Anyone who has watched enough Mad Men knows that the American advertising industry has some gnarled and twisted roots. While we romanticize the art and wit of memorable advertising, but it’s easy to overlook its role in reinforcing and even celebrating some of society’s prejudices and inequalities.
The gallery above is filled with advertisements that aim to sell beer and spirits by objectifying and occasionally denigrating women. The ads reinforce patriarchal gender roles, often brazenly—but also in that taboo-busting, cheeky manner that ad people are so damn good at. Just take the wife/homemaker in the Schlitz ad—she’s burned the dinner she made for her husband, and is crying due to her incompetence. “Don’t worry darling, you didn’t burn the beer,” read the copy.
Of course, sex is the foundation of advertising, but many of these old ads sell something more sinister than the fantasy of a randy jaunt with a co-ed. They are advertising hierarchy and dominance, a mindset that is intended to appeal directly to the male ego.
What’s particularly alarming is that sexist booze ads aren’t a thing of the past. Sexism is written into the very fabric of modern media, and these images and ideas continue to persist in beer and liquor marketing. Ad agencies promise that with a little courage and lowered inhibitions, anything is possible.
Keep an eye on those multimillion-dollar TV spots during this year’s Super Bowl and see which elements of sex-based advertising have changed, and which always seem to stay the same.
Click through the gallery for a selection of unapologetically sexist vintage booze advertisements.