Vintage Ads and Misogyny

Advertisements have been dictating how we should think and feel since the inception of print. Although advertisements may differ in their approach, the underlying message still controls societal norms in beauty. What is interesting to see is the morphing of sexism in vintage ads to the self-objectification of current trends, still under the control of the patriarch of capitalism and the spectator’s expectations.

Beauty ideals signal the inferiority of women and brings awareness of the differences between men and women, from the superficial differences to reducing them to sex objects. (Jeffreys, 2005) Women are expected to be beautiful; society will have you believe it is their most important attribute. To achieve this beauty a woman must fight the natural state of their body by shaping, exercising, shaving, coloring hair, and any other way the industry deems necessary to shape, conceal or modify their natural body.

Fig. 1 Scherker, A. (2017)

History has shown, behaviors and expectation towards women is somewhat socially constructed, but the motivation behind these has a commonality of patriarchal emphasis on beauty and cultural roles of the body in terms of gender under this established practice. Studies and feminist theories have shown the endorsement of beauty ideals to be oppressive to women and associated with hostility towards women whether it be traditional, hostile or benevolent, some tiers may mask the same beliefs of inferiority through acts of chivalry, but all serve to oppress women under the guise of sexism. (Forbes, 2007)

vintage3Fig. 2 Daily Mail Reporter 2012

There are two kinds of sexism recognized under the theories of the Attitudes Towards Women’s scale. The first under the justification of the patriarch degenerates women and imposes restrictions to their roles. The second more complex romanticizes women’s traditional roles particularly granting limited privilege. In other words, sexism and hostility toward women are related to each other although differ in their approach to beauty ideals and practices. (Forbes, 2007)

vintageFig. 3 Daily Mail Reporter 2012

Vintage ads may look different from today’s, but they continue to portray the same messages and still determine society’s idea of gender roles, what we should value and who we should be (Kilbourne, 1999).

Fig. 4 Pasulka, N. (2012)

Fig. 5 Scherker, A. (2017)



Forbes, G. B., Collinsworth, L. L., Jobe, R. L., Braun, K. D., & Wise, L. M. (2007).Sexism, hostility toward women, and endorsement of beauty ideals and practices: Are beauty ideals associated with oppressive beliefs? Sex Roles, 56,265–273.

Jeffreys, S. (2005). Beauty and misogyny: Harmful cultural practices in the West. New York: Routledge.

Kilbourne, J. (2000). Can’t buy my love: How advertising changes the way we think and feel. New York, NY: Simon and Shuster.

Fig. 1 Scherker, A. (2017) Ways The Beauty Industry Convinced Women That They Weren’t Good Enough. Huffpost. [online] available at:  accessed 05-20-2019

Fig. 2-3 DAILY MAIL REPORTER (2012) Didn’t I warn you about serving me bad coffee? Outrageously sexist adverts from the 1950s when society believed a woman’s place was firmly in the home [online] available at: accessed 05-18-2019

Fig. 4 Pasulka, N. (2012) When Women Used Lysol as Birth Control A look back at shocking ads for the popular, dangerous, and ineffective antiseptic douche. Mother Jones. [online] available at: accessed 05-20-2019

Fig. 5 Scherker, A. (2017) Ways The Beauty Industry Convinced Women That They Weren’t Good Enough. Huffpost. [online] available at:  accessed 05-20-2019

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