So Retronaut has a page of “Vintage Ad Sexism” – hilariously sexist ads, many of them aimed at men’s pride (“brand new man-talking, power packed patterns that tell her it’s a man’s world”) or women’s insecurities (“Would YOUR husband marry you again?”). There are some gems in there, like these:
I'm just gonna let these speak for themselves.
Read some of this one for the full effect
And this one might be my favorite…
Aren’t some of them kind of frighteningly recent-looking?
So yeah, we remember sexism, 1919 and women’s suffrage and bra-burning and all that. Being shocked that women couldn’t vote, etc. But seeing advertisements make it more harrowing. Serious political oppression at least treats women with enough dignity to be oppressed – advertisements make light of women as entities. I am less concerned with the essential sexism in these than I am the reduction.
Violence and political oppression are horrid, yes, but reduction is more insidious because it tends to keep hanging around long after voting rights have been own and salaries have been evened out.
The advertisements here, of course, appear ludicrous to us. “Is a wife to blame if she doesn’t know [to use a douche]? Yes! She’s decidedly to blame.” The one with the rug with a woman’s head, the man standing with one foot on her head Captain-Morgan-style. Some of them are just ridiculous.
But it is good to remember that as insane as they may seem, these are real, and they are recent. People who saw these ads and accepted them as a relevant way to advertise a product – people who made the ads, laughed at them, nodded in agreement – still make up a large part of our society today. Even after that generation dies, the fact is that American culture (it’s what I’m talking about here; can’t speak to other places) has been steeped in the reduction of women – and this is not an influence easily shed.
Now, establishing a double standard to “make up” for lost time is not the answer. Ensuring that all males are instilled with a sense of guilt about the past will not help society. Only by awareness of our ideological roots, and the flaws and violence therein, can we stay – or at least slow – regression.