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Shameless Vintage Ads That Were Once Socially Acceptable

You Mean a Woman Can Open It?

“Without a knife blade, a bottle opener, or even a husband!” Well of course! While admittedly many women today ask for male assistance when it comes to a jar they cannot open, we would never accept seeing one of these patronizing ads today.

It’s not fair to just assume that if there is a jar, a woman cannot open it, because that is not always the case. This ad also perpetuates the stereotype of women being physically weaker than men, which is also not always true. Men have trouble opening jars too!

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Magic Mineral Asbestos

Ah, yes! There is nothing more magical than shortness of breath, a dry cough, chest pain, permanently injuring your lungs, or even dying! Yeah, this is not a good idea. Of course, at the tim,e they didn’t know the horrible side effects, but looking back...yikes!

In this ad it says that asbestos can also keep rats away. Could it be because it kills them? Insulating your farm with rat poison is a great idea! This ad probably led to many people getting sick or injured, and that is not okay.

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Start Cola Earlier!

Surely this is a joke. Surely it is. This isn’t real. They claim that you should start your child on Cola earlier to promote fitting in with pre-teens better, once they are older. They also say it boosts their personality and gives essential sugars.

If this ad is real, it is horrible that a company would try to advertise like this. They used very false “scientific information” to try to be witty and prove their point, but the information is plain hurtful. We are really hoping this one is a joke.

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Brighter, Clearer Skin

This is horrible. There were several of these Dr. Fred Palmer’s Skin Whitener ads once, and we can’t believe they are real. In the text, it says that it helps with discoloration on the face, elbows, knees, and can even remove blackheads.

This could be a real, not racist thing to help honest skin discoloration, but we feel like they didn’t mean that type of “discoloration.” Every skin color is beautiful, not only people with lighter skin tones! We can’t believe this was once a thing.

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Show Her It’s a Man’s World

Nothing shows that low-grade wife of yours that it’s a man’s world more than a Van Heusen tie! What does that even mean? How can a tie that a man is wearing make her understand her place in the world?

Advertisers of any time period play with the beliefs that their target audience has about themselves and the world, and this goes to show that many men of this time thought along the same lines of this ad, or it wouldn’t have even been suggested. That’s horrible.

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Chubby Lass

How inclusive? The ad suggests that “chubby” girls at this time were not as “self-assured” as the skinnier girls in their classes, but maybe that isn’t because of what she was wearing?

Maybe her insecurities were from people always telling her she was not as pretty or valued because she was “chubby”? Also, the girl in this ad would definitely not be considered plus size today. She just looks normal!

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Stay SWEET!

Excuse us…”recommended by doctors”??? If Lysol can kill Covid-19, then you should not be using it down there… And if you ask your doctor today, she would tell you not to use anything down there! It’s self-cleaning!

So, for one, don’t use vinegar, and two, don’t even think about using Lysol! This is such a horrible thing to even suggest and would be so harmful to your body. Just like so many of the other ads on here, we cannot believe that this was real.

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Begin Early

We’ve all seen those cute pictures of the young boys in the mirror pretending to shave alongside their dads, but this is not the same thing. Gillette is trying to show that their razors are so safe that even a baby could do it.

However, if you have ever used a safety razor, you would know that it is pretty easy to nick yourself even when you are being careful. So, crazy thought, maybe don’t let your baby near a razor.

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I’se in Town, Honey!

When Aunt Jemima removed the woman from their branding during the Black Lives Matter protests in the summer of 2020, this is what they were trying to have people forget. Oh dang.

The “mammy” character used to be very popular back in the day, but it just perpetuated the idea that Black people belonged in a servant position, even if they weren’t treated as poorly as slaves anymore. This would be 100,000% condemned in today's society, and for very good reason!

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Because Innocence is Sexier Than You Think

I’m sorry, come again! What?? What were they thinking?! This ad is just so icky. First of all, the girl used in the ad looks like she is nine years old. Second of all, why are they trying to make innocence sexy?

If you want a woman, don’t ask her to be like a child, or even a baby, in any way. It’s creepy and weird and unacceptable. This ad would not fly today. This company would be cancelled the moment they even thought of an ad like this.

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Don’t Worry Darling, You Didn’t Burn the Beer!

Because yes, let’s make the woman cook, even if she can’t, because a man could never. Like if you know your wife can’t cook, then maybe you should cook. If neither of you can cook, then, well, yeah just have the beer I guess.

This ad makes this list because of its perpetuation of gender roles in the home. A wife should cook and clean and do a good job at both. At least there is always beer if your wife is a disappointment. Sounds like a healthy relationship.

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So Simple, Even a Husband Can Do It

On the flip side, kind of, is Bisquick, which is so simple to cook, even a husband, or a wife who is a terrible cook, can do it! It’s a common complaint these days from husbands that their women don’t make enough biscuits. Thank goodness there is Bisquick!

This product is still around today, not because of the thoughtful advertising they once ran, but because it’s so simple and easy that anyone can do it. Why do we have to single out husbands and act like some of the best chefs in the world aren’t men? This was even true then. Gender roles don’t make sense sometimes.

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Beautiful But Dumb

That’s exactly what we all long to hear. You are good looking, but you are dumb. Advertising today still does this psychological trick where they make you feel lesser to get you to buy their product, which will supposedly make you feel better about yourself. But it’s definitely a lot more subtle now than it was before.

The subtle burn is arguably still harmful, but this ad just wouldn’t do well today. Customers don’t want to be told they are dumb for not using a certain product. That’s what your English teacher would call a “fallacy”—a fault in reasoning and logic that makes the argument useless.

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For a Slender Figure

Of course! Nothing like the stomach ulcers, decreased appetite, stomach cancer, and nausea that smoking gives you to keep you slender! This version of the ad doesn’t even have a warning of any kind that smoking can cause serious and even fatal side effects. It just keeps you skinny!

In the United States, it is becoming rarer to see people smoking, but it’s still all the rage in Europe. You can’t walk down the street without inhaling second-hand smoke the whole way. Ads like these are harmful and make the consumers think that something as deadly as smoking is a weight maintenance strategy.

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Why We Have the Youngest Customers

Here we go again with giving soda to babies! Why did anyone think this was a good idea? What was probably happening was the lack of proper regulation with advertising. We really hope parents and doctors didn’t think this was a good idea, but people will believe anything.

It’s obviously very harmful to give a baby soda of any type. They need real food like breast milk or easy to eat grains, fruits, and vegetables. Giving soda to a baby could lead to childhood obesity or even type two diabetes. It’s definitely not a good idea for an ad.

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She’ll Be Happier With a Hoover

Nothing would make a woman more happy than a new vacuum for Christmas! While, yes, the clean freak in your life whether male, female, non-binary, or other, may love a good vacuum for Christmas, it’s not a good thing to just assume all women would want one.

Sure, your wife would love a new vacuum if she just cleans all day with an old vacuum, but she would probably prefer a good book, or new shoes, or even a toolset, because not only dads like to fix things around the house! These gender stereotypes are exhausting!

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A Girl Size Hand Needs a Girl Size Pen

Maybe if she is five years old, but even then, we’ve seen five year old girls handle normal “man-size” pens just fine. Are men just too big and strong for women to be able to write with “man-size” pens?

This is almost as degrading as the pink razors they sell in stores that are way more expensive and not as effective as the black and green men’s razors. The pink tax is real, and this was its grandfather, or...grandmother. Why do women need a “girl-size” pen? What even is it?

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My Skin is Dark, But My Heart is White

Um, excuse me? Who thought this was okay to do? Don’t forget that racism in North America isn’t only Black people, it is also against other people of color as well like Native American, Asian, and Latino people. Why wouldn’t this Native American man not only give his land to the Canadian government, but also give them his money? But of course!

This man is so kind and thoughtful! He thinks with a white heart. What a horrible thing to say! “Dark” and “white” are not ways of thinking. They are skin colors that have a tendency to believe different things because society has trained everyone to believe that skin color matters when it doesn’t!

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Cream of Wheat

Why does breakfast food have to be so racist? What is the point of this? First Aunt Jemima, now Cream of Wheat. This is horrible. It wouldn’t be okay even if they spelled the words in normal written English and not in a way that is basically mocking the way many poor Black people spoke at this time.

This ad is yet another that perpetuates the idea that a Black person’s place is in service to white people, just like those sexist ads perpetuate the idea that a woman’s place is in service to a man, because, you know, white men are generally speaking the best humankind has to offer. Clearly.

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That’s What Wives Are For!

We wouldn’t blame you if you have had to take a break to be able to come back to this list after seeing all of those, but yes, there is more. Isn’t this one hilarious?! What a funny joke! Wives are for cooking! Hahaha!

Our heart hurts for all of the women of this time period that hated cooking, but were shamed into cooking anyway, and all of the men of this time period that liked cooking but were shamed into staying away from it. Cooking does not have a gender! Anyone can cook! Just ask the rat from Ratatouille!

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Be the You He Likes

Of course, the number one reason women to this day take Midol is for the men in their life, because who would want to be around such an uncomfortable, fussy woman as a woman that is on her period and has PMS.

Why would women ever take it to feel better themselves when their “Guy”’s feelings about her are affected so poorly by her PMS. Poor guys. We need to give them a little grace while us women are on our periods. We are so sorry. That is why we take Midol!

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If Men Hate the Sight of You

Has this ever happened to you? You are walking down the beach just minding your own business when suddenly men appear and then immediately run away screaming at the sight of your frail skinny arms. The horror!

We all know that women need to have meat on their bones for men to like them, but not too much meat because we don’t want them to be stronger than men, like that’s possible, and we don’t want them to look “chubby” so they might as well go on a diet, but they need to be skinnier, ya know! But not too skinny because that’s unattractive, but so is being chubby. That’s all men want! It’s really not too much to ask.

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The Ideal Brain Tonic

Do you suffer chronic headaches? Well you should be drinking more Coke! We know our doctors tell us that all the time. To be fair, caffeine that can be found in Coke can help a migraine. Caffeine is what many migraine medications use.

However, no one, not even Coca-Cola, nowadays would even dare to advertise Coke as a medical supplement. There are way too many regulations these days for that to happen for soda, but plenty of other “supplements” get to slip through the cracks because of a lack of regulation. Don’t even get us started on essential oils!

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Life With Father is Lots More Fun Since We Found SPAM

Is your husband just a grumpy lil guy? Is he always complaining about your cooking and cleaning but never does any himself? Well, you should have made him SPAM! Every good wife knows that the trick to having your husband leave you alone for once is to make him SPAM.

SPAM has definitely gone out of style over the years, and it gets a very bad rep today, even though it can taste pretty good when pan fried. (We’re not gonna lie and act like this mystery meat doesn’t taste good at all.) But, it definitely won’t save a marriage or make your husband behave himself. Maybe he should consider counseling.

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Do Your Dinnertimin’ at McDonald’s

You can tell that this ad was meant to be inclusive and reach a Black audience, but it really is not any better than the Cream of Wheat or Aunt Jemima ads that were earlier in our list.

It’s bad because it’s highly likely that this ad was created and produced by mostly white men that were trying their best to do what they thought Black people might like to see. The result is cringey. This would not be acceptable in today’s cancel culture. That would be it for McDonald’s.

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The Harder a Wife Works, The Cuter She Looks!

If there are three things that we can all agree on, it is that we all die, that there is beauty in life, and that the harder a wife works, the cuter she looks! Men, have you ever looked over at your wife while you were sitting on the couch in front of the TV and saw her working oh so hard at her cooking and cleaning and thought about just how cute she is doing her little womanly things. Precious...

We’re willing to bet that the woman would feel a lot cuter if you actually did some of the work and she got to relax a bit. Geez. Can’t a woman just be cute because of her personality, not based on her looks and how hard she works in the home? She might even feel cuter if she got the opportunity to work hard at university or in the workforce, but that wasn’t an option either.

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A Wife Can Blame Herself if She Loses Love

Today studies show that about 50% of marriages in the United States end in divorce. The cause? Middle age skin. That’s why so many divorces happen once a woman begins to age, and honestly, she can only blame herself. Who could love an aging woman?!

In reality, many women know that their men really don’t care about the wrinkles on their faces as they age, and it is definitely not a reason for divorce. How dare the advertisers think so shallowly about their consumers? This also makes women worried for no reason and sets up unrealistic beauty standards.

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We Are Still the Weaker Sex

Excuse Us?! This was a real ad?? It literally says, “Many of us may be serving shoulder to shoulder with America’s fighting men—but we are still the weaker sex...It’s still up to us to appear as alluring and lovely as possible.” WHAT?

Women finally get a break from doing housework and get to go into the workforce, but they still can’t be valued the same in society as men? Sadly we still see this today with the gender pay gap, and women being expected to have children and a career, upholding both of them flawlessly when they are being overworked and underappreciated. Oof this is bad.

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Mammy Sent Dis Ovah

We’re sorry for all of these horrible ads in a row, but this one is another awful one. This has to be one of the most racist ads out there. If there are any that are more racist, we do not want to see them. This gets worse the more you read it.

We cannot believe that it was once socially acceptable to be this degrading to other people just because of the color of their skin, so much so that it was “okay” to use in advertisements. This is just some of Jello’s shady advertising history. We’re looking at you, Bill Cosby.

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This is No Shape for a Girl

Okay, we’re ending it on a little bit of a lighter note. This is still not a good one by any means, but it isn’t as dark and horrible as the other ones we have seen. A healthy woman’s natural shape can look many different ways. We are still today seeing women being compared to the shape of fruits, but it is just not an acceptable way of looking at it.

The silhouette of a woman’s figure cannot be compared with her health, or with a fruit, because that is not what determines a woman’s health. Health means that you feel good and comfortable in your own skin and that you take care of yourself by eating foods that nourish your body and by moving your body in ways that are fun for you - not by forcing yourself to look a certain way to eat or exercise a certain way. We still have a long way to go with this too, but at least we are seeing less of this today.

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