The Unsettling Double Standards of Vintage Beauty Ads

There’s a special joy that comes when pining through media of past. Whether it’s watching old shows on TV Land or flipping through vintage magazines, it’s always fascinating taking note on how everything from the fashion to the language used in media differentiate from today.

But every now and then you come across some problematic stuff. Like really  deeply problematic. Here’s few beauty ads that make us chuckle with discomfort and also grateful for the fact that many of these brands no longer exist.


Apparently feminine odor isn’t a individual “problem,” but it actually affects everyone around you. Thanks Norforms! Fun fact these folks still exist and sell them as deodorant suppositories. Up yours guys!

WScreen Shot 2017-03-07 at 1.36.21 PMe’re not what’s worse here – the usage of “milk-white hands” or the word “elfin” being used as a compliment. Either way we’ve got a grab bag of racism, colonialism, and straight up bizarre expectations about what makes a woman and no matter who you are you’ve got to worry about your hands.

No rough dark unmanicured hands ladies. That might give men the wrong impression about you. 





WarnScreen Shot 2017-03-07 at 1.41.21 PMer’s believed that women shouldn’t make a “big production” out of their bodies. We can’t help but wonder if their heads would explode if they saw the popularity of waist trainers today. Because Kim Kardashian has definitely made them a big deal and a big production (and power to her if that’s her choice, you do you Kim!)

But unpacking this ad takes a lot. One, if you are a woman and have a shape (pear, apple, or otherwise) then guess what that’s a shape for a woman !

Two, we are ignoring the whole girl thing because yeah condescension through infantilizing terms, yeah yeah we get it.  

Three, the bra is called the Little Fibber. Because you can’t have this shape because that wouldn’t be nice at all but we don’t really want to KNOW that you are changing your shape for a sexual standard set by someone else so you better lie about. 


Screen Shot 2017-03-07 at 1.52.39 PMLet’s start with a warning here. Please guys don’t touch women’s hair unless we give you permission. This goes double for everyone (this includes other women) that wants to touch a black woman’s hair.

Now that out of the way, if you WANT your hair touched well umm , “Well it’s been while – wait what?” then PolyGlow is just for you!

But don’t worry, the glow is inner so no one can tell because if someone can tell you pt effort into your hair then well men aren’t going to like that one bit. We just can’t win here now can we?


Screen Shot 2017-03-07 at 1.56.36 PMThis ad from Love Baby Soft might take the cake in weird sexist stuff from the 70s. Because nothing is quite so much fun as playing “Madonna Whore” with our cosmetics. Lollipop at the lips, hand on that nice white skirt positioned just so and oh sorry what were you saying about innocence? If she was a virgin you’d be concerned, if she was a slut that’d be worse. Come on men make up your damn minds about what we are and are not supposed to do. 

There’s even an uncomfortable TV spot to match. And let’s not even get into the shape of the bottle…. I mean yeah none of this is sexier than you think. 

Saturday Standards Link Round-Up 1/21/17

Every Saturday here on we will do a round-up of what we’ve been reading and seeing in the world of how women are treated differently than men. Sometimes they are wonderful takes on how to survive and thrive and sometimes they are just disappointing.

This is an oldie but goodie  (in that it helps enlighten, not that it is good) that Mother Jones published a few years back. The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media (published a new (PDF) detailing the stereotypes, barrier, and sadly exploitation that define how badly women and girls are treated on screen. Go see the stats for yourself. 

Women are scarcer in prime-time shows and family films, and those films depict “fewer women in prestigious occupational positions,” the study notes. “Females are not only missing from popular media, [but] when they are on screen, they seem to be there merely for decoration.”WhoGetsToSpeak

If that is leaving you sad we’ve got some cheerful (kinda) from HerCampus analyzing some recent reports of gender bias lawsuits. It starts with a bummer of a story but the author takes it to a great place. When it comes to discrimination DON’T BE A TEAM PLAYER.

We must continue having these conversations and revealing these acts of sexism as a way to avoid normalizing them. Openly speak out and expose them. Embarrass the people who believe this sort of behavior is acceptable.

Sherry refers to the women who kept quiet about their experiences as “team players.” Of course, that definition of “team player” is one created by a male-dominated workplace: you’re a team player if you keep quiet about these injustices and develop a “thick skin.” I’m calling for the rebranding of “team player.” A team of men and women who support one another when they speak out about harassment in the workplace. A team that steps up to support a colleague experiencing harassment in the workplace and refuses to accept it.

This task shouldn’t fall solely on women. Men who see it need to speak up as well. It’s the unfortunate truth that a man speaking on sexism may be listened to more than a woman—especially by other men. That’s called exercising male privilege in a positive and effective way.