Posted on January 31, 2011
I came across an ad a few days ago in a book I was reading, and I suddenly remembered that I’d meant to post something about this meme that was doing the rounds a few months ago:
Top 48 ads that would never be allowed today
Retro Goodness: Vintage Sexy Adverts
In fact the meme, if you can call it that, has been doing the rounds for a number of years. Look, even the Daily Mail got in on it, way back in November 2007 – The outrageously politically incorrect adverts from the time equality forgot.
Now I would argue that while some of these ads are quite shocking, they’re actually pretty tame in comparison to a lot of the stuff that gets past the advertising authorities today. Yes, they’re sexist, but more in a boring, tired, Benny Hill/Carry On/Saucy Seaside Postcard/Richard Keys/Andy Gray kind of way than anything else. A lot of what we get nowadays on the other hand, is more like overt misogyny posing as art.
Remember Wrangler’s We Are Animals ad campaign from a couple of years ago for example?
Or the Duncan Quinn suit campaign?
And how about the recent “Shameless” campaign from Suit Supply?
To be honest I didn’t really understand the ‘ZOMG how did they ever get away with it!‘ reaction a lot of people had to those vintage sexist ads. Not when we get stuff like this:
But anyway, back to the ad that prompted this post in the first place:
It’s a subscription ad for Hustler magazine from 1977. The text reads:
Now you, too, can enter the exciting world of gynecology [sic]. And you don’t have to put up with eight years of medical school and skyrocketing tuition rates.
For just $22 you can subscribe to HUSTLER and learn everything about female anatomy. HUSTLER exposes unexplored territories and shows you parts of a woman’s body you thought were visible only during a hysterectomy operation.
When you subscribe to HUSTLER you’ll save $5.75 off the newstand price, and receive your copies two weeks in advance. Plus, each copy of HUSTLER is sealed in a black plastic wrapper, so no one can see it before you do.
Have HUSTLER delivered to your door. It’s the only magazine that entertains you and teaches a course in gynecology at the same time.
I wish I could say “ZOMG how did they ever get away with it!” to this one, but I can’t, ‘cos they’re still getting away with misogynist shite like this today.
As for The Heresiarch’s comment on the vintage ads: “What I can’t see is any evidence that social progress was derailed as a result of advertising messages of this type. On the contrary, they look absurd today precisely because they had little or no role in shaping society. And it is modern manners, not the bureaucratic preciousness of an Advertising Standards Authority, that would prevent any company attempting to run similar campaigns today.”
I’d ask what social progress he’s talking about? True, maybe we don’t see so many ads nowadays that make light of domestic violence and so on like some of the vintage ads did, but what we get instead are women’s corpses being used to sell:
‘Water and Oil‘ – Vogue Italia
Progress my arse.
Ah excuses, excuses and yet more excuses because men’s hatred and contempt for women has existed for centuries. One need look no further back than Aristotle for an excellent example of male hatred masquerading as ‘intellectual philosophy.’ Who needs advertisements when misogynists such as Aristotle and Freud to name just two white men are lauded as intellectuals by men because these two males have promoted misogyny and male hatred/male contempt for women.
Women are not human according to Aristotle or Freud – no women are men’s disposable objects to be used/abused and then discarded at will.
Misogyny is misogyny despite claims ‘it is just male humour and women aren’t capable of understanding humour.’ Since when was it ‘humorous’ depicting/portraying women as objects who are the butt of men’s jokes? Oh I remember ever since men declared ‘we alone are the default human and hence we will pontificate on women and subject them to male hatred and male contempt because women unlike men are not human.’
Of course racism is a totally different issue is it not because racism is abhorent since it directly negatively impacts on men who are declared by white supremacists to be ‘non-white.’ Racism does not affect women who white supremacy declares to be ‘non-white,’ since irrespective of a woman’s ethnicity she is still viewed primarily as female by women-hating men. No only if an issue affects men is it viewed as ‘real.’
So that is why racism and homophobia are declared to be promotion of hatred because these two issues affect men never women!
That is ‘real ‘hatred is it not – not the everyday mundane male sexualised insults and male threats of violence constantly lobbied at women because we women dare to demand our human rights. No human rights are men’s preserve are they not and hence must not be accorded to those dehumanised creatures whom men term ‘ (insert appropriate male-centric sexualised insult) because we are not human in men’s opinion.
Only on the rare occasions when a woman/women subjects a man/men to contempt do men immediately respond en masse and proclaim ‘this is promotion of male hatred and those nasty feminists must all be eliminated because we men must be accorded our rightful respect by those lesser beings women!’
So it continues men’s refusal to accept that misogyny and male hatred of women exists because we are living in an idylic world, one wherein male hatred and male contempt for women has been legislated against and men are too afraid to even make a comment criticising women. Take a look again at those women-hating images and ask yourselves what if the images were of men rather than women and then ask yourselves would our male supremacist society allow such images or would it declare these images to be ‘promotion of male hatred?’
As Jennifer mentioned, they cannot/don’t get away with it for racism or ableism. But misogyny – aOK apparently.
It is really disturbing that ‘dead is dead sexy’ now. It has all moved well beyond the objectification and superfluous (female) nudity.
My gawd, they even have unnecessary female nudity to advertise some mouthwash product. W.T.F.
The big problem is that all media feeds into all other media – in pushing the tolerance barriers. Porn, advertising, music videos, movies, even newspaper articles. It is desensitisation on a massive scale. Every minute of every day, we are bombarded with this shit. 95% of it looks like the softcore porn of 10 years ago to me.
Take a look again at those women-hating images and ask yourselves what if the images were of men rather than women and then ask yourselves would our male supremacist society allow such images or would it declare these images to be ‘promotion of male hatred?’
You mean like this, this, this, this, this, or even this ?
No, men are never objectified in advertising and a good job too! Imagine the violent backlash from the male supremacists if that were the case!
andy if any of those images are of glamourised gang rape then i’d be surprise. of course men are objectified in advertising, this is wrong too. but violence against men? sexy dead men? not so much.
Andy I agree that men are objectified in advertising. However we are discussing women portrayed as dead but somehow this equals sexaay! The Suit Supply adverts are all wrong on every level – women are available and ready at any time of the day and they don’t even need to engage. They can keep drinking the coffee/tea. UGH. It’s never ‘edgy’ to portray such images, especially in public or on billboards. It’s demeaning, not just the subject matter but to those who view them. Now the question is do you not agree with me?
I’m just perplexed, wondering what kind of empty head you must have to be swayed by, say, The Suit Supply campaign. Presumably it doesn’t seek to convince people that wearing one of their suits will literally grant ready access to glamorous and compliant women, rather that by choosing their suits, you associate yourself with a brand identity that is edgy (yawn) , daring and irreverent?
I dunno, beats me – I just find suits extremely boring and overpriced no matter who’s trying to flog them to me or how… Thank God I don’t have to wear one at work, just weddings, funerals and court appearances…
What I find even more perplexing is the sheer number of commercial, sexualised images of women that are used in publications that are (largely) written by, edited by and read by women. Yeah, I’m looking at you Cosmo, Vogue, Elle, Glamour and the rest of the usual suspects. Cosmo’s strapline – For fun, fearless females seems especially ill-chosen, as the contents seem to be contrived to induce anorexia and neuroses.
Sorry, I’m straying off-point here…
I don’t think the advertising industry has particularly got it in for women. I think it’s just a field of endeavour that respects nothing and nobody (apart from the paying client) and will seek to shock, seduce, charm and lie. It will push the boundaries of what is acceptable up to the limit of the law and sometimes beyond, for occasional short-lived “banned” campaign can generate free publicity like nothing else.
It’s just another aspect of venal, grasping capitalism.
If, as you so eloquently argue, the use of compliant women within the image of the suit supply ad campaign, isn’t to be taken literally, then why do they use it?
I didn’t think you would agree with me.
If, as you so eloquently argue, the use of compliant women within the image of the suit supply ad campaign, isn’t to be taken literally, then why do they use it?
I doubt if anyone with an IQ above about 70 would see the ad and expect a direct correlation between purchasing the item and attaining the lifestyle / fulfilling the fantasy portrayed. As I said:
…rather that by choosing their suits, you associate yourself with a brand identity that is edgy (yawn) , daring and irreverent…
Think of the French Connection campaign which had dull-witted young hipsters parading around town with the misspelled word fuck emblazoned on their chests. Controversy! Defiance of accepted norms! They just lap this stuff up…
I don’t think the advertising industry or the people who staff it hate women, or love women any more than they hate or love anybody or anything. They’re just supremely indifferent to anything other than the bottom line.
Capitalism at its finest!
“I doubt if anyone with an IQ above about 70 would see the ad and expect a direct correlation between purchasing the item and attaining the lifestyle / fulfilling the fantasy portrayed.”
I’m not disagreeing with you. So the essential question has to be – why do they use the images? Presumeably those producing the images have, as you so charmingly describe, ‘an IQ above about 70’.
andy i think you’ll find that being concerned about the way women’s (and men’s) bodies are portrayed in advertising are also concerned about women’s (and men’s) representation in magazines for both men and women. it’s not an either or situation.
Maggie: I need to refresh my memeory re: that ad campaign and IIRC, it’s VNSFW. Have to leave it until later when I’m safely esconsed in Wilkinson Towers.
sianushka: What you done wrote doesn’t make sense to me – It looks like you might have missed or transposed a word or two?
you’re correct, i did miss out the latter half of my sentence…
the point i was trying to make was that generally people/activists who are concerned about the objectification of women/men in ad campaigns are also angered by the treatment of women in the fashion mags you label above. it isn’t a choice between being anti ads and pro mags, or vice versa. it’s about tackling and addressing the whole way women (and men) are presented in the media, and how that presentation effects the way women are seen in society.
Andy, I think the difference is that I don’t hear women talking in real life about the acceptability of treating men like they are in the ads you linked. But from yer sky sports dude’s ‘Did you smash it’ to hardcore porn this type of imagery isn’t confined to advertising. THAT’s the difference.
Anyway back to marketing. The french connection ‘fcuk’ one is an interesting one. Although it temporarily increased sales HUGELY, it did their brand a lot of damage in the long run. Because it didn’t fit with the brand image (which is a ‘high end’ high street store) and took it downmarket, and made it into a joke. A bit like Burberry’s association with the likes of Danniella Westbrook did.
Now I don’t know anything about suit supply, didn’t even know there was a shop of that name, but in my head I imagine it to be aimed at the reluctant suit wearer – not a man who is into looking seriously elegant or a well paid savile row establishment type. More court appearances, job interviews and men in lower ranking ‘white collar’ jobs. Average blokes in other words. And apparently what fits with an average bloke brand image is anal sex on the work surfaces. Really?
But it must be said that there is a special place in hell for PETA. Whose ads are enthusiastically supported by women.
Hi andy I agree that objectification of men in visual culture is just as rife as that of women if not more so.
I think most male models are presented as ‘corpse-like’ aswell. And here is an ad featuring a dead man:
The feminists are desperately behind the times here and clinging onto the idea that women are always the centre of (men’s) attention. How old-fashioned! How heteronormative! How absolutely wrong they are.
Polly- the sex may not be anal in the suit supply ad. You can penetrate the vagina from behind. Also that scene is so staged it is obvious they aren’t having sex. She is drinking a cup of tea. This would be very very difficult if her arse was being pounded.
But I appreciate the reference. I found those ads hot. I also think the men and the women in those ads are kind of ‘dead’.
You contradict yourself QRG. From your blog:
When women are objectified their bodies become merely the sum of their parts- tits. ass. cunt. legs. But no matter how much we objectify men, we still seem to see them. As people.
So cut the ‘menz are victims too’ crap (above).
So if we’re looking in a mirror when we’re looking at you [naked man with cock] then why the strong response within us? Why does my heart race when I look at pictures of you but not when I look at pictures of myself like that?
If you have a cock, then you are NOT a girl.
Take your gender queer bullshit and put it where the sun don’t shine.
Hey FAB Libber thanks for reading my blog. You shouldn’t have!
I am not sure what you are accusing me of here. Of contradicting myself, of having a cock, or of not being a girl?
Or all of the above.
But the great thing about the internet is, we don’t know for sure who has a cock and who doesn’t. Do we?
P.s. Only the first of those two quotes are my words. The second is from a photographer called ‘Tom Clark’. I do not know if he has a cock or not, either.
and p.p.s I didn’t say ‘menz’ whoever they are, are ‘victims too’.
I just said men are objectified in our visual culture.
‘I don’t think the advertising industry or the people who staff it hate women, or love women any more than they hate or love anybody or anything. They’re just supremely indifferent to anything other than the bottom line.
Capitalism at its finest!’
I agree Andy. But many feminists want it to be all about them. They can be a bit self-absorbed in that way.
As part of our research at bfn and bristol fawcett in reps of women in the media, we found that on 528 magazine covers, 85% of images objectified women and 15% objectified men, whilst 85% of images of someone ‘doing’ something were of men, 15% of doing or active images were of women. We also found that whilst there were lots of images of cool, old men eg bob Dylan, there was only 1 image of an older woman – on a caravan mag cover! So the idea that men are MORE objectified doesn’t really stand with the stats. They are objectified, and it is a growing issue, but women are still overwhelmingly the object of the male AND female gaze. Other research we did on ads in grazia and vogue showed that overwhelmingly the idealized woman was inert, passive and blank. No personality, no sexuality. Just a nothing. Male models in ads tend to ne allowed facial expressions or movement or sexuality far more than a woman. My own experience of working in advertising also supports this. Particularly when writing ad copy for men, you portray them as active ppl with lives, actions, interests, whereas women’s interests are based around performing for a male gaze.
I should add that our research wasn’t scientific or anythin but a way of gaining a snapshot of how men and women appear.
it depends which magazines you analyse doesnt it?
did you include
Muscle and Fitness
Arena Hommes Plus
So many images of men present them as passive its ridiculous to say otherwise.
if you say you have produced ‘stats’ you are claiming some kind of scientific objective truth. If you have stats Id need to see a report not just your word!
Let google be your friend QRG.
I’d rather have google as my friend Cath than some of the people you never challenge here, with their low opinions of men and trans people and ‘gender queer’ people.
But if people quote research it is good practice to link to it.
here’s the link:
I can’t see a report there but I would guess that the researchers miss the point that sportsmen (and women but mainly men) are there to be ‘looked at’ as much as any model these days. That’s why images of sportsmen are called ‘sporno’.
see http://www.marksimpson.com for details.
Interesting. That’s a new one on me. By which I mean I kind of knew sportsmen were also subject to the male gaze, but I didn’t know there was a name for it. Cheers for that.
when you see all the images lined up together, as images of women have been presented, (eg here) it really hits home that men’s objectification is real and pervasive I think.
But I still actually agree with even the outspoken FAB Libber that objectification of women and men works in different ways.
We looked at all the magazine covers on display so as far as I remembered it inc men’s health a d attitude etc. There are loads of mags in smith and borders! interestingly, none of the objectified men were for a female gaze. the gaze was always male. I said above that it wasn’t scientific, but a snapshot of how women and men are represented. You said that men were objectified more than women which is your experience, I was merely suggesting that my experience of looking at and exploring these issues was different. can’t we agree that viewing anyone as an object is problematic rather than arguing about who is worse?
Also, I didn’t say anywhere that men weren’t presented as inert, I was talking about my experience of working in advertising.
I don’t think objectification is a bad thing and am not arguing one type is ‘worse’ than another. Just that objectification of men is much more widespread than feminists allow for.
‘we found that on 528 magazine covers, 85% of images objectified women and 15% objectified men, whilst 85% of images of someone ‘doing’ something were of men, 15% of doing or active images were of women’
I am arguing that you have distinguished between people being ‘objectified’ and people ‘doing something’ i.e. not objectified.
I think that distinction misses the point that objectification is more subtle than that, and that a lot of poses of men in particular doing things like sports or muscle-building are still ‘objectified’.
also the reason there are no images for a ‘female gaze’ in my view is that there is no such thing as a ‘female gaze’!
Not sure I agree with that. I think some of the images in Diva for example are designed to cater to a ‘female gaze’.
I think most ‘gazes’ are queer because the gender identity of the person who is looking is not fixed. Women can and do enjoy gay men’s porn for example.
But the gaze in gay porn is catering for whoever wants to gaze at men’s bodies.
Same with Diva- the looker could be male or female or trans or gender queer.
I get told I am ‘gender queer’ or a ‘man’ or a pervert, because of my views and the way I talk about looking/the things I choose to look at for pleasure.
Not because of my gender identity/sex. This among other things makes me question ‘the female gaze’.
QRG, i feel like you are putting words in my mouth!
1. i said that the research was not scientific but a snapshot of looking at magazine covers in mainstream shops. so to then come back and say it wasn’t scientific or in a formal report, when i already made that clear seems a bit silly.
2. i said that men and women are objectified but in my experience women are objectified more than men and that men are more often allowed to have personality, a sexuality or an active pose. not that it always happens and the reverse is never true. So saying that feminists do not allow for the fact that men are objectified is misrepresenting what i’ve just said.
3. i said that objectification was problematic, to which you responded that you believe ‘there is nothing wrong’ with objectification. problematic does not equal always and only wrong. however, i believe there is a difference between looking at someone and finding them sexually attractive, desiring them, and seeing someone as an object. for example, i cna look at my boyfriend and find him ridiculously gorgeous, or a male celeb and fancy him, but this is not the same as seeing someone as an object who i consume for my pleasure. to me, objectification becomes seeing someone as a sum of body parts, not as a whole. as your blog says, we tend to allow men more of a wholeness, we don’t see men as parts, whereas objectification to me involve splitting people down into objects, body parts, something which is more common when we look at how women are portrayed in lad’s mags etc. e.g. assess my breasts in nuts/zoo.
4. i agree about the queer gaze but i do find it interesting that we very rarely see images of attractive or ‘hot’ men for a woman to look at on the cover of mainstream mags (filament is an exception but you cna’t buy it in Smiths). Images in advertising of attractive men, and ‘built’ men on mag covers such as Men’s Health are all targeted at men, they are targeted at a male gaze. Women on magazine covers and in advertising are targeted at men and women. how often do you see men on the cover of a woman’s mag? there was an outcry when David Beckham became the first man to appear on Marie Claire. This is because (following John Berger’s line which is still so relevant today) that men look at women, and women look at themselves being looked at. Women are the object of all gazes, whereas men are rarely the object of the female gaze. Men are objectified in the mainstream for other men, straight or gay, and women are objectified for men and women, straight or gay.
It is not a good thing that men are becoming more objectified in the media – it is causing insecurities and problems with men’s health etc etc.
The distinction between ‘doing’ and being ‘idealised’ is a bit simplistic but was a nice demarcation for our survey’s purpose. of course an image of an athlete can be seen as objectified and active.
Of course QRG twisted your words sianushka.
Anti-feminist, sex-pozzie, queer, self-contradicting troll.
Don’t feed it.
Fab LIBBER I’m not a ‘troll’ and you are being rather presumptious about how I may or may not identify myself. Is ‘queer’ an insult now?
I find discussions of objectification really interesting and it is a complex issue so it is sometimes prone to misunderstandings. I didn’t intend to misunderstand sianushka on purpose.
I will see if I can find any more articles on this. I think it is worth looking at in more detail. Our own knowledge/experience is very rooted in our own perspectives.
re: images of men, I don’t agree they are targeted at men only.
Makers of gay porn and men’s magazines and men’s fashion ads know full well women will be looking at them too. Nobody wants to reduce the potential market for their brand by up to 50%…
here is an article featuring ‘dual objectification’ of both men and women simultaneously…
…and I don’t mean to spam but I think this is fascinating. Doesn’t the man in this photo look kind of… dead?
I hope it is ok me adding links here. This is an article by Mark Simpson about some of those arguments recently about the ‘whataboutthemenz’ responses to people who challenge feminists online, and his earlier review of a book about ‘misandry’. It makes a change from me going on about it anyway!
Gosh Andy sounds so fricken up his own ass it makes me wonder about his IQ. LOL. The objectification of men does not have the same longstanding world history as the objectification and dehumanization of women. Advertising relies on shared cultural convention in order for messages to be received by the intended audience. Therefore it is very fucking worrying what exactly, the above advertisements, where sexualized messages of violence toward women are perpetuated, say about the cultural conventions of the society we live in.
Signification is interpreted and internalized (it doesn’t have to be a direct correlation Andy you idiot) and where false images of reality are sent out to be received they can generate negative self fulfilling prophecy in young ppl.
“Capitalism is just doing its job” mentality is dumb as dog shit Andy.
If we don’t take care of women by questioning misogynistic cultural conventions (and how they are naturalized through popular media culture) we are all fucked as human beings.
Anyway whatever, carry on worrying about other peoples IQ’s, being contrary, facetious and missing the God damn point.
Might not be exacly on the subject but this article reminded me of a TV commercial I saw in Korea some 20 years ago. The ad was promoting a washing machine claiming it was so easy to operate that EVEN MEN could use it. 🙂
We, foreigners though it was quite funny but NOT the Korean males apparently! They considered it a major assault: “A Man? Doing Laundry??? No way!” 🙂