Between the wardrobes, liquid lunches, and sexcapades, the popular AMC television show, Mad Men, makes the advertising industry of the 1950s look fun and glamorous. However, the show is also quick to point out both the male chauvinistic work environment keeping the female characters down, as well as the sexist ads they create.
So how do the fictitious ads on Mad Men compare to reality? From a ketchup bottle that’s easy enough for a woman to open to a cereal that makes women work harder, here are some of the most chauvinistic and ridiculous vintage sexist ads ever made by the Mad Men of Madison Avenue.
Do you think these old sexist ads are silly? Funny? Disgusting? Please post a comment below…
“Sooner or later, your wife will drive home one of the best reasons for owning a Volkswagen.” — Volkswagen
According to this sexist ad, “women are soft and gentle but they hit things.” Implying that women are terrible drivers, the ad goes on to claim that one of the “best reasons for owning a Volkswagen” is that “if your wife hits something in a Volkswagen, it doesn’t hurt you very much.” That’s because you can “conveniently replace anything she uses to stop the car.”
“It’s amazing what you can do with two fingers and a thumb!” — 7up
This 7up ad from 1963 is downright shocking. With a picture of a woman bending over, the ad’s copy says, “It’s amazing what you can do with two fingers and a thumb!”
If you search online, you can find two version of this old sexist ad from 7up. The alternate version does not have the “two fingers and a thumb” copy.
“This is no shape for a girl.” — Warner’s
According to this 1960s Warner’s slimwear lingerie ad, women’s bodies are one size fits all. Women who didn’t fit the mold were forced to wear corsets to help achieve a the “perfect” hourglass figure.
“It’s a Wifesaver!” — Brown Soilfree Oven
Because housework is just for women, chores like cleaning ovens “claims the good humor of countless homemakers.” Better invest in a “wifesaving Soilfree oven” to “save time and energy for better things.”
“Think of her as your mother.” — American Airlines
“To Gladden Hearts And Lighten Labor” — Dow Chemical
Hope mom didn’t want something for herself for Christmas, because she’s getting a new vacuum! Merry Christmas mom! Now clean up our mess! Here’s the copy from this sexist advertisement by Dow Chemicals:
Almost a score of years ago Dow undertook to produce American made magnesium alloys — the metal that is a full third lighter than aluminum.
Then, and through the years, Dow looked forward to the day when the startling lightness of this metal would make a myriad of tasks easier for mankind.
First to take advantage of Dowmetal was the aviation industry where its unique lightness combined with strength is of untold value.
Gradually it found acceptance in industry-adding speed to machine parts, cutting power costs, aiding transportation and speeding manual operations.
Finally, a year ago, Dowmetal entered the household appliance field through its adoption by The Hoover Company for the famous Hoover One Fifty Cleaning Ensemble. So audible has been customer enthusiasm for the amazing lightness of that product that Hoover designers determined to incorporate this feature in the just-announced lower priced Hoover Model 25.
Obviously, Dow has long since overcome those problems of production which stood in its developmental period as economic barriers to wider use. Moreover, recent advances in fabrication, notably high speed die-casting, enable users of Dowmetal to adapt it to their production methods on a close-cost basis.
Thus, the ambition for Dowmetal is now realized. It is serving industry in an ever broadening capacity and finding its way into the homes of people -to gladden their hearts and lighten their labors.
“Keep up with the house while you keep down your weight.” — Total Cereal
“Men are better than women!” — Drummond Sweaters
“It’s nice to have a girl around the house.” — Mr. Leggs
This embarrassing 1970s ad for Mr. Leggs pants was created by the legendary advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather.
The ad copy reads, “Though she was a tiger lady, our hero didn’t have to fire a shot to floor her. After one look at his Mr. Leggs slacks, she was ready to have him walk all over her.” This sexist advertisement basically implies that wearing the pants in the relationship gives men power over their wives.
“Most men ask ‘Is she pretty?’ not ‘Is she clever?'” — Palmolive
“Society simply won’t stand for Indelicate Women” — Amolin
“Is a wife to blame if she doesn’t know these intimate physical facts?” — Zonite Feminine Hygiene
“This is a computer? You bet your sweet Telex operator it is!” — Datacomp
“Keep her where she belongs…” — Weyenberg Massagic Shoes
This sexist ad for Weyenberg shoe company appeared in Playboy magazine in 1974. With a naked woman laying on the floor, the copy reads, “Keep her where she belongs.” Where is that exactly? According to the ad, naked by your feet.
“So the harder a wife works, the cuter she looks!” – Kellogg’s PEP
“The Mini Automatic For Simple Driving”
“The Chef does everything but cook – that’s what wives are for!” — Kenwood Chef
“Shhh! Mom’s on the warpath!” — New Ivory Soap
“Don’t worry darling, you didn’t burn the beer!” — Schlitz
“Show her it’s a man’s world.” — Van Heusen Ties
“Would your husband marry you again?” — Palmolive
“Wonderful Spring Cleaning Offer” — Lux
Not only does this mom want to wash and iron the laundry, she literally wants to be a human clothesline to dry it. Here’s the ad copy from this UK advertiser:
“FOR YOU because you have high standards, because you are a WOMAN’S OWN reader-here is your chance to get a packet of Lux for 4d. less than the usual price.
Your winter things must be washed and put away clean and soft and fresh. Precious household items like curtains and covers and blankets need spring-cleaning. And all the things you wash every day, your·own woollies and undies, the baby’s tilings the children’s clothes, will come up like new with Lux-care.
Lux lifts out the dirt and only the dirt, so colours come up clear and true-to-new. It is safe and richly soapy. The coupon on the right is worth 4d., whether you buy the small, the large or the Magnum size -but get a Magnum if you want your Lux to go a really long way!
IF IT’S SAFE IN WATER, IT’S SAFE IN LUX (and so are your hands!)
“Please don’t let me be locked out from you!” — Lysol Feminine Douche
“Wives… Circle the items you want for Christmas.” — Dormeyer
This ad implies that wives only want kitchen appliances like a waffle grille, can opener, or a toaster for Christmas. And if your husband won’t buy it for you, then cry.
“Does your husband yawn at the table?” — Heinz
“Danger! Woman’s Suffrage would double the irresponsible vote.” — Progress Publishing Co.
This ad from the Progress Publishing Company goes on to explain that giving women the righ to vote would be a “MENACE to the Home, Men’s Employment and to All Business.”
“Is it always illegal to kill a woman?” — Pitney-Bowes
“You’ll Be Happier With A Hoover” — Hoover Company
Created by the advertising agency Clemenger BBDO, the copy from this 1950s Hoover Company ad basically claims that vacuuming with a Hoover is the key to domestic happiness.
You’ll be happier because the Hoover keeps your house brighter, your colors fresher, and
prolongs the life of your rugs.
You’ll be happier because the Hoover cleans so quickly and easily, saves your time and strength.
You’ll be happier because you know Hoover is the great name in cleaners, the name women prefer
2 to 1 over any other cleaner.
You’ll be happier because there are now two great types of Hoover Cleaners to choose from.
Why wait any longer? See your Hoover dealer now.
“Turns out gals are useful after all!” — US Department Of State
It wasn’t just beer and men’s clothing brands that created tasteless sexist advertisements during the 1900s, even the US government ran sexist ads. This recruitment ad from the US Department of State was meant to inspire women to join the war effort. It says, “Turns out you gals are useful after all!” Ah, yes, so inspiring.
“You mean a woman can open it?” — Alcoa Aluminum
According to this old sexist ad, women are so helpless that they can’t even open a bottle of ketchup. The headline, “You mean a woman can open it?” is bad enough. But the small print goes on to say: “Easily — without a knife blade, a bottle opener, or even husband!”
Ridiculous Sexist Ads from The Mad Men Era
Wow! What did you think about these vintage sexist ads? Has the advertising industry improved much over the years? Do you think that today’s advertising is also sexist? Thanks for reading and please let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
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