draw attention to a problem that isn’t there.
          You can find the word “man” lots of other places, should we strip that out as well?
          Would it make a difference to anyone.

          All of that said, there are compromises.
          I don’t mind using “police officer” or “firefighter”

          But I will NEVER say “policeperson” with a straight face, because it’s just too stupid.

          1. Wait… what?

            You won’t change words because it’s “awkward” and then you give examples of terms that you would use instead like “Police Officer”?

            You don’t like speaking to people who use gender neutral terms because then you have to censor yourself or be a victim to their “feminist rage”… Makes me wonder what you say when your guard is down if it makes feminists attack you. (Perhaps that answer is also the answer to why feminists are so angry at you!)

            I don’t see how not using words that you know could and do offend people is “slippery slop”. It just seems like common sense to me. I don’t go around addressing portly follicley challenged men as “Fatso” or “Baldy”, but perhaps I should start in a rebellion to Political Correctness!

            And I think we’ve demonstrated quite well, that using words that are OFFENSIVE draws attentions to underlying ideas, beliefs and biases that are there, that are not gone from our world and that still need to be addressed, and not only about gender. Hence all this lovely discussion! :)

            But that all said, I do agree with you, “Policeperson” is dumb, “Police Officer” is much better. And that’s all I’m suggesting, “better” terms. No one is asking you sub “person” for “man” in all instances. I’m just asking why, if in many instances we can remove all indication of gender like “officer” instead of “man”, why don’t we? What term has “man” in it, that cannot be so changed?

            I’m just asking why, and the only answer I’m getting is “it’s inconvenient, I won’t do what others tell me to do, and you shouldn’t be so sensitive, or it doesn’t mean only men anymore” Which is not an answer.

          2. I’m cool with changing the pronouns and what not. Tim Leary talked about using SHe and Hir long ago. Kinda corny, sure. I use s/he in my writing.

            As for “police officer”…I usually just go with “pig.” (kidding! kidding!)

          3. The answer is obvious– because the opinions of the offended, for good or for ill, are worth so little to the speaker that it’s not worth the slightest inconvenience.

            Yes, it’s a tiny, tiny inconvenience…but not worth even that.

        3. “I know this is just semantics, but these same semantics are what kept Women from BEING firemen or policemen for decades.”
          This is incorrect. Semantics do not control social norms. They may reflect them, but don’t get the proverbial cart before the horse. We could easily point out that the term “mankind” is genderless in origin, since the word “man” did not denote a specifically male human until the Middle Ages, when the latinization of English removed many of the Old English noun declensions, including “werman,” which means male human being. The declension “wefman,” or woman, remained because of a patriarchal culture which, at least in terms of semantics, viewed men as more human than women. Don’t confuse the words with what they represent.

    2. That’s true. We don’t need to denote gender. The reason it is still done is just because we’re all used to it. We also use words like “Mother”, “Father”, “Brother”, and “Sister”. We could just use the gender-neutral “Parent” and “Sibling”, but almost everyone opts for the gender-specific terms. Acknowledging someone’s sex is not necessary, but there’s nothing wrong with it… unless you get their sex wrong, and then I imagine it’s pretty awkward.

      Just think if we had specific terms for waiters of different races how fucked up that would be. It is basically the same situation, but I feel completely different about it. I am illogical, I guess.

      1. It’s ok – logical consistency doth not English make.

        If you succeed in altering someones speech but fail to enlighten their views, then you’ve won the battle but lost the war.

        1. If you succeed in altering someones speech but fail to enlighten their views, then you’ve won the battle but lost the war.

          Which is why, on these subjects, I always encourage people not to let themselves celebrate assholishness.

          We’re Solar Monkeys. We celebrate our asses enough as it is.

  17. “What’s wrong with being sexy?”

    To get to the real hardcore male-chauvinism, without a tongue-in-cheek aspect, you just have to go back another decade or two. Then, women were just adorable malady-obsessed compulsive shoppers.

    Personally, these are as offensive as the “oh, my stupid husband screwed up something again” commercials (as well as just about all modern sitcom writing). I just wonder if these ads (and there contemporaries) actually worked.

    1. “Personally, these are as offensive as the “oh, my stupid husband screwed up something again” commercials”

      The difference being that men tend to take such indignities in the spirit in which they are intended rather than making themselves out to be victims of an oppressive society… over things as inconsequential as advertisements, which, by the way, have never been very reliable moral/ethical/sociological compasses.

      Not to trivialize the actual oppressions that women/men/humans suffer, but I’d respect the feminist movement more if they picked their battles a little more carefully.

      1. The difference being that men tend to take such indignities in the spirit in which they are intended rather than making themselves out to be victims of an oppressive society… over things as inconsequential as advertisements, which, by the way, have never been very reliable moral/ethical/sociological compasses.

        Maybe because men (particularly white men) aren’t and haven’t been victims of an oppressive society?

        I don’t think anyone is saying advertisements are a moral/ethical/sociological compass, but a case can be made for their role as a societal barometer. One can certainly gauge the atmosphere that allows or encourages not necessarily a single advertisement on its own, but an entire series in a similar vein.

        Taken as a group over a span of years, it isn’t difficult to determine that the society producing these ads and their racist counterparts was one trying to sell a concept of the white man as king of his home, of women as accessories, of household drudgery as feminine and satisfying, and of anyone non-white as comical, exotic, or invisible. And it was probably working because we know when a campaign works everyone follows suit and runs with it until it stops working or someone else finally does something new that works better.

        P.S. It’s pretty cowardly to try to cut off any dissenting opinion with the follow up *Cue hoards of indignant women not taking my comments in the spirit in which they’re intended*. The “if you’re offended you just don’t get it” attitude is the go-to tactic of bullies making weak arguments.

        1. “Maybe because men (particularly white men) aren’t and haven’t been victims of an oppressive society?”

          On average, perhaps what you say is true. If white collar slave wages can be though to be free.

          But I’m a white guy and grew up an outspoken “radical” progressive in south Mississippi, with long hair, marijuana, and a complete contempt for religion, gender roles, and law enforcement.

          I was harassed and threatened pretty constantly.

          My gay (white male) friends had it worse.

          Maybe it’s true that we have to work extra hard to become oppressed; I dunno…no control group. I’ve only ever been myself and I’m a friggin cop-magnet and near unemployable (based on my politics, appearance, and anti-authoritarian demeanor).

          Not to be overly touchy, but don’t be silly and overgeneralize in a thread on discrimination.

          peace all. :)

          1. Individual straight white men may have experienced oppression, but straight white men *as a class* have not any time in recent history. Big difference.

    2. “Personally, these are as offensive as the “oh, my stupid husband screwed up something again” commercials (as well as just about all modern sitcom writing)”

      I think these are a little worse, but I basically agree. Axe commercials are sort of in the same boat. Hell, I know plenty of smart, educated, self-identified feminists who can claim with a straight face that they won’t date a guy who doesn’t know how to fix a tire.

      “I can be anything I want to be, but you have to be the MAN.”

      Admittedly, I think this is starting to get questioned in society, but it’s lagging behind the feminist movement by about 100 years.

      1. “Hell, I know plenty of smart, educated, self-identified feminists who can claim with a straight face that they won’t date a guy who doesn’t know how to fix a tire.”

        I get around that problem by not having a car in the first place.

        Re: the policeman/fireman, granted, yes. But dang. “Police officer” and “firefighter” are superior in every aspect. I’d much rather be a firefighter than a fireman, which just sounds so passive. Do I sell fire? Am I ON fire? Nay! I am a soldier of safety!

        And for the record, I hate lame depictions of men as “naturally” stupid/lazy/unethical, etc. But I think the reason some of these depictions — not all of them are one-note caricatures — may ring true to people is because those depictions are just more human and real in general.

        In those household-centred ads, I’m just as likely to relate to the inept husband as I am to the Super Mom/Wife, depending on the dilemma (spills? OK! dirty toilet? No thanks).

  18. I agree most of these ads are horrible. I don’t see that much of an issue with the WWII VD ads. There was a huge misconception even then that there weren’t women in the armed service at the front lines. They were over looked so I could understand the troops clean and fighting mentality (Though a misconception). The rest were fairly disgusting though.

  19. Now ads and greeting cards have images of wives killing husbands and men as skinned rugs. Advertising hasn’t changed, merely the focus of it.

    I, for one, can certainly understand how uncomfortable women may have felt being the focus of these sorts of things as I’m certainly uncomfortable with the whole, “Men are stupid” and “Kill Men” ads and cards I’ve seen.

    Perhaps it is time that the ad agencies joined the rest of us in the 21st century by not advocating violence towards anyone?

    1. Now ads and greeting cards have images of wives killing husbands and men as skinned rugs.

      There are several comments on this theme, but I have yet to see a link to an ad featuring a woman beating her husband or using a man’s skin for a rug. Maybe the long horse ate those links.

  20. *C hrds f ndgnnt wmn nt tkng my cmmnts n th sprt n whch thy’r ntndd*

    (Th ntndd sprt: slghtly tng n chk, dsh f rnc, 2 prts flp, nd ssn wth nsgnfcnc f th bllsht sm gy n th ntrnt sd t tst)

    1. Making comments that sound serious, and then dismissing any criticism of them by reserving how they can be interpreted to yourself alone?

      How privileged! Have you considered writing for elite publications?

    2. *C hrds f ndgnnt wmn nt tkng my cmmnts n th sprt n whch thy’r ntndd*

      Cue hordes of vowels walking away from your frank admission of trolling.

  21. Ah, I love how when looking back, there are people who automatically assume there’s no room to move forward.

  22. The difference being that men tend to take such indignities in the spirit in which they are intended rather than making themselves out to be victims of an oppressive society

    People are really that clueless?

    Yes, men don’t take them as victims of an oppressive society because they have not been victims of an oppressive society. Women still don’t get equal pay for equal work, and still have to deal with social stigmas for many choices (e.g. not having kids, having kids and wanting to work, not keeping a tidy house) that men do not.

    The difference isn’t that men are tougher and take things “in the spirit that they are intended” whereas women are hysterical and can’t take a joke. The difference is picking on the traditionally powerful vs. picking on the traditionally oppressed. The situations are by no means equal. I get irritated by the “bumbling husband” or “men can’t ask for directions” cliches, but only an ignoramus would compare them to offensive, oppressive, and patronizing ads towards women.

  23. waiter/waitress, fireman/firefighter: why stress about it when we’ll be calling them all ‘robot’ soon enough? :)

  24. Seriously? My sister’s a cop, aka a police officer. Call her a policeman to her face if you feel like having a bad day. (And that wouldn’t be in the course of abusing her duties, that would be her being an amateur butt kicker.)

    Anyway, you keep using policeman, fireman, and the ever-popular among the people whose linguistic passion seems to mostly correlate with politics: niggardly.

    Have you ever considered that the reason you don’t respect the feminist movement is because you’re anti-feminist?

    1. Niggardly is a very useful word, or would be if it didn’t sound similar to another word with which it has no linguistic kinship. There really is no good synonym for it. You can say cheap, meager, stingy or parsiminous, but none of those words convey precisely the things niggardly does. I don’t mind calling all actors actors regardless of gender, and have no beef with feminism in general. I actually think a lot of PC bashing is a proxy for people who truly support things like racism, even though I think PC gets silly at times. But don’t drag niggardly into this debate. It’s a legitimate and harmless enough word on its own terms, and it’s a testament to our stupidity as a culture that we can’t use it properly.

  25. I see a lesson for the ladies here:

    Never trust a man wearing a suit.

    Good advice!!

  26. Chase and Sanborn ran ads with husbands beating wives for many years; this is far from the worst. They also sponsored the Battling Bickersons show. I assume that someone in the company had long-standing issues with his wife.

    The postage ad must be referencing something, perhaps The Postman Rings Twice?

  27. The gender-free term for waiter/waitress/server is “waitron”. Use it today!

    What I’ve long wondered about are languages where every noun has a gender. “la casa”, “el coche”…

    Who decides, does it change as society changes, and what affect does it have on gender issues when everything must have a gender?

      1. Gender free? Nonsense.

        *nix servers are female.
        Win* servers are male.
        Mac servers are mythical, uncomfortably androgynous beasts.

        Seriously, to me, “server” feels no more suitable than “servant”.

        As I understand modern usage (and I may be wrong) job titles that have an “-ess” form, such as “author”, “heir”, “host”, “god”, and so on, including the word “waiter”, are generally androgynous terms which also happen to have a specifically female form.

        A mixed-gender group of these tends to be referred to using the plural of the androgynous term: “the heirs and their hunters”, “the hosts and their waiters”.

        Contrast this to titles, like Baron, Duke, Abbot, etc which are definitively masculine terms, with an -ess female form.

        A mixed-gender group of these must generally specify both groups, ungainly though it may be: “the abbots and abbesses, with their dukes and duchesses”. Where this gets ungainly, you’d normally use more general gender-neutral terms instead: “the clergy and their lay peers” or something.

  28. The copy from the ad: “Husband furious because you’ve missed the post? The Pitney-Bowes Postage Meter prints the stamp and seals the envelope all in one go.”

    It sounds like someone on their advertising team was just eager to use the joke. Hahaha! You know women: can’t live with ’em, can’t shoot ’em! Hahaha!

  29. Of the many restaurant workers that I’ve lived with, they all referred to themselves as servers, bussers, greeters and seaters.

  30. Do you see misogyny in these ads?

    Strange, I see misandry. What are the ads saying? Look at them. Who’s being put in the bad light here? Respectively, the murderer, the murderer, the wifebeater, the asshat.

    But that’s OK because of course all men really are violent and unpleasant like that. Here’s an AIDS awareness ad where the men kill women with guns. But what’s the implication? The men are the ones sleeping around. The men are the ones without a conscience. The men are the killers. So you can see why it’s lavelled “Misandrist” on YouTube. But that’s not the whole story: the women are the ones letting it happen to them, open eyed, so it’s just as arguably a misogynistic ad.

    And, also labelled “misandrist” on YouTube, feels misogynistic to me. It’s implying that women are shallow and think more of shopping than their relationships.

    Maybe these ads aren’t “misandrist” or “misogynist”. Maybe they’re just “offensively sexist”, to both sides.

    Either way, I think it’s wrong to sound smug about how you’d never see ads like that nowadays, because clearly, you still do.

  31. The women in these ads are fully clothed, unlike in many ads today. Have we really advanced all that far?

  32. Some attitudes haven’t changed at all since the 60’s and 70’s, as evidenced by some of these comments. Some people still feel it’s too much trouble to think about words they use without thinking, words that convey difference where it’s not relevant. My brother’s a firefighter; so is his wife. I hope my niece doesn’t grow up to be a server in a restaurant (much less a “waitress”), but she’s already a wonderful author. And yes, the fact that she’s a niece not a nephew to me is relevant, but gender is NOT relevant in the choice of words to describe her potential careers. In fact, that’s the point: she shouldn’t be restricted, even unconsciously, in thinking about what she’d like to be when she grows up by a world that only has fireMEN, policeMEN, congressMEN, etc. By the same token, if my nephew decides he wants to be a nurse, let’s hope that there are enough role models around (anyone see Precious?) that he isn’t teased for that ambition.

    It isn’t about whether you are inconvenienced – the women who broke through the gender barrier in the careers above did the hard work. The least we can do is to honor that work by using the ACCURATE terms for the jobs they do…

  33. I’m just asking why, if in many instances we can remove all indication of gender like “officer” instead of “man”, why don’t we?

    You know, if we just changed the word “man” to mean “person”, and made up a new word to mean a man who isn’t a woman, we could fix our language with two changes instead of hundreds.

  34. ohhh, as a victim of domestic violence I tell you… we did come far from the times when this kind of ads would make people buy… but there is still lots of abuse. And also, there are lots of ads and even tv programmes in which men are presented as being inferior, stupid… and someone’s servants. Sorry, we got to fight with ourselves….not to seek to be superior to anyone, regardless of gender, race, language spoken…….and so on… Be kind and respectful!

  35. Male Domestic Violence statistics:

    * The police receive a 999 call every three minutes from a male victim 

    * 1 in 6 men will experience Domestic Violence in their life

    * Every third victim of Domestic Violence is a man

    * Domestic Violence equates to approx 25% of all reported violent crimes 

    * 9% of all reported violent crimes are Domestic Violence cases involving male victims 

    * Approximately 4 million men are affected every year by domestic violence 

    * Practically the same percentage of men as women are victims of severe acts of Domestic Violence.

    1. I work with Domestic Violence victims and am perfectly aware that there are plenty of male victims. But look at your stats-9% of DV victims are male-that means that 91% are female (or perhaps “other”).
      1 in 6 men may become a victim? 1 in 3 women will be abused. This isn’t to play “our problems are worse than yours, neener neener neener” but to point out that the actual rate of violence against women by men far outweighs the amount of violence against men by women.
      The most frequent types of violent crime involve men killing men for stupid reasons. Very few non-domestic violent crimes are perpetrated by women-about 5% overall.
      If you were beaten up by other males when young and harassed by Law Enforcement you were being persecuted-which is not the same thing as being oppressed. (it still sucks)

      1. you missed this part:

        “Practically the same percentage of men as women are victims of severe acts of Domestic Violence.”

        Cherry picking doesn’t make an argument.

      2. It was only relatively recently that male-victim domestic violence was even recognised. You’re right, it shouldn’t be about “our problems are worse”; but as a (general) question, why can’t we just say, look, don’t be an asshole to anyone. Don’t check to see if their group been historically oppressed first!

  36. “how far we women have come since the days when it was apparently okay to liken a woman to a floor mat and stomp on her head.”

    Wow–still laughing. That was a joke, right? And they say feminists have no sense of humor!

    I would point to the recent Superbowl ads (about which there was a very good article on The Sexist: ).

    According to a recent study by Richard Lapchick, director of The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) at the University of Central Florida, 92% of the creative directors for the most recent batch of Superbowl ads were white males.

    While it’s interesting to look at vintage ads to see how sexism manifested in different periods, it’s a mistake, I think, to come away thinking, “Life’s so much better now!” without looking closely at the ways in which we may have just come to accept a certain amount of violent misogyny as normative:

  37. I’m 43, and I remember when ads like these were being challenged in the 70s. I remember my dad and his “jokes” about my mom and other women. And I remember my mom and my older sister schooling him. And he wasn’t alone. These advertisements were the agar for a sexist, misogynistic culture.

    To the folks who say that we need to relax, that feminists such as myself take things too far, I ask you to consider your age and your exposure to life in the United States. Have you spent time immersed in the culture of the 40s or 50s or 60s or 70s? Have you experienced the full-bore sexism of everyday America? Things are different now, but only because women took control off their situations, fought the good fight, struggled for their rightful place at the table, and changed what needed to be changed.

    If you are a man and you think that words like “policeman” are no big deal, that depicting a husband spanking his wife for poor coffee purchases, I respectfully cite an astute reader’s comment: men “have not been victims of an oppressive society.”

  38. The staff at the Deer Park Tavern have been called “waitrons” for at least 20 years.

    I, for one, applaud this move to further dehumanize the puling masses by eliminating all recognition of gender. It only encourages individual production units to think they might have collective rights, as it allows them to identify with similar production units.

    You aren’t a woman or a man, deserving of respect not only for your own self but also due to your wonderful gender; you are merely a person!

    No, wait, you are not a person, with the implicit recognition of individuality that entails, you are a human resource! A replaceable, generic part of the Moloch Machine.

    “I’ve miles and miles of files
    pretty files of your forefathers’ fruit,
    and now, to suit
    you’re magnetic ink!”

  39. I take exception to this “men have not been victims of an oppressive society”. Another astute reader pointed out that this wasn’t true, yet another pointed out the male domestic abuse stats, and yet both were ignored. Open minds are supposed to work in both directions. It’s as if there are many kinds of women, but only one kind of male. I’m 30, and spent most of my life in the Deep South where most of this bullshit is still alive and well. And if getting my ass kicked on a more than weekly basis and seeing my friends persecuted while authorities do nothing about it doesn’t qualify as oppression, while if all you’ve seen are pictures that pissed you off, I’d say YOU’VE never experienced it yourself.

    Where I grew up, my friends and I were constantly ridiculed by both boys and girls growing up. I was beat up routinely as a homosexual by guys and made fun of by girls. I had gay friends from out of town as well, which only served to compound the situation for me. Once, some good old boys fucked up my friend’s cars while they were at my house hanging out, had rainbow stickers on their car. Could the police help? Well, they have to actually SEE a misdemeanor happen… Oh yeah, and I’m not gay; I just wasn’t like them. Not that it matters. Ramifications from years of not relating to the people I grew up with led me into a disastrous marriage with an abusive woman who dared me to do anything back to her (if I even tried, she’d call the cops, and who do you think those good old boys are gonna lock up?) I’ve since escaped and moved up North where I find it easier to find people who relate to me.

    There is a mold, and if you don’t fit in it, you’re suspect. People are oppressed, stop dicing it up.

    1. Dicing it up is how we solve the problem. If you want to talk about male-on-male violence, that’s fine, we can do that. But let’s not confuse that with oppression. And the topic at hand is oppression. I too was beaten up as a youth, at the hands of boys. And I was physically abused during my entire adolescence. And it sucked. But none of that violence stood in my way when I needed a job, or if I wanted to find shelter from the violence, or if I wanted to my art to be appreciated on its merits alone.

      In America, white males are not oppressed. But women of all races and backgrounds are oppressed. They didn’t get the vote until 1919. Section II of the 14th Amendment to our Constitution is limited to males, and is still referenced in modern judicial rulings. At least as recently as 1974, this section was discussed and debated by the US Supreme Court (Richardson v. Ramirez), without any mention of the whole “male” thing. — That is oppression. White males in this country cannot cite legitimate examples of their own cultural/societal/political/economic oppression. Again, we can discuss your issue of violence, and we can discuss the ramifications and perceptions of this violence. But it would not seem fair or balanced to allow that particular discussion muddy the waters of the topic of this post.

  40. Also, I noticed no one pointed out that the women in these ad’s in all reality got paid (and probably well) to be in them.

    1. So the models that got paid, so what?
      Are you saying that the ads and the sentiment behind them could somehow have been stopped or rectified if the models hadn’t agreed to be shot in that way?
      It’s the model’s fault?

      Is this thought reserved only for the women who got paid for pretending to be abused or do the men who got paid to depicted BEING abusive to those women?

      If we’re going to be doling out blame to the models then at least half should go to the men for participating perpetuating sexist and oppressive ideals!

  41. Anyone looking (a little desperately I think) for gender balance in older advertising had better look elsewhere. The “misandrist” ads mocking husbands fumbling around in the kitchen or office bosses flustered by the simplest secretarial tasks were (are) meant to reconfirm the idea of domestic and secretarial work, both ill-paid or unpaid, as women’s work. The ads instill in a female consumer the idea those spheres, and the products associated with them, are to be defending from “encroaching” men.

    Can conservative white men be oppressed? Sure, but most often at the hands of other white men. And, sure, black women can oppress other black women. But it’s pretty safe to say that, by any measure, that white males are the least oppressed group in society. And, no, having someone object to them being assholes in public is not oppression.

    “Political correctness” always comes up sooner or later in discussions like this. Where did it come from? In the 1980s and 1990s, the phrase seemed to come out of nowhere. Wikipedia isn’t especially helpful where it means to be but is helpful where it doesn’t. It finds examples of the phrase here and there before it burst on the scene, suggesting it was in use here and there, but mostly in the ironic sense. Wiki cites a rightwing commentator’s contention that the phrase was widely used by Communists, particularly in the 1930s. I thought “party line” or “correct line” were more common, but whatever. A LEXIS-NEXIS search (sorry, I don’t have access) should come up blank before the early 1980s, and it should be easy to spot where “politically correct” appeared first. Google isn’t very good for this.

    If you want to have fun with someone who takes pride in being “politically incorrect,” start making fun of their family’s sexuality, their political and/or religious beliefs, their livelihood, penis size (’cause it’s usually a guy) or some combination of the above.

    1. I’m not sure I’d claim “oppression” for males.

      What I might claim is “bias.” Or “sexism.” Or “misandry.”

      Which is what the ads are representative of. The ads aren’t oppressive. They don’t say “Women shouldn’t vote!” They say “here are our cultural stereotypes about women reflected back in hopefully humorous, attention-getting ways!”

      Now, one certainly does reinforce the other, and may lead to it. But feminism has been preaching that it’s more than just laws, that it’s a whole cultural bag, and it’s not true that men don’t face similar cultural pressures to conform to certain stereotypes. In many ways, those are even greater, since one of the big stereotypes is “real men aren’t bothered by things that mock them.”

  42. I’ve got textbook nearby too.
    Oppression: unjust or cruel exercise of authority or power

    I don’t think you’re reading my post carefully, so I won’t go too deep into it. My situation was not of solely male-on-male violence. My ex-wife was physically abusive. But that’s not the point, me getting my ass kicked by itself isn’t oppression, no. Police failing to do anything about the guys fucking with me and my friends kind of is, since the police knew they were gay. If the same thing happened in the state I’m living in today, we could bring charges on them. In that state, even today, I couldn’t. My wife hitting me knowing I can’t do anything about it is (abusing the protections she has under the law in a cruel way), admittedly personal, but still “oppression”.

    Suffrage is hardly the only hallmark of oppression, by your own admission you cite something you could not have experienced yourself (which I thought was your original point, oppression you’ve actually experienced). I’m not trying to diminish what women have gone through; I’m saying all kinds of people were/are oppressed in America. And yes, white males included (if that white male happens to be or even appears to be gay or mentally-ill.)

    Attempts are being made RIGHT NOW to limit the civil liberties of gays and lesbians, so unless by merit of being gay someone also ceases being white and male, your statement is untrue. Is oppression something that only happens to straight people? Not being able to adopt, marry, and enjoy all the same rights as other married couples, along with archaic laws on the books in many states technically forbidding you to even have sex doesn’t count as “oppression” for you? I’d say you have a strange, and probably personal, definition of oppression.

    1. Dave,

      Let me clarify: This post is about how advertising portrays women, and how that portrayal relates to women and their experience of everyday life.

      This lead to a discussion of levels of sexism, and language, and how this may or may not contribute to the oppression of women.

      I suggested that white men in America have never been an oppressed group. You responded with an argument that it was unfair to lump all men together, saying “There is a mold, and if you don’t fit in it, you’re suspect.”

      My response is to say that for the sake of this discussion, any group that has no historical evidence of oppression should be set to the side, so we can focus on the aspects of true oppression and how women are treated by society). Gays are oppressed, and that is a fine point to bring up during this debate. But your point seemed to focus on the male part of the gay discussion, instead of the gay part of the gay discussion. White males are not oppressed, and any homosexual white male who wishes to obtain shelter, security, food, employment, or respect simply has to keep his sexuality hidden. Obviously that’s a bummer, and something we should fix. But women can’t just hide themselves in the same way. Just as African-Americans can’t hide themselves in the same way. Sexual orientation oppression is a different kettle of fish – I’m fine with discussing it, and I passionately support the equal treatment of gay people. All I’m saying is, that’s a discussion for a different forum.

  43. I’m not (nor did I ever) say they are to “blame”, but nevertheless the fact that they agreed to portray themselves that way is interesting, yes. No one asks what was the lady in the ad thinking when they did it, just the guy that designed it.

    1. I’m not (nor did I ever) say they are to “blame”, but…

      …but you are. You find it “interesting” that women chose to appear in those ads. But yet you don’t address the men who are in the ad, or even the ‘assumed’ men that created the ad? I find that interesting. Only the woman is supposed to speak up? How do you know she didn’t? How do you know the first model wasn’t fired and blacklisted from her agency for speaking up and that the model you see is a more complacent replacement model? You don’t know.

      It’s a very hard thing to be the first person to stand up for something you think is wrong. It’s a very dangerous thing to be the first person to point out the emperor has no clothes and can be very physically dangerous too. Kids that try to stop bullies run the risk of being bullied themselves. Models that let their opinions be known on sets don’t get re-booked and don’t work.

      Its unfair to ask one woman in one ad to change the way the world views women. We need to work together to change the world for the better for everyone. I don’t think that in raising the stature of women in society means the diminishment of men, I think it means the enhancement of everyone and society.

  44. I have a friend who’s a cop. Call her a “policewoman” and she’ll get pretty aggro with you.

    It’s “officer.”

    Then again, I know one of her female colleagues uses the term “policeman” as a point of pride.

    Similar situations exist with “Black” versus “African-American” or “Chicano” versus “Mexican” versus “Hispanic” — yes, I know there are differences in meaning between all of those words, but in the end, it’s how people self-identify that’s important.

    The bottom line is that different people want to be called different things. The key is trying to find out the correct term to use without being (or being perceived as being) disrespectful.

  45. Women:
    – do pretty much all family shopping
    – get paid less than men for equal work
    – are abused by men much much more than men are ditto by women, often without consequences
    – in less developed countries women are forbidden to leave their homes without a male companion, or are sexually mutilated due to age-old traditions, or are required to be married to not be considered pariah, etc etc
    – are much less likely to become higher managers och politicians (read: power factors)

    Yes, I would say we have a few more miles to go.

    1. Yes, but I can do that too.

      – do prettymuch all the dying on the job.
      – do more dangerous work for lower wages.
      – are abused by men much much more than women are ditto by men, and more often without consequences.
      – are still subjected to ritual genital mutilation even in the most “advanced” countries.
      – are much more likely to become childless, prison inmates, bankrupt, working below minimum wage, etc. If it’s dirty, dull, or dangerous, a man will probably get the job.

      We still have far to go on both “sides”. To me, it’s stupid to even see them as “sides”.

      I very much like the hypothesis that some men take more risks than women (and hence enjoy greater successes, but also fall farther), and also have a larger range of values for anything you choose to measure (From IQ to wages), and if you apply bounds to one end of the population, then that will skew your average, making male grades appear lower, and male wages higher. It’s just so much simpler and more Occam-tastic than the alternative conspiracy theories and oppression complexes.

      However, the guy who suggested it (Roy F. Baumeister) hasn’t yet published any hard data to support his idea, so I’m leery of arguing it yet.

    2. The difference in percentages of reports of domestic violence on men is lower is the fact men are culturally programmed to accept violence from women.

      It has become culturally acceptable to express misandry in the way it was culturally acceptable to express misogyny around he times these images were present, with a series of tropes being used to which men are expected to laugh along or be accused of not having a sense of humour.

      The long way that we have to go is to learn replacing one set of oppressive values for another isn’t progress.

  46. The Coffee spanking add isn’t edgy because of it’s demeaning depiction of women but because it is edgy because a depicted recreation of a photograph of a famous 1920’s pornography photo. The creators were probably completely unaware of any implications of depicting a woman being hit by her husband so much as they were making a statement about how much society has changed that an image that was once pornographic could now be placed prominently in popular media.

    Ironically scenes like this are also very common in very modern very PC groups affiliated with the Sex Positive movement who practice BDSM and consensual domestic slavery in manners much more oppressive and violent than this giggling hanky-spanky scene.

    The notion that we’ve come very far from when these adds were shown isn’t realistic. We react the same way to them that the original readers did. Some think they’re clever, some offensive, some are perplexed by the appeal. Some day people will look back at advertising that we’re bombarded with today that denigrates the intelligence of men, and will think they’re shameful sexist marketing and make the mistake of thinking that we were influenced by them or even ignorant of how offensive they are.

  47. I’m retired now, but for 40+ years I wrote many an ad similar to these ~ ads and commercials usually are written to appeal to the political/social paradigm of the times they are written. Today is no different. All one has to do is look closely at the commercials seen on TV or in print today to see that the ads have taken 190 degree turn and the MEN are now the butt of the sarcasm. Showing a lame unintelligent man and and a bright mentally/physically woman that has the answers (about the product). From what I know about the business the next phase in terms of the battle of the sexes will be the women’s backlash to the “NOW” revolution and we may once again may see ads like these put to modern media.

  48. I find it strange that the more women get rights the more they get abused. But then there are those men who will try by all means to hold on to what little power they have left. Unfortunately for them we are starting to live in a world where violence against women is not so commonly accepted any more, not even by men…so be aware men you can face the consequences of your actions. One day you will stand alone before God, no woman to point the finger to will stand next to you.

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