1970 ad: "A waste of mail... and female."

This ad was published in the year I was born, 1970. It's funny how unapologetically sexist so much marketing was, back then. These plastic plates "won't get tired or confused" like a dumb old woman always does, and they get the job done "for a fraction of her paycheck," which was of course a fraction of *your* paycheck, if you were a guy. 1970 wasn't that long ago.

From the photostream of "SenseiAlan."


  1. The overall ‘banish your cost-center keyboard wench, because obviously all the people with purchasing authority are Businessmen who are unduly burdened by the extravagant salaries of the typing pool’ tone is pretty unpleasant.

    The specific assertion that people who do a lot of repetitive typing tend to make typos from time to time seems more ‘just plain true of basically everybody who hits the keyboard’.

  2. Until 1983, marital rape was legal in Canada. That was only 30 years ago.

    “A year before the change to legislation occurred, NDP MP Margaret Mitchell raised the issue of violence against women. She was laughed at by MPs in the House of Commons when she demanded the government take action to stop domestic violence.”

    I remember seeing footage of this. Men were joking, asking one another whether they were raping their wives.

  3. It’s really not that sexist. In the 1970’s something like 99% or even more of all secretaries (stenographer likely not the proper term) were women, and EVERYONE gets tired and confused.

    1. And there’s nothing sexist about the fact that women could only get jobs in a few professions.

          1. What I’m saying is that if it were JUST that line, I might be willing to give it a pass. The heading tips the balance in the other direction.

        1. You think directly equating inefficiency and “female” is not sexist? What would be?

    2. Yes. It’s not “won’t get tired or confused like a dumb old woman always does” it’s explicitly like a HUMAN would. The ad suggests that a well-paid employee’s time should be spent elsewhere. On less mindless tasks than writing down addresses, I assume. There’s nothing suggesting the stenographer should be fired and go back to the kitchen.
      If you were more charitable, Xeni Jardin, you could read this ad as progressive, suggesting that women’s talents are wasted on boring stenography. It’s quite possibly what’s intended.

      Edit: apparently Boing Boing banned me for this comment (but editing is still possible). Stay classy.

      1. You’d have to be Florence fucking Nightingale to be charitable enough to interpret it that way.

  4. I am sorry, so sorry, but I simply have to say, YOU’VE COME A LONG WAY BABY.

    (again, my apologies)

  5. I long for the day when we can look back on how X-ist ads are and how quaint they were and thank God we’re not like that any more. 

    For all values of X.

  6. Up until the late 60’s/early 70’s, the stereotype was that most women only went to college to find a husband. Women typically couldn’t even get a credit card or loan without a man co-signing because it was thought they were unreliable because at an moment they might get pregnant. Don’t forget John Lennon’s song “Women are the N***** of the World” from around that time. Compared to now, sexism was really rather shocking back then.

  7. I remember trying to get a clerical job not long after high school, and more or less being told that it was women’s work.  That was only 20 years ago.

    I spent a good chunk of childhood and teen years helping mom with filing, and I was better than nearly every secretary she worked with.  But no, we must maintain our gender barriers.  I sometimes wonder if I would have had better luck if I’d done some grotesque gay stereotype.

  8. Fun fact: When typewriters were first introduced they were expensive, shiny and impressive… and so using them was high-paid man’s work. They only became seen as women’s work when they became cheaper, more common and thus lower-status.

    Often the idea of men’s work being more difficult/demanding is based largely on the fact that it’s men that do it rather than anything intrinsic to the work itself.

    1. I thought so, too, but I couldn’t find anything to support that. I think that copying by hand (in copperplate or whatever) was seen as skilled work and as typewriters were introduced the function of copying was downgraded and became female work. How much skill do you need to bang away at a keyboard all day!

      My mother was a touch typist for a bank who specialised in typing tables of figures. She was paid much better than most typists. She could lay out columns, align figures either left or right (depending on whether they were pounds, shillings, pence or fractions of a penny), shift from black to red ink, and all with only a very rare glance at the page, faster than most people can type text and with the required degree of accuracy.

  9. In 1980, my newly-divorced mother had to get her ex-husband’s permission to get a credit card. Even though (not that it should matter) she made more than he did. 

  10. I imagine that many office men responded to this ad with ‘Little plastic plates aren’t much to look at, and they can’t bring me a coffee.’ 

    Because sadly, typing up addresses wasn’t the main reason many women were hired back then.

  11. 2013 – 1970 = 43 years
    1970 – 43 = 1927

    If the Ford Model A seemed that long ago in 1970, let it be clear that 1970 is that long ago in 2013. You’re right that sexism is bad, mkay… but let that not interfere with your temporal experience. When Marty came back it was 27 years later, when we saw the movie that was 28 years ago.

    PS: in the grander scale of things you are right (if the earth existed for only one day, humans appeared in the last 1 minute and seven seconds)

  12. “It’s funny how unapologetically sexist so much marketing was, back then.”

    FYI boys and girls appreciated each other a hell of a lot more in 1970 than they do now. Sure, they assumed that all secretaries were women. Now they assume that all women are hookers.

  13. I assumed the ad was ahead-of-its-time anti-sexist, wondered how it could be, and concluded that maybe it was making a point about addressing the letter to only Mr David Bolt, when it could’ve been addressed more generally. Does that make me a glass-half-fullist? Or an idiot of course, for not reading the captioning copy.

  14. Not to be an apologist, but, based on the advertisement below, from 1950, it does seem that over the course of the next two decades things might have gotten minimally better. Then again maybe this sort of ad was still around even in 1970.

  15. Sexist ads are still found today. No, I’m not saying this to excuse it. On the contrary, I find it a bit offensive when I sit back with my iPad to surf the internet during an ad break, and then hear “Moms, did you know that Shreddies contain XX percent wholegrain?”.

    First time I heard that ad, I almost choked on my coffee.
    Now, I’m debating on whether I should bring a complaint in to the ASAI or not.

    1. Why?  It is an ad targeting mothers.  As a husband who does the overwhelming majority of household chores, including grocery shopping, I can accurately report that the majority of individuals I see in the grocery store are female, and the majority of those have children in tow.  Are these women oppressed?  What if they are stay at home moms by choice?  If I knew that the majority of individuals who purchased my product could be accurately labeled as “moms,” you’re damn right I am going to speak specifically to them when I present my message.  I’d supplement with less targeted messages, mind you, but my main push would be to the specific demograph that seeks my merchandise the most.  What is wrong with this?  

      What if it said “teens” instead?  Would you be pissed off then?  What if it said “fathers”?  Would the women feel left out? Would the ad be as effective?

      Forchristsakes, people.  Quit reading between the lines.  It makes you look tedious, petty, and trite.

      1. Forchristsakes, people.  Quit reading between the lines.  It makes you look tedious, petty, and trite.

        Getting mad at people for “reading between the lines” makes you look tedious, petty, and trite.

        As if all substance was always on the surface. What an ignorant thing to say.

        If you have an objection to people talking about sexism might I make a suggestion? Don’t participate in such conversations. Then you don’t have to get mad and no one else has to listen to your tedious, trite rationalizations.

Comments are closed.