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

Advertising has always invented problems that can be solved with your money and their product. This is especially true when targeting women. We are too fat or too skinny, we have bad skin, dishpan hands, and most of all, we smell bad. Ads are a bit more subtle these days, but through most of the 20th century, they shamed us into buying more and more personal and household products.

Cynthia Petrovic collects vintage ads to post at her blog Do I Offend? the "web's largest collection of degrading, ridiculous, humiliating ads from yesteryear!" She talked to Collectors Weekly about the era of advertising that destroyed a woman's confidence for the sake of  sale.

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 photos 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.

Read more about the many ways marketers targeted a woman's insecurities and see a gallery of ridiculous ads at Collectors Weekly.


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