Selling Shame: 40 Outrageous Vintage Ads Any Woman Would Find Offensive

January 10th, 2014

One vintage ad warns women, “Don’t let them call you SKINNY!” while another promises that smoking cigarettes will keep one slender. If the task of morphing their bodies into the current desirable shape isn’t enough of a burden, women are also reminded that they stink.

“You’re stuck at the party with a ripped stocking, and it’ll probably end your marriage.”

In these vintage ads, a woman may be emitting a foul odor from any body part—her armpits, her mouth, her hair, her hands, her lady parts—but she never knows it until her husband is walking out the door, suitcase in hand. And what about her skin? According to such ads, she might drive that man away with her so-called coarse pores, old mouth, tan lines, zits, wrinkles, middle-age skin, hairy legs or lip, visible veins, or horror of all horrors, dishpan hands.

The Do I Offend? blog chronicles such vintage body-shaming advertisements geared toward women, and the baffling shifts from one feminine ideal to the next. Cynthia Petrovic, a Southern California artist known as RedTango who designs and sells a retro-themed gift line, got hooked on these advertisements when she was in college. Now, she has a garage full of antique and vintage magazines, which she’s been slowly pilfering for the most sexist (and funniest) ads targeting women.

For the past couple years, she’s been uploading these ads to Do I Offend?, where she adds a snarky headline and sorts them into categories like “A Weighty Matter,” “Toilet Torment,” and “No Boob Left Behind.” We talked to Petrovic about her collection and what she’s learned about how the ad men on Madison Avenue have gotten rich selling women shame.

Collectors Weekly: How did you first get interested in these ads?

Above: An example from a series of 1930s Waldorf ads about bad toilet paper ruining family life. Click image to see the larger version. Top: Without the right deodorant, this Odo-ro-no ad admonishes, one's physical appeal is rendered worthless.

Above: An example from a series of 1930s Waldorf ads about bad toilet paper ruining family life. Click image to see the larger version. Top: Without the right deodorant, this Odo-ro-no ad admonishes, one’s physical appeal is rendered worthless.

Petrovic: When I was in college, I came across a 1930s romance magazine called “True Story” in an antiques store in Orange, California. Flipping through the pages, I found an ad for Waldorf toilet paper, which was a little comic strip. A man has become so cranky toward his wife that their marriage is on the rocks. As it turns out, cheap toilet paper is the thing that’s driving him crazy because it has bits of splinters in it. The couple holds the tissue up to the light, and they see little pieces of wood in it. Waldorf advertised repeatedly in these magazines. In some of the ads, the wife was cranky, and then it was their little girl. Eventually, the whole family was affected by this scourge. I found it so funny.

After that, I got addicted to finding these old romance magazines from the ’30s and ’40s—“True Romance,” “True Story,” and “True Secrets”—as well as the homemaking magazines like “Woman’s Home Companion” and “Ladies’ Home Journal.” But the romance magazines were where I found the ads that really take the cake. They’re the most entertaining, and just shameless. The most common premise is that a woman does not want to offend a man. These ads speculate about whether your husband is going to walk out on you because you’re not using a feminine hygiene product or your scalp smells when you’re dancing or you have undie odor.

In the 1930s, dancing was an important social activity, and shampoo companies wanted women to worry about yet another way they could smell bad.

In the 1930s, dancing was an important social activity, and shampoo companies wanted women to worry about yet another way they could smell bad.

It’s a laugh to look at how ridiculous these ads are, but the appeal goes beyond the humor. I also have an interest in sociology and psychology, particularly the way we advertise to women and how women are treated by the media in general. I think we, as a society, are extremely cruel to women. I look at these old ads and feel as though nothing has changed. Which is sad because my mom used to go to the women’s lib rallies back in the ’70s, and 40 years later, we’re worse off. We don’t have the same little comic strips making fun of women, but there is still intense pressure for women to fit in, not to offend people, not to be ostracized. In the old ads, you can offend people in myriad ways, with runs in your stockings, by your hair smelling, with bad breath, with your underarm odor. But today, every inch of a woman’s body is scrutinized, especially when it comes to weight.

Collectors Weekly: What prompted you to start a blog about these ads?

Petrovic: I ended up with piles of these vintage magazines stacked up in cupboards in the garage. At one point, I looked at the piles and thought, “If people out there are going to find this interesting and funny, why not share it?” I wanted to do something with it. If it’s going to take up that much space in my life, I should make it useful. What you see on the website now doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what I’ve got to upload. And that’s a year and a half’s worth of me getting on the computer several times a week to scan and upload the ads to the site.

Collectors Weekly: When did this sort of advertisement begin?

Ads in 19th century magazines sold devices to reshape one's face.

Ads in 19th century magazines sold devices to reshape one’s face.

Petrovic: The mass media that breeds insecurity in our culture started in the late 1800s with the spread of magazines. I’ve got ads going back to the 1890s, which offer a lot of contraptions to change your face. The Victorians were really into things that you strap on your face to lift your chin and reform your nose. Every age has its neurotic beauty fixations. They also wanted tight, little waists and the big butts formed by corsets, as well as long, beautiful hair.

“Those ads didn’t say you can use Lysol as a douche and to clean your floor. Now, we’re just cleaning floors with it.”

In the late 19th century, magazines took over the advice and care of your family. As magazines were available to more and more people, you could read about what to buy, how to take care of your kids, what you should look like, and what you should be thinking and doing. People turned to the magazines to get information and form opinions about themselves. Suddenly strangers were telling people what they should look like, buy, and think. Today, that’s exploded with the Internet.

I noticed a fever pitch building up during the 1930s. By the late ’30s, the advertisers were on a roll. You open up any of these magazines now, and you burst out laughing. But during World War II, I would say about 80 percent of those ads that manipulate you, the ones that say you stink or you’re not socially acceptable on some level, vanished.

Collectors Weekly: On your home page, you talk about how these ads induce shame, guilt, and paranoia.

Lysol disinfectant, which was sold as a douche in the '30s, produced endless ads showing a man leaving his wife over unspeakable "feminine hygiene" problems.

Lysol disinfectant, which was sold as a douche in the ’30s, produced endless ads showing a man leaving his wife over unspeakable “feminine hygiene” problems.

Petrovic: Yeah, because when you feel good about yourself, you don’t buy stuff. Paranoia, fear, inadequacy—that all sells products. It’s also a part of the ad’s job to create and continually foster an environment where you’re perpetually terrified into purchasing things that don’t work.

Collectors Weekly: According to vintage ads, what are some of the consequences of not using these products?

Petrovic: One is, of course, you’ll be lonely and you won’t have any dates. That’s the worst. The second is that your female friends will talk about you behind your back because you stink. In the 1930s, ads would have a little photo of the bridge game, and the women are whispering, “Oh God, I wish she used deodorant.” The third is that you will not get jobs. You’ll be passed over for promotions because the boss really thinks that you smell, but he’s not going to say anything. A lot of these ads were done during the Depression so you had women desperately trying to get work. Somebody finally tips them off that they need to take a bath because they stink. I’m not saying that this is all ridiculous. There might be some truth to it, but it’s magnified to the point where a woman is taught to blame herself for everything.

Collectors Weekly: Maybe these companies were also acting out of desperation, thanks to the Depression.

When women got thin due to hunger during the Depression, the slender, straight flapper silhouette went out of style. Ironized yeast products promised "skinny" women "weight," by which they meant larger hips and breasts.

When women got thin due to hunger during the Depression, the slender, straight flapper silhouette went out of style. Ironized yeast products promised “skinny” women “weight,” by which they meant larger hips and breasts.

Petrovic: Maybe it was desperate. The economy is tied intrinsically to sexuality, and I like exploring exactly how that works. When there’s less food, heavier people are considered attractive. When you’ve got a lot of food, skinnier people are more attractive. Products that help you put on weight became trendy during the Depression. If you look a little more filled out, you don’t look like you’re deprived.

I am trying to scan and put the body-image variables on the site. Some ads say “Oh, she’s a beanpole. Look at her! She’s too skinny.” In the comics, the guys are like, “Forget it. I don’t even notice her.” Now she’s put on some weight? Oh, yeah, all the men are flocking around. And then there are ads telling you that you need to get rid of the weight because you’ve got to be thin. You can’t keep up. What is it today? What am I supposed to look like now? People don’t have the capability to constantly morph into something new – oh, that’s not in style? Okay, let me flatten my boobs or let me pump my boobs up. Let me get rid of my butt. Now, I’m going to inflate my butt.

Collectors Weekly: I’ve noticed the weight you supposedly gain from products like Wate-On never goes to an undesirable place, like the belly.

Strangely enough, this 19th century device promised to shrink the bust. Perhaps some breasts were considered too disproportionately large for the Victorians' hourglass ideal?

Strangely enough, this 19th century device promised to shrink the bust. Perhaps some breasts were considered too disproportionately large for the Victorians’ hourglass ideal?

Petrovic: It always goes right to the chest and the butt, because ads are fantasy. What will happen when your purchase this product and slather it on? Men are lied to as well, especially with beer. That’s the big thing: If you drink this kind of beer, the women are going to come flocking. The fantasy of advertising is not entirely geared toward women, but largely it is.

Collectors Weekly: I noticed that in a lot of these ads, the women also had to impress their husband’s friends or their husband’s bosses.

Petrovic: That theme comes up a lot in the food section of my website, “Hell’s Kitchen.” That’s also about saving money. You’ve got to be very budget-oriented, but still prepare a classy dinner so that your husband feels as though this is a meal “fit for a king.” Even on your tight budget, you are expected to put on a nice meal for when the boss comes over because your husband will get the promotion if your corned beef is perfect and money-saving.

"Husbands admire wives who keep their stockings perfect." In the 1930s, advertisers wanted women to worry about their "S.A." or "Stocking Appeal."

“Husbands admire wives who keep their stockings perfect.” In the 1930s, advertisers wanted women to worry about their “S.A.” or “Stocking Appeal.”

She had to keep her personal appearance up, too. Oh, my God, the horrors! The woman’s stocking runs when the couple is in the middle of a party, and you won’t believe the sneering looks from the husband. It’s as if she’s lying in the gutter. A run in the stocking is something you can’t help sometimes, and people’s disgusted expressions in the ad are completely disproportionate. “Ew, you’ve lost stocking appeal!” The advertisers would come up with these insulting little catchphrases, like “S.A.,” or “stocking appeal.”

Keep in mind, during the Depression women didn’t have a lot of extra money to spend on another pair of stockings. Oh, my gosh, it’s torn! What are you going to do? You probably can’t go to Rite-Aid, because there were no Rite-Aids open at 9 or 10 p.m. back then. You’re stuck at the party with a ripped stocking, and it’ll probably end your marriage.

Collectors Weekly: In addition to stocking tears, it surprised me what a big deal “dishpan hands” were back then.

In 1930s ads, "dishpan hands" threatened marriages. Click image to see the larger version.

In 1930s ads, “dishpan hands” threatened marriages. Click image to see the larger version.

Petrovic: It’s something nobody ever talks about these days, dishpan hands. I remember back in the early ’70s, an ad for Palmolive showed a woman dipping her hands in the dish water because their soap was supposed to be a beauty treatment at the same time. Besides things like Palmolive, we also have dishwashers now, so advertisers had to try some other way of marketing that product, like focusing on convenience. Back in the 1930s, a wife’s hands spent a lot of time in hot water, but she had to stay beautiful.

Also, big pores were really terrible for some reason. Anxieties go in and out of style, and people were hooked on having attractive pores for a while. We’ve always got to find something new to worry about. Today, the focus is your stomach, which has to be punched back into shape. We come up with new terms to make fun of body parts, like “cankles” and “bingo wingos,” and then we start using them. “I can’t go out in my swimsuit because I’ve got bingo wingos.” We accept it and adopt it as reality.

Collectors Weekly: It’s amazing how many different ways you can smell bad.

In this ad, pretty Joan has no idea why she's so unpopular. At night, her undergarments gossip about her careless washing habits and the odor they've been emitting.

In this ad, pretty Joan has no idea why she’s so unpopular. At night, her undergarments gossip about her careless washing habits and the odor they’ve been emitting.

Petrovic: Yeah, the advertisers got really creative with that in the 1930s. As a bonus, they’ve also instructed you on how to do the “armhole test” so that you can smell your own funk and determine whether you’re acceptable or not for a night out. Maybe people just didn’t wash as much—which brings me to my favorite ad.

This one is the prize, the reason why I collect these, a crowning achievement. Whoever thought it up in the ad department needs an award. A woman is in bed asleep, and her underthings are hanging on a chair nearby—slip, girdle, bra. And they’re whispering about her. They’re saying, “She would’ve been more popular if she had washed us” with the soap the ad is shilling. Literally, her underwear is gossiping about her. You can’t get more demented than that.

Collectors Weekly: I love how the woman is always wondering whether her husband thinks she smells bad. Why doesn’t she just ask him?

Petrovic: I thought about that, too. It seems like a lot of the marital dilemmas in these ads could be solved if the couple just talked. But it’s got to get to the point where he literally puts his hat on, picks up the suitcase, and rushes out the door in disgust. There are ads that illustrate that very plainly: He’s going to rush out the door while she’s sitting there crying into her handkerchief. Somebody else has to come and clue her in, or maybe she goes to the doctor. I don’t know whether people didn’t communicate and talk the same way they might now, or whether the ads would’ve made somebody laugh back then. I’d like to know.

Collectors Weekly: For example, would a woman’s date ever be so offended if her skirt is gaping at the button?

“She’s a girl in a million! Pretty and smart. Dances divinely. Can even cook. But she’s ruining her chances by having ‘gap-osis.’” That is, gaps where her skirt buttons. Click image to see larger version.

“She’s a girl in a million! Pretty and smart. Dances divinely. Can even cook. But she’s ruining her chances by having ‘gap-osis.’” That is, gaps where her skirt buttons. Click image to see larger version.

Petrovic: No, a guy would be amused at that. He probably wouldn’t say anything because he would enjoy peeking at her underwear. He definitely wouldn’t be choking on a sandwich in disgust. Men are never as critical of a woman’s body as women are, whether they’re talking about themselves or others.

Collectors Weekly: What are some of the most dangerous products were targeted toward women?

Petrovic: A big product that was advertised for women’s personal hygiene starting in the 1920s was Lysol. In those ads, they didn’t say you can use it as a douche and to clean your floor. Now, we’re just cleaning floors with it. Can you imagine the injury that was done? Some of these products were toxic. From the 1930s to the 1960s, the makers of Kotex sold something called Quest deodorant powder to sprinkle on your menstrual pads, and that chemical gave women cervical cancer. Still, today, how careful are we with the beauty products we sell people? Many cosmetics even now contain known carcinogens.

Collectors Weekly: How else were women shamed about menstruation?

Petrovic: Many 1930s ads actually treat the period with a kind of maturity that flies in the face of the rest of the ads. They’re telling menstruating women, “Go ahead, enjoy your life.” They’re showing women on horseback or doing other stuff that you probably wouldn’t do: wearing white pants, playing tennis, going out to dinner, going to the theater. Early Midol ads say, “You’re going to have a great time, and the pain won’t bother you. Don’t let your period get in the way.” That’s a very modern idea. This is 80 years ago, and they’re telling women, “Get out and live your life.” I like that. That’s different from the rest of the ads that say, “You’re no good. You’ve got to fix yourself.”

Collectors Weekly: How did ads insulting women evolve in the mid-20th century?

According to Tangee in the 1930s, a woman's lips could be too red, smeary, glaring, and painted for a man to kiss.

According to Tangee in the 1930s, a woman’s lips could be too red, smeary, glaring, and painted for a man to kiss.

Petrovic: Like I said, there were periods of time where the woman-shaming ads seemed to recess into the background. During wars, maybe you knuckle down a little bit, but then when the war is over, it bursts back out again. These ads resurfaced after the World War II, but from what I can tell, they matured a little bit. During the late ’40s and early ’50s, the ads targeting women just didn’t reach the same peaks of insanity they did before the war, but you would still have ads for the Kotex and the practical stuff that you need. In the ’50s and ’60s, you started to see ads for breast enlargement. Then during the ’70s, we underwent a big social revolution where women stood up, and said, “We’re not going to be treated as objects anymore.” But even then, the shaming ads didn’t completely disappear. In that decade, you still had companies using those tactics to sell deodorants and breast-enhancement products.

Collectors Weekly: That early ’70s ad boasting about all the attractive women who weren’t good enough to become flight attendants is amazing.

Petrovic: That was right when the women’s lib movement was going strong, and women were saying, “We’re not going to be playing traditional female roles anymore, we’re going to get out into the world, really get out in the workforce, and make our stand.” Still, these ads popped up. Through all of that turmoil and social change that was going on back then, there was still this ad that says, “We only pick the prettiest women to be flight attendants.” It just never dies.

Collectors Weekly: How does this sort of shaming manifest today?

The qualifications for Eastern Airlines stewardesses in the 1970s: “Sure, we want her to be pretty … That’s why we look at her face, her make-up, her complexion, her figure, her weight, her legs, her grooming, her nails, and her hair. But we don’t stop there.” Click image to see larger version.

The qualifications for Eastern Airlines stewardesses in the 1970s: “Sure, we want her to be pretty … That’s why we look at her face, her make-up, her complexion, her figure, her weight, her legs, her grooming, her nails, and her hair. But we don’t stop there.” Click image to see larger version.

Petrovic: Nothing’s really changed. Ads and the media still insist that you have to be physically perfect and socially acceptable to avoid embarrassment. Seriously, look at the world today. Women are more objectified than ever. It’s changed form. I don’t think you’re going to see the same kinds of magazine ads we had back in the 1930s, but back then, people didn’t have the Internet and the tremendous mass media the way we do now. What we see now are women-against-women cat fights and women being taught to hate their bodies in a different way through snide remarks in television shows, reality shows celebrating bad behavior, and trash tabloid websites. It’s a different kind of assault, not just through products but also through images and memes constantly reminding women that there are other women that look better than they do.

In our gossip-obsessed culture, everybody is expected to be 20 years old forever and sexually available. Even when you’re pregnant, you’ve got to be hot. What makes me sick is that there’s no moment of a woman’s life from birth to death where she’s not supposed to be “on” sexually, starting with Bratz dolls and padded bras for girls to stories of women in their 60s and 70s getting breast implants. Everything is about being skinny now, because only the rich can afford to buy organic groceries at Whole Foods and do the crazy detox diets. Most overweight people are poor, because they can only afford fattening fast food. But all the ads on Facebook and all the lead stories on the covers so-called health magazines are about losing belly fat, which links them to the shaming magazine ads of the past. What’s particularly brutal about the way the media beats up on women today is that it’s not just in magazines, it’s everywhere you look.

More Ads That Find Fault With Women

offending_lysol_lead

On the surface, this 1930s Lysol ad is about a woman's vaginal odor. But Lysol was also used as a contraceptive spermicide, which the "organic matter" line alludes to.

offending_lysol_lead

On the surface, this 1930s Lysol ad is about a woman's vaginal odor. But Lysol was also used as a contraceptive spermicide, which the "organic matter" line alludes to.

offending_lysol3-2

In this ad, Lysol turns a monster husband into a sweetheart.

offending_lysol4

This Lysol ad neatly catalogs all the expectations of good wives in the 1930s.

offending_lysol5-2

In Lysol ads, failures of "feminine hygiene" led to aloof husbands.

offending_badbreath

In addition to smelly lady parts, a woman also had to worry about her breath.

offending_bo2

Apparently, some completely lovely ladies just didn't know how to wash properly.

offending_gossip21

If you didn't use the right soap or deodorant, ads warned, your girlfriends would gossip about you behind your back.

offending_midol2

Early Midol ads encouraged women to get things done on their periods.

offending_menstrual

It was also emphasized that women on their periods should not make men suffer.

offending_beautycontest

In this ad, a woman has to stay pretty and youthful to impress her husband's boss.

offending_blemish2

According to this 1930s ad, all it takes is one zit to destroy a blossoming romance.

offending_complexion2

Given the pressures, you might understand why this woman with acne wants to hide.

offending_chest

“Love, Romance, Popularity—all are attracted by feminine charm. And the outstanding charm of beautiful womanhood is a full, shapely bust.”

offending_bust2

However, according to this ad, one's chest-line can bulge too much.

offending_flattener2

Whether it was stylish to be busty or flat-chested, one constant in the 20th century was the desire to hide and control the belly.

offending_pear

Even in the '70s, ads offered ways to change the body into a more ideal shape.

offending_constipation

According to this ad, constipation isn't just uncomfortable for the woman, it also kills her personality, and hence, her dating life.

offending_dishpan3

"Dishpan hands," apparently, were such a serious matter that they could drive a woman to tears.

offending_dishpan5-2

And, according to these ads, "dishpan hands" were traumatic to husbands—who, of course, never had to wash a dish.

offending_middleage2

Somehow, this woman of 20 could lose her husband over her supposed "middle-age skin."

offending_wrinkles2

And if your husband encounters a younger-looking woman, forget it.

offending_grayhair

Looking old was also a liability for a woman in the workforce.

offending_lips2

Ads also wanted women to feel anxious about the smoothness of their lips.

offending_mustache2

In this ad, a couple gossips about an "unloved" woman with a mustache.

offending_makeup2

But, naturally, a woman should never appear to be vain.

offending_teeth

In these ads, most husbands had a wandering eye, that could even been tempted by whiter teeth.

offending_food2

And the perfect woman always fed her husband "he-man" food and not "sissy-sweet salads."

(All images courtesy of Cynthia Petrovic’s blog Do I Offend? Visit her site to see more women-shaming vintage ads.)

37 comments so far

  1. PJ Graham Says:

    I forgot which feminine product, probably Vagisil, but it stated, “Feminine Odor is Everyone’s Problem”. It was a magazine ad from I’d say around 1979. My college friends and I loved weird phrases to spout at odd times, so naturally this became one of our favs, lol. I also remember my Mother complaining about Gaposis while trying on clothes.

  2. mary Says:

    Lisa and Cynthia thank you for this wonderful article! I loved it and live it. My new year’s resolution was to lose 10 lbs which I announced at a party with everyone else announcing their’s…and my boyfriend leaned over and said to me “why not 11 lbs?” Still the same old same old. I felt bad about myself for the rest of the night.

  3. Rich Says:

    Her skirt may be gaping at the button, but if I was him i would be more concerned about her missing left leg, priorities young man.

  4. Manuel Says:

    In the Losers ad, the first girl is Ali Mcgraw.

  5. Canuck Says:

    I agree with the Gap-osis ad – Steven Colbert would drop her in a heartbeat.

  6. Lisa Says:

    The lysol ads were often referring to the fact that it was used as a contraceptive. Most of the feminine hygiene ads for it were coded messages about birth control.

  7. Norman E. Says:

    As if real men would have an eye for details like that or would care about how “dastardly-bastardly bad” she smells.

  8. Alan Says:

    This reminds me of the ad “Is your washroom breeding Bolsheviks?” ad. http://www.northernsun.com/Bathroom-Bolshevik-Poster-%284004%29.html Crappy paper towels will turn your workers Communist!

  9. Susan Says:

    Pretty sure that “loser” out front is Ali MacGraw.

  10. Cory Says:

    RE the Eastern Airlines ad, Petrovic wrote ““We only pick the prettiest women to be flight attendants.”

    However if you take a moment to read the copy on the ad you’ll note that the company make a point that looks are NOT everything, something that the womens lib movement would agree with.

  11. Alex Says:

    Wow, it seems as if men in 1930s didn’t have any “B.O.” problem, they all must’ve smelled like fresh linen and daisies!

  12. WizarDru Says:

    “Her skirt may be gaping at the button, but if I was him i would be more concerned about her missing left leg, priorities young man.”

    Her leg is there, if you look closely. She’s folded it under her skirt…you can see the foot touching the basket. His expression is pretty out there…I mean, unless he’s discovered he’s dating a transexual through that ‘gaposis’, I’m not sure what’s going on there.

  13. Pj Says:

    Is there not enough current derogatory advertising to complain about that you must go back to the “stone age” to vent? Also is it not a little moronic to complain about women being led astray by ads and then publishing those said ads. Are you for or against women? When you are angry about ads degrading women, then why do you not praise women in all their unperfect glory? Words to ponder, yes?

  14. RedTango Says:

    Interesting that the “Gaposis” ad has really caught people’s attention. It is an ad that I struggle to make sense of…I would think that a little skin peeking thru would be exciting to a man…they love to sneak a peek..but not our young Walter Matthau there. He’s about ready to choke on his ham sandwich.

  15. Sol Squire Says:

    Here is your title for this article:
    “Selling Shame: 40 Outrageous Vintage Ads Any Woman Would Find Offensive”

    Here is what it should have been:
    “Selling Shame: 40 Outrageous Vintage Ads Any Moral Person Would Find Offensive”

    You have validated sexism by making such offensive things impact only women readers. It is offensive to anyone, male or female, that values a society based on equality, dignity, and respect. Suggesting the message would not be of interest to men as well as women is only strengthening the wall that should be torn down.

  16. ETheo Says:

    This wonderful post has a modern echo in the so-called flushable wipes that are clogging sewers and septic systems. Daily showers and non-splinter toilet paper is not enough. We must have bum wipes too. Modern manufactured shame.

  17. Mary Says:

    These ads are of their time and society, lifestyles and expectations as much as ours are. I don’t think they are any worse. We just view them through a different lens

  18. Amy Luna Manderino Says:

    Thank you for exposing how women have been shamed using advertising. I would like to add, in the interest of diffusing the possibility of further creating animosity between the sexes, that I’m sure one could put together a similar collection of ads that shamed men for not being “manly” enough during this same time period. Women are shamed for not conforming to what men desire, but men are shamed for not conforming to other MEN. Remember, it’s advertising that sets these norms, in the interests of making money off of women’s AND men’s insecurities about not measuring up. Yes, there have been men that have benefited from adhering to those norms, but there have been women who have benefited from adhering to those norms, as well. The problem isn’t men vs. women, the problem is corporate profit vs. humanity. We all would benefit from extending more humanity to women AND men to be permitted to be who they really are. People before profits.

  19. Julie Says:

    “…only the rich can afford to buy organic groceries at Whole Foods and do the crazy detox diets. Most overweight people are poor, because they can only afford fattening fast food.” I know it’s beside the point of this article, but I want to help stop a perpetuating myth which is simply not true. Food health is about education and accessibility. Ok, yes, organic food at Whole Foods is expensive. That doesn’t mean the only alternative poor people have in order to survive is fast food. As a part-time teacher and single mom of two, I have lived at the “poverty line” for a number of years. I have always made buying healthy, organic food a priority. Just keep it simple- bulk grains and legumes, fresh fruits and vegetables, and sales! Even non-organic real food is way better than fast food. I understand some areas don’t have access to fresh food; that is another issue entirely and completely unjust.

  20. Lisa Bella Says:

    I laughed at all of these. They were all part of the culture, combined with nascent advertising. Few women had a voice. What’s the difference between today’s ads on similar topics? Subtlety. Same messages.

  21. RedTango Says:

    Hi Amy- I completely agree and have never “taken sides” when it comes to the issues/pressures bestowed on either sex. This collection began originally because of the sheer entertainment value of the ads…the blatant insults embedded in the rather charming comic strips and photoplays. I just kept buying the magazines and getting such a kick out of the ads. Before I knew it I had a five foot stack of them and figured it was about time to share them with the world.

    I would be totally open to someone creating a site dedicated to man shaming, but I can assure you *there is absolutely no comparison* when it came to what the women were shown. I’ve looked thru mags geared towards men and much of the ads for men are about what alcohol and cigs to buy, what clothes to buy and sometimes the bad breath stuff. But again, they just in no way got anywhere near the fear mongering, shaming and torment these women’s ads perpetuate.

    I’ll also say that even today, there is just no comparison to the *intense scrutiny* women’s bodies are put thru, more so than ever. Almost every inch of a woman’s body is given some sort of judgmental label (thigh gap, cankles, bingo wingos, mummy tummy, etc)..today it’s a fever pitch of which pregnant ladies snapped back into shape the fastest, who’s stomach is the flatest..

    Speaking of that, just check out the cover of most women’s health/fitness mags..every single month it’s how to get a flat stomach, how to stop underarm jiggle..etc, you get the idea.

    I’m glad this collection has gotten people talking, but it should in no way, simply because it IS a collection dedicated to one subject, be taken to mean that the rest of humanity doesn’t have it’s problems. I just ended up collecting these things just to laugh at them, but found there was something evergreen about the underlying cruelty and manipulation, and wanted to talk about it.

  22. Lisa Says:

    The Lysol references to “hygiene” are actually about contraception – it’s coded language that lots of people miss today, but it’s from a time when the Pill didn’t exist and “nice girls” weren’t supposed to want to reduce their fertility anyway. Douching with Lysol after intercourse was supposed to “flush out” the sperm and prevent pregnancy…

  23. Donna Hayes Says:

    Great collection., I have a few. I love them. I thank God I wasn’t around to endure womanhood at that time. Completely obnoxious ! They are so crazy bad You stare in disbelief. I do.

  24. G4MRD00D3 Says:

    Did he even read the whole Airlines ad? It was actually making a valid point. The point was that looks aren’t everything, that they pay attention to everything about the girl before they hire her as a stewardess. “But we don’t stop there. We talk. And we listen. We listen to her voice, her speech. We judge her personality, her maturity, her intelligence, her intentions, her enthusiasm, her resiliency and her stamina.”

  25. Ang Says:

    The Eastern Airlines ad’s point wasn’t that looks aren’t everything. It was that good looks are necessary in a woman, but not sufficient. Which means that if the woman’s voice, speech, personality, maturity, intelligence, intentions, enthusiasm, resiliency, and stamina were believed to be excellent, she would still be deemed worthless to them without the right looks (face, complexion, make-up, figure, weight, legs, grooming, nails, hair). So the idea is that the stewardesses are to comply with the desires of men perfectly not only in terms of appearance, but also behavior.

  26. Ellie Says:

    well, I guess we have come a long baby!… but, those vignettes of life 80 yr. ago are priceless. Boy, how women must of suffered back then. It was good for a laugh though.

  27. Andy Says:

    I think it’s important to observe that ads like this existed, and still exist, for men as well. I find it baffling that that’s overlooked. The balance was, I imagine, greater for those geared to women, but there’s never been a shortage of ads shaming men for being skinny, or smelly, or not smelly enough, or too hairy. The implication of sexism is heartbreakingly one-sided here.

  28. scott Says:

    Instead of, “40 Outrageous Vintage Ads Any Woman Would Find Offensive,” how about “40 Outrageous Vintage Ads ANYONE Would Find Offensive.” Who’s sexist here?

  29. Tony Says:

    Every single issue in these ads is something every woman I know worries about – but apparently the thought-police now insist you not speak of them.

  30. Ann Says:

    To all the guys that keep commenting that the Eastern Airlines ad treats the women as whole beings – you’re missing the point. The criticism is not that the women are being judged on their looks, it is that they are being packaged as a commodity that you get when you purchase an Eastern Airlines ticket. It’s dehumanizing.

  31. Bluecat Says:

    I love the combination of the Eastern Airline motto “We want everyone to fly” with the “But not you, losers!” subtext of the photo.

    Ah, crazy days.

  32. MimiR Says:

    Lysol was a BIRTH CONTROL douche, too, folks. Also, during the time that the ads were highest, gonorrhea was rampant, incurable, and frequently passed to wives. You can’t say, “Hey, ladies, you can prevent unwanted births and deal with that troublesome VD your straying husband gave you with Lysol,” but you can say the rest.

  33. MimiR Says:

    Oh, please, RedTango. Check out any of the men’s fitness magazines today. They’re all about how to bulk more, get more lean, get better abs, get bigger arms–and often enough, how to keep it up, too.

  34. RedTango Says:

    Mimi, i read the men’s mags too. I can tell you there is absolutely no comparison, at least with magazines, with the sheet stupidity, emotional manipulation and pressure put on women at ALL stages of her life. You must be sexy and acceptable from birth to death. Sexed up toddlers, vampy precocious teens, hotness while pregnant, and the push to become sex objects again immediately after pregnancy, breast implants/facial surgery when youre 60’s..I’ve seen it all.

    Women are the complete and sole reason why magazines survive, I’m’ convinced of it! Not one SECOND of a woman’s life is to be spent not being attractive, desirable and acceptable..to both men and women.

    Where you REALLY see men being treated like morons is on TV. Especially commercials and kids’ programming. The guy characters are treated like cumbersome, stupid tag a longs without an original or useful thought in their heads. On TV shows, women just roll their eyes as their husband makes some lame excuse about something, and we’re all supposed to laugh.

    Both sexes get it, in different ways. But the war on women, and the way their bodies and “flaws” are exploited for profit…there’s’ just nothing like it. I think in particular the *emotional shaming*.

    There are some great videos on youtube demonstrating how men are treated like morons on TV shows and commercials..check them out.

  35. Denise Epstein Says:

    Re the Eastern Airlines Ad~I was coming of age in the 70’s and it was my dream that when I turned 18, I was going to be a Stewardess! Boyfriend came along and that dream was put on hold!

  36. Kathy R. Says:

    The Lysol one absolutely horrifies me! When I was around 8 (1951) our apartment was being repainted. I must have been allergic to the paint and I developed a bad, itchy rash. The family doctor told mom to put me in a tub with Lysol. On my open hives it was like burning acid; I can not imagine what that would be like as a douche on those delicate tissues…OMG!
    I jumped out of that tub and in my first act of rebellion stated in no uncertain terms that I was NEVER getting back in there. I always hated that doctor.

  37. elaine Says:

    lysol in my you-know-what? Yikes!


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