Sexism in the 1950s

Citation – 

Creator: Hoover 

Date: 1953

Format: Magazine advertisement


This advertisement in what one would assume a holiday gift guide, shows a woman dressed in typical 1950s attire and holding a Hoover vacuum that her husband had bought her for Christmas. The woman looks happy with her gift, though it seems as if this reaction is forced. Considering that this advertisement was posted in the 1950s, after women were granted the right to vote and were starting to hold their own place in society and seeking jobs, it shows how sexism was still so prevalent at this time and how stereotypes of women as mere housewives were making its way into the media. The advertisement reads “Christmas morning she’ll be happier with a Hoover,” which suggests that a vacuum would make for a better Christmas gift than jewelry, however the blank speech bubble above the woman’s head implies that receiving a household cleaning appliance for Christmas is in fact not what would truly make her happy. Looking at this advertisement in the 21st Century where women are now placed at the same stature as men, it is clear how sexist this image is – however, given that the mindset in the 1950s was different and women empowerment was not celebrated and practiced as much as it is today, consumers during the 50s were oblivious to the role sexism played in the media. 


10 thoughts on “Sexism in the 1950s”

  1. “Looking at this advertisement in the 21st Century where women are now placed at the same stature as men”, are women treated equally as men in modern society? The gap between men and women has certainly closed some but is not equal yet. Men still receive on average 15-30% of a pay increase compared to there female counterparts for the same position, in addition many women cannot even be considered for certain jobs simply because of there sex. Sexism is an issue women face everyday in this country and in many countries it is far worse than here.

  2. Since this already has another reply, I will hold off on more questions. But I will note that the speech bubble seems to be pixelated, indicating to me that it might have been added much more recently. If you search for this image again, I bet you will find the original, which I would guess does not have the speech balloon added.

  3. To me, it doesn’t seem like the women’s reaction is forced. The advertisement is drawn and the artists who designed it would not try to force the women’s happy reaction, as they are trying to sell as much of their product as possible.
    I think it’s interesting to read the small print on the magazine, such as “give her a Hoover and you give her the best” and Christmas morning ‘and forever after’ she’ll be happier with a Hoover. The small blurbs of text are obviously incredibly exaggerated, and imply materialistic items are all men need to satisfy women. I wonder if advertisements for men’s products in the 1950’s were as exaggerated and over the top. It’s interesting to compare this advertisement to ones of today.

  4. It is interesting to see gender roles used solely to sell a product. In this case it looks as if the creator of the ad was aiming towards the man in the relationship almost implying that if a man is not well off enough to get his woman the vacuum she so desperately needs, than he is not a real man at all.

  5. Gender roles are still used today to sell products! If you’re watching a television show anytime during the average work day, the majority of the television commercials selling household appliances will show women using them and will be directed at towards that gender. As well, marketing techniques such as color and font are still used today to evoke whether or not a product is meant for “a certain gender”. I think one of the biggest places we can see this is in body care. Take razors for example. Razors are the same no matter what color or font is on the package but its marketed towards different gender. If you were to see a woman check-out with a Gillette razor, you’d assume it would be for her husband; if a man had a Venus razor, you’d assume it would be for his wife. Though it may not be an add showing how much a woman wants a vacuum for Christmas because she “all she does is housework”, it is still sexism, and it is still upsetting.

  6. ‘bwhowell,’ to be fair the 15-30 % pay difference isn’t clearly caused by sexism. Alot of studies have indicated many other factors are at play to produce this figure. Including the facts that women ask for raises/promotions less frequently then men, the fact that woman do take upwards of years off their work to willingly take care of a newborn child before reentering the workforce and whatnot. I will not deny that there is still substantial sexism in today’s society, as this advertisement clearly suggests, its just that this particular fact is misleading.

  7. I’m sure that this post has more comments than most others because the movement toward gender equality is on the rise and in the media. In the current political climate, women’s rights and opportunities are constantly contested and this poster is an easy testimony to how backwards our mindset against women’s empowerment and independence.

  8. esol95, one could argue that the “other factors” you mentioned could fall under the umbrella of sexism. Why is it more common for women rather than men to take years off of work to take care of a child? Because traditional gender roles stereotype women as the more nurturing sex? Why do women ask for promotions less frequently than men? Studies have also shown that women can feel more timid and constrained in a male-dominated workplace.

  9. It’s good to know that sexism isn’t as prevalent in today’s society as it was in 1950’s America, but we still have a long way to go. I believe I read a comment on here about how sexism is still present in today’s advertising, and that comment cannot be more true. However the only reason that it’s still prevalent is not because companies have some sexist agenda to fill, but instead because this type of advertising is obviously the best way for them to conduct their marketing or else they wouldn’t be doing it.

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