Badvertising History Lessons: Women Can’t Drive, Men Can’t Bake, Fancy Cheese Is A Requirement

Let’s face it: The past was terrible. Sure, wax on about the “golden era” and pine nostalgically for the “good old days,” but if we can learn anything from advertising in days gone by, it’s that sexism sells. In an effort to show how far we’ve come and take a bit of shine off the past, we present Consumerist’s Badvertising History Lessons. This week, sexism is an equal opportunity -ism.

We’ve gathered some funny people we know to bring their keen eye for social criticism and ability to crack a joke and asked them to weigh in this week on ads for Volkswagen (sexist against women!), Aunt Jemima corn bread mix (sexist against men!) and Borden cheese (fancy cheese better be on the table or your marriage is in trouble!). Warning: “DO NOT READ THIS IF YOU DO NOT APPRECIATE SARCASM AS A FORM OF HUMOR”

Scroll on down and click on any ad caption to enlarge and read the full text in all its sexist glory — and send your own examples of why the past was terrible to tips@consumerist.com with the subject line TERRIBLE PAST.

Click to enlarge (LIFE magazine)

Click to enlarge (LIFE magazine)

Mary Jo Pehl, writer/actor:
This ad ran in in 1964 and feminists were so angry about it, they burned their fenders in public.

Jeff Bercovici, Forbes media guru:
Copywriter 1: Hey, about your Volkswagen ad…you do know that women are statistically safer drivers than men, right?

Copywriter 2: Excuse me? I didn’t catch that. I was busy swigging bourbon and feeling up my secretary.

Copywriter 1: Never mind.

Kristyn Pomranz writer and expert one-liner:
Volkswagen: Because lord knows you can’t buy your wife competence.

Laura Lane, comedian, writer and great at wearing fascinators:
Volkswagen: making cheap cars for dumb wives since 1937.

Heidi Fichtner, queen of biting wit:
Good thing women couldn’t read back then, or they would be mighty upset.

Angela Spera, all-around funny person:
Somewhere, Tiger Woods is solemnly nodding his head in agreement…

Abby Aronofsky, Social Media Strategist:

Sooner or later, your wife will realize she can do better and drive the Volkswagen to a new life with Robert, the milkman

Lauren D., awesome friend:
His secret: Volkswagen
Her secret: He’s not the only one having the two martini lunch

Mark M., “the funniest guy he knows,” has a lot to say on the matter:
Sure, this ad is offensive, but the original version was much worse. Thankfully, the ad men had the decency to cut out the caption saying that the accident pictured occurred when the wife was rear-ended by another woman.

In all seriousness, the ad is wrong on so many levels. It portrays women as hairbrained creatures who just can’t help but smash into things once they get behind the wheel. They’re basically a bunch of beehived Lindsay Lohans. But my real issue is, why does wifey keep getting into accidents? Is she drinking because she’s in an unhappy marriage? Is she having seizures or some other medical issue that she’s afraid to mention to her family or doctor because she fears it’s serious? Something’s definitely not right, and yet hubby doesn’t seem concerned. “You hit another child today, Martha? Don’t worry, we can replace the fender for $25! Now run back out and pick up my suit at the dry cleaner.”

I’m shocked that such an ad ran in the 1960s, the very decade that introduced the feminist movement and “The Flintstones,” a show featuring documented proof that even early women were competent drivers. Think about it: Wilma never got into an accident and — brakes be damned! — could stop a car with her bare feet. I don’t think any man driving a VW can make those same claims.

Click to enlarge (LIFE magazine)

Click to enlarge (LIFE magazine)

 Angela:
“….He may win a trip for 2 to the Rose Bowl Game… and even an Edsel car! If they actually allow that god damned moron behind the wheel! Boy, what an idiot!”

Also, real talk, the first time I ever tried to cook on my own was making corn bread in the 5th grade and I almost burned my house down, so maybe this batter satchel isn’t such a crazy idea.

Kristyn:
Is your husband physically capable of squeezing? NO? How ’bout if you offered him free tickets to the Rose Bowl? BET THAT IDIOT CAN SQUEEZE NOW!

Abby:
Is it weird that this sounds like a cool contest? I think a Men’s Corn Bread Derby still has legs.

Mark:
There’s something sexual about the way that woman’s hands are gripping and squeezing that bag. Look at her, gently cradling the base while using loong, slooow strokes to release the contents … Is it hot in here or is someone baking cornbread? Yeah, no, this ad is stupid and makes men look even stupider. How is the husband supposed to feel when his wife tells him she entered him into a competition for dumbasses? And how does he tell his friends that said competition questions whether he can wrap his head around the concept of pouring an egg and milk in a bag? I can’t imagine how humiliating that would be. But I tell you, for a chance to win an Edsel and a trip to the Rose Bowl and Disneyland, I’d be willing to find out!

Click to enlarge (LIFE magazine)

Click to enlarge (LIFE magazine)

Angela:
“We need a spokesperson all women will identify with…how about this bossy, naggy, know-it-all COW!” said the well adjusted ad exec in the happy marriage.

Jeff:
This one had me at “Say ‘Close your eyes and open your mouth to your pretty wife.'”

Kristyn:
Borden’s: Because it’s either fine cheeses or your husband leaving you for another woman.

Abby:
To be fair, any sentient being who doesn’t appreciate a fine cheese deserves to be reconsidered.

Mark:
At first I thought, This is terrible — this man’s marriage is in trouble because his wife is serving him government cheese. But then I realized it’s not about cheese at all — It’s really about a man who is bored in the bedroom at home. And then he meets Elsie Borden. Sassy, worldly, flirty Elsie Borden. There she sits, nude, seductively tossing around French phrases like “Camembert,” lustily telling him to “Close your eyes and open your mouth,” and even demanding that he leave his wife. And sure enough, he runs off with that heifer! I think the takeaway from this ad is that, ladies, fancy cheeses won’t make or break your marriage, but for the love of God, keep cows away from your husbands!