Vintage Sexism

In 1963, Betty Friedan authored the landmark book The Feminine Mystique, which explored the “problem with no name.” That problem would eventually be called sexism.

Taming the Fairer Sex: Classic Car Ads and Submissive Women

We’re guessing that the folks in the Volkswagen advertising department hadn’t put Friedan’s book on their reading list.

At the time, VW’s “Think Small” advertising campaign, which promoted the Beetle, was wildly successful. It would earn kudos from Ad Age as the best campaign of the 20th century. But this ad belongs in the historical trashcan.

The ad copy begins: “Women are soft and gentle, but they hit things. If your wife hits something in a Volkswagen, it doesn’t hurt you very much.”

The ad copy means that it doesn’t hurt your wallet, because “VW parts are easy to replace” and “interchangeable”—hence, inexpensive. “Which means your wife isn’t limited to fender smashing,” the copy continues. “She can jab the hood. Graze the door. Or bump off the bumper. It may make you furious, but it won’t make you poor.”

This ad appeared in U.S. newspapers in the fall of 1964. Imagine the fury if it came out today?

Classic Car Ads: Sexy Ladies Edition

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Vintage Sexism