Sewing machines have always been targeted toward women because of deeply ingrained gender norms and stereotypes. This 1970s Singer ad is strange because it uses gender norms in a way that makes buying a sewing machine sound liberating and patriotic. The mental gymnastics for this ad are wild.
So, if women buy a Singer sewing machine, they can achieve true freedom by staying home and making their own clothes. Make it make sense. Sure, having the skills to make your own clothes is a huge accomplishment, but it’s only freedom if someone chooses to do so. Also, can we just take a minute to appreciate this wildly patriotic outfit? It sure does scream “independence.”
A Different Kind of “Sweet”
Women have been subjected to criticism about their appearances and figures for centuries. With the rise of magazine advertisements, this targeted criticism became even more commonplace. Although weight loss and diet ads are still pretty commonplace, one thing we don’t see anymore is cigarette ads like this one from 1939.
Most of us know that the nicotine in cigarettes acts as a hunger suppressant. Back in the day, cigarette companies were able to shamelessly use this as a highlight in their marketing. If women smoked Lucky Strikes, they could lose weight. It’s that easy! Shaming a woman into grabbing a cigarette instead of “a sweet” for dessert seems like a weird and unhealthy approach to weight loss, right?
A Spotless Narrative
This 1955 magazine ad for Surf Washing Powder shows just how much advertising has changed over the last 60 years or so. The one-page ad has a whole story on it, including pictures and step-by-step instructions for how to use Surf products. Stopping to read a page-long marketing campaign is out of the question for most people today.
Plus, there’s the obvious sexism that is rampant in this ad. Liz is suddenly the apple of her man’s eye because she learned how to do his laundry. Dude can’t possibly wash his own shirt, can he? Thankfully, Surf makes any woman “his kind of girl.” No thanks.
Cigarette Ads Had Bad Taste
It seems that the 60s were the heyday for sexist advertising that depicted women as either mindless housewives or sex objects. The trend continued well into the 70s, as we can see from this Tipalet cigar ad. This cigarette ad employs a double entendre that we would never see in mainstream advertising today. It’s so visually and verbally degrading that many younger generations find it mind-boggling.
We don’t mean to yuck somebody’s yum, but we highly doubt very many people love cigarette smoke getting blown in their faces. What was viewed as humorous and suggestive back then is now considered extremely rude and offensive. Thankfully, there would be a huge uproar if an ad like this came out today.
Women Will Make Everything Clean (Even in the Outer Space)
Who can’t resist all the possibilities that the outer space bears? Scientists and experts have worked their way to uncover the mysteries of space. There had been explorations to the moon and studies of exoplanets. It has always been a way of getting out of Earth and see what lies outside.
Lo and behold this Lestoil Cleaner ad saying women can join the line of men as astronauts and rocket scientists. Look closer and see what’s so wrong about it. They want to hire women to “make the Moon a cleaner place to live.” Then again, the sexist mentality surfaces! We’re by far living the 21st century with less of this. Enough of it already.