The Thinking 

Oppression in Advertising

December 17, 2010



VINTAGE ADS, some indecent, all politically incorrect, can be found here.

                                                                 — Comments —

Brad C. writes:

The pictures you posted prove why there are feminists. I am a frequent reader of your blog, but I have suspected that many of your critiques of feminism ignore its mass appeal. Although few women explicitly identify themselves as feminists, most women are feminists by default as a reaction to images like these. These ads provoke a visceral reaction against “the 1950s” even in me; and my wife and I live very traditionally. Let’s be honest: the feminists are largely correct in their empirical observation that traditional Western and Christian views on male/female relationships served as an excuse for men to behave unaccountably in modern times. This does not excuse the utter selfishness of modern feminism, but it is an intelligible reaction to the preceding era of male selfishness.

This kind of thing is why St. Paul’s writings on the relationship between men and women appear in brackets in the Novus Ordo missal–it is among the many “optional” parts of the Gospel readings that can be conveniently omitted by priests who don’t want to explain uncomfortable teachings from the pulpit. I don’t know how we can disassociate these images from properly ordered relations between men and women.

Laura writes:

Some of the ads in that link are quasi-pornographic. I probably should not have posted it for that reason. A female reader sent it in and I quickly looked at it and posted it.

However, I disagree with your main point. To me, there is nothing that modern society has done to women that justifies their celebrating the widespread neglect of their duties to men and children. When women are forced by inalterable circumstances to leave their husbands and children, that is one thing.  More and more women have been forced to leave home.  But it is quite another thing when women call the life of the female eunuch good or when they eagerly hand their children over to institutions to raise or when they divorce their husbands for trivial reasons. Nothing justifies this kind of narcissism.

Traditional Western and Christian views were not an excuse for men to behave badly and did not cause men to behave badly. The traditional Christian view imposes heavy obligations on men as well as on women.

Chris writes:

It is outright mischief to place this stuff online (kind of like Wikileaks). But then so many of us are mischievous. It is a human phenomena that will never (bless us) go away.

Laura writes:

Like Wikileaks?

Chris writes:

Well, a poor analogy. Wikileaks was malice as opposed to mischief. Some of the stuff (could?) have made it onto “Mad Men” if the series had commenced in 1952; unhappily it is I believe 1965 already, and the nation was just pitching over the precipitous into where it lies today.

Jesse Powell writes: 

I can see how some of the vintage ads linked to might be considered “offensive” and many are overly sexualized but I think it is good for us in the modern world to get some sense of what the past culture was like especially in terms of how things worked between men and women. It needs to be remembered; family relations in the 1950s worked a lot better than family relations today, whatever faults the men of that era may have had. 

I object to the idea that modern feminism “is an intelligible reaction to the preceding era of male selfishness.” The 1950s and before was not an era of “male selfishness” at all; if anything, the men of today are far more selfish than their counterparts in the 1950s. Modern feminism was not a reaction against the pathology of an earlier era; it was the continuation of the pathology of that earlier era. 

I’d like to add, there is a “retro” or “vintage” counter-cultural movement going on today in Britain with some definite anti-feminist overtones that I find quite promising and encouraging. The leading example of this is a blog called the Retro Woman Revolution! that has several well written and thoughtful essays on the harm done by feminism.

Laura writes:

Some of the ads in the link were offensive, but others were not. For instance, the ad pictured above is not offensive at all. It is adorable and not in the least insulting to women.

James P. writes:

Brad C. writes,

“Let’s be honest: the feminists are largely correct in their empirical observation that traditional Western and Christian views on male/female relationships served as an excuse for men to behave unaccountably in modern times.”

Unaccountably? What does that mean? How did men behave unaccountably back then? I must join with Jesse Powell and insist that the notion of male “selfishness” in pre-1960s times must be rejected. The ads show women doing housework, but so what? This hardly demonstrates male “selfishness.” What is not shown is the man going to work every day in order to support his wife and children. I dare say a great many men bitterly resented being shackled to a job they hated but did their jobs anyway because they had family responsibilities.

The images are regarded as “shocking” today, but I wonder how people of the time responded to them? Advertisers did not generally seek to offend their customers back then, and I dare say the idea that women did housework was not widely regarded as offensive when these ads appeared. The idea that feminism gained “mass appeal” in reaction to such ads is questionable. I would argue that the “mass appeal” of feminism has a great deal more to do with decades of Leftist indoctrination than with reaction to supposedly oppressive ads.

Also, if women are feminists “by default” in reaction to images like these, what is the “intelligible reaction” of men (especially white heterosexual men) today to the widespread portrayal of white, heterosexual men as clownish incompetents? My own reaction is to refuse to watch television.

Karen C. (wife of Brad C.) writes:

My husband was not offended by the images of women doing housework. He was offended by images of women being spanked by their husbands and, in one case, being compared to a carpet under a man’s  foot. Just because a woman stays home, and does the housework, and even chooses to submit to her husband’s authority, it does not mean she should be treated with disrespect and degradation. She is not be  treated as a child (spanking) or as a piece of trash (as in the “keep her in her place” ad where the woman is on the floor naked”) What he was trying to say is that ads like these are held up by  feminists to criticize the entire institution of traditional marriage  where a man is the head of household. A woman should be held equal to a man in terms of respect. A woman’s job of running a household and  raising children is difficult and important, and to show images where men are not respecting women gives fodder to the feminists who think “just being a housewife” is a degrading state. He was not saying that  the feminists are right in their criticisms or in their view of how the world should be. To be clear, my husband and I are in absolute agreement that the best place for the wife is to be at home with the  kids, and the best place for a man is to be the breadwinner.

Laura writes:

Thank you for writing. I can understand why someone would find the ads you mention offensive. The spanking ads struck me as humorous, but I can appreciate why you would not find them funny.

Ilion T. writes: 

That particular ad pictured above recognized a fact of human nature – that the more we do for others, the more desirable and beloved we become to those others, and the more, in turn, they want to do for us. 

Also, Mr Powell is quite right that the social pathologies of today are not reactions against imagined pathologies of the 1950s, but are, instead, the actual pathologies of the 1950s distilled to their essence and hence magnified.




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