It really wasn’t that long ago

Does this look familiar to you? I remember seeing Lucy get spanked by Ricki, and I didn’t even grow up with a television, so it must have been in the few episodes I saw as a kid. It was always treated as humorous, with Lucy making faces and the audience laughing. I never witnessed a fully adult woman get spanked in real life, but scenes like this didn’t shock me. Lucy was “bad” and Ricki was reacting to her badness by teaching her a lesson, showing her her proper place. I didn’t think it was strange that the show never featured Lucy spanking Ricki for laughs.


I remember seeing The Quiet Man with John  Wayne and Maureen O Hara where he drags his wife for several miles and everyone he meets asks if he is going to spank her and show her who’s boss. And I remember seeing a western with the same actors where he actually did spank her while the other actors in the movie looked on and laughed. In fact, the old movies are filled with this sort of attitude, and even in movies today you will see the classic scene of a couple in a fight, she slaps him and he responds by kissing her. And this is accepted as normal. Violence and love go hand in hand. It’s funny.

At least people must think so for this to be so popular.


I used to think that patriarchal Christians were the only people who promoted sexist ideas about women. I sorted through all the beliefs and started to question whether or not women were less capable of making decisions because of their hormones, even if estrogen makes women more emotional, isn’t testerone capable of making someone more impulsive and aggressive? So how are men more qualified for decision making and discernment? The arguments that men were smarter and women better suited to caring for the house and having babies just didn’t make sense anymore. And as I started to feel that men and women were equals and deserved to be able to chose their activities based on their interests and talents rather than their genitalia, I felt like I was practically the last person on earth to realize this. It seemed like most normal people had moved past this sort of sexism a long time ago. But I had forgotten about those old movies. Yes, they were filmed in the 1950s, certainly before I was born, but my grandmother grew up during those days.

It really wasn’t that long ago! Look at the advertising.


From the ad: “Though she was a tiger lady, our hero didn’t have to fire a shot to floor her. After one look at his Mr Leggs slacks, she was ready to have him walk all over her. That noble styling sure soothes the savage heart. If you’d like your own doll-to-doll carpeting, hunt up a pair of these he-man Mr Leggs slacks.”


People are shocked when they see this stuff. Sexism was so commonplace and completely accepted back when these ads were made, that it seems very distasteful now. I wonder why I have heard so many times from conservatives that feminism was an over-reaction. Would this ad shaming women into douching with Lysol provoke a reaction from you? (Click on the ad to enlarge it)


This wasn’t that long ago! Women are still alive today who grew up seeing these ads in their mother’s magazines. As well as clips like this one.



Does this look like a healthy view of women? This was the mentality towards women only a few generations back. Yes we have come a long way through movements like Feminism, you won’t see newspaper clippings exactly like these anymore.

Instead of the mistaken belief that women being athletes would cause their uterus to fall out of their body and endanger their ability to reproduce, 2012 is the first year that the Olympic team from each country includes females. That is a far cry from when this of the Boston Marathon was taken in 1967, five years before women were finally allowed to compete in it alongside the men. Kathrine Switzer registered under her initials and when the race official saw her running, he chased after her attempting to remove her from the race shouting “Get the hell out of my race and give me those numbers!” Switzer’s boyfriend Tom Miller (who had helped her train and was running alongside her) shoved the judge away from her and the photographs made headlines.


I’ve heard from conservatives that feminism is a silly endeavour today, women have all the rights they could ever want today, that all this anti-women stuff was a long long time ago. (But was it really? Go ask your grandmother!) The thing is, I grew up believing the same stuff. That women had to please men, that athletics would risk a woman’s reproductive health which was pretty much the most important thing about her. In other parts of the world today millions of girls are still fed that message that they are not worth as much as men, that they are not as capable as men. And even here in the western world, where we think we have come so far, women are still used in advertising and music as sexual objects, not people.

I’ve heard the arguement that women are sexualized today because of feminism, that of only we could go back to the “good old days” where women were ladies and men were gentlemen,  this wouldn’t be a problem. But is this Dolce and Gabbana ad really that different from the Mr Leggs ad from earlier in this post? Is the sexualization of women in advertising and music today really all that different from the Lysol douching ad from the 1940′s? The objectification of women now, isn’t all that different from the objectification of women from our very recent past.

Maybe that should prompt us to re-consider whether or not feminism is silly and outdated.


Fundamentalist Approved Feminist Literature
Rather Dead Than Queer
What I Understand
Re-post: I am Not My Parents
  • Doug

    Absolutely, there is so much more patriarchy left to tear down. And thank you so much for sharing the Kathrine Switzer story!

    • Melissa

      I found her story inspiring! Glad you liked it too.

  • suzannecalulu

    Great piece! We’ve come a long way but I’m afraid we still have miles to travel. Stamp out patriarchy!

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    Ugh, long before I even knew what feminism was I always HATED “I love Lucy.” Even as a really little kid, it just really upset me that an adult couple would interact that way and that the audience would be expected to think that it was funny. (The Flintstones was another one I couldn’t stand.) And you’re right, media images are not so much better now. I see you’ve discovered the lovely, famous “Is it a gang rape or not? We’re so edgy!” Dolce and Gabbana ad. Are you familiar with the documentary “Killing Us Softly” by Jean Kilbourne? She’s a long-time feminist and media criticism activist who first made it, I think in the 80s to analyze the portrayal of women in advertising media. She’s made updated versions a few times and most recent one came out just a couple years ago–I showed it to the girls I worked with at my old job. There are multiple places you can watch it on the internet and I think you would really love it. Here’s one link to, I think, the latest version:

    Also, this quote interested me: “even if estrogen makes women more emotional, isn’t testerone capable of making someone more impulsive and aggressive?”

    Isn’t being impulsive and aggressive ALSO being emotional? It seems to me that we only recognize behavior as “emotional” when it is stereotypically feminine, ie. crying, being “bitchy” etc. And that’s because we’ve already decided that emotionalism is a feminine trait. It’s true that I haven’t seen a whole lot of men randomly burst into tears over something silly in public, but I’ve seen more than one guy punch someone in the face over something silly in public, and that seems awfully emotional to me. But we just don’t see it. Our conception of “emotionalism” is defined by our ideas about femininity. And our ideas about femininity are predicated, partly, on a belief that it involves emotionalism. It’s completely circular.

    • Melissa

      Great point! Being impulsive and aggressive are also being “emotional”. It’s funny how emotions seen as masculine are given more credit than emotions stereotyped as feminine.

      • smrnda

        I’ve always wondered why the stereotypical male propensity to aggression and violence (like screaming at TVs during sporting events or at other cars in traffic) doesn’t get equal dismissal as irrational and emotional as the more stereotypically ‘female’ emotional displays.

  • Mrs. Searching

    The thing is, patriarchy is merely a religious interpretation/justification of a far bigger and more pervasive problem. And I once thought feminists were all lesbians/man-haters/body building military violent weirdos too. But I would gladly call myself a feminist today.

  • Omorka

    Reminds me of the “Coffee Jerks” video:

    What gets me is that no one seemed to think these videos were particularly jerk-like behavior on the guys’ part at the time, and that the advertisers seemed to think this would be a common enough real-life occurrence that the wives watching at home would be successfully guilted into buying their brand of coffee by this sort of vicarious shaming.

  • Rosa

    Our local newspaper, then the Minneapolis Tribune, ran helped wanted ads ins “Men’s” and “Women’s” columns all through the 1960s.

  • Maya

    It can be so easy to be impatient, especially with things that have changed significantly in our parents’ lifetimes, and to presume that they “should be fixed already”. Instead, I keep finding that the work is on-going, and then I get frustrated. And yet, as you pointed out, for many of our living relatives, this change has been a dramatic shift in their own lives- it’s hard to think that that won’t affect how we live still… It’s a good reminder of how much work, and how much patience, are still required.

  • Kat

    As usual, a thought provoking and enraging piece (but, in a good way! i.e., making me want to take action!)
    I was actually thinking about “I Love Lucy” in this context recently. Growing up, my Dad really didn’t like my sister and I watching it and refused to watch it himself because of the way that Ricky treated Lucy. My mom felt strongly that we should be exposed to it because of it’s cultural value (and growing up in the fifties, it was one of her favorite shows growing up and she liked sharing it with us for those reasons), but I remember her usually watching it with us and explaining that the way women were treated was disrespectful and she often brought up the same thing you did, that it was pretty scary that all of this was not that long ago.

  • Pingback: Worthwhile Reads: Feminism, “Love,” and Kidnapping()

  • from two to one

    You may be interested in the documentary, Miss Representation, which delves into how media sexualizes and objectifies women and girls, leading to a multitude of negative consequences:

  • Emily

    Sexism is certainly not a Christian thing or patriarchal thing or an American thing. The problem is much bigger than these manifestations of it. The interesting question is WHY does is pop up everywhere in so many varied cultures? Female circumcision in Africa. Foot binding in China. Slave status and honor killings in Arabic countries. Sex-selective abortions and infant abandonment throughout Aisa. Sex slave trade. Bride kidnapping. Acid attacks. Keeping women uneducated. What is at the root of this problem?

    • Ken

      Other than brute force subjugating weaker females on a purely physical basis, I cannot explain it. This naturally leads to women as property, and fear/hatred over the loss of control that occurs during sexual activity. Obviously, the women have some bewitching power that must be contained by tethering them to children, housekeeping, and supporting the important work that men do. Personally, I remember my mother learning to drive at 35, and the shitstorm when she wanted to get a real job two years later, and this was in the 70s. It still irks me to see any women put on the “little girl needs help” act, or manipulating a situation instead of simply saying what they want. Sometime “no” means you do have to kick your opponent in the balls (figuratively) and do it anyway, because an attitude readjustment is necessary for both parties.

  • Amethyst

    I seriously wonder how much of the wife-spanking stuff in the 50s, especially I Love Lucy, was kink hidden in plain sight. Bettie Page was also very popular around that time. I have yet to figure out why Ms. Page’s works warranted a congressional hearing while Lucielle Ball could get spanked on prime time television.

  • Nana Sew Dear

    Folks in this country seem to forget that an equal rights amendment still has not been passed. When you mention this people tend to look bored. This is important stuff! These are human rights that don’t legally exist on paper anywhere. When the time comes to exercise these rights we can’t just assume that people will do the right thing.

  • machintelligence

    I signed up for a typing course in high school in the early ’60s but got thrown out when they found out I was a male. Stereotypes were pretty solid back then.

    • smrnda

      the 1960s? Weren’t there computer programmers then, and wasn’t that a male job? I mean, you can’t program if you can’t TYPE (at least not efficiently.)

      On the other hand, maybe male programmers had secret typing classes so they could argue that men *naturally* could type with no training, and only the irrational female mind needed to be taught to use the keyboard.

  • Sabrina

    Know what I find odd? These days there are a lot of seemingly normal people, some who call themselves feminists or Christians or even both, but who are into the so-called BDSM lifestyle, or at least reading about in in pulp “romance” novels such as 50 Shades of Gray. I don’t get what the fascination is with that book. To me, it is not an appropriate or edifying book for either a true feminist or Christian woman to read. Why not? because it’s degrading and promotes what is basically glorified domestic violence plus going into a power/over relationship which in the real world usually always ends up in tears, if not a job loss! Unfortunately, because I’ve voiced disapproval of the book, I’ve been told by some that I’m being “judgmental.” Since when is telling the truth being judgmental, I wonder? Well, be that as it may, I that book is one that can be very dangerous to a person’s spiritual health! Personally, I don’t understand the fascination with such a degrading sounding “romance” novel! Such mentality flies in the face of feminism as well as what it says in Ephesians 5: 25-29 “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.” Anyway, when you look back at the ads you present here, one has got to wonder whether feminism was ever truly a major influence or if many people, just like in Christianity, merely give lip service…and then just allow the prevailing worldly ethic to influence them.

    • Rae

      There’s nothing inherently anti-feminist or anti-Christian about BDSM, as long as it’s all consensual, and in Christian terms, is in a marriage relationship. I think the most common reason it’s seen as anti-feminist is that many people have a misconception that it’s always a dominant-male/submissive-female dynamic, when in reality it can be the opposite, or it can happen just as easily between same-sex couples. The other thing to remember is that most of it is, from what I’ve heard, harmless, relatively painless “play” – the point being that they find it fun to *pretend* to be spanking/spanked, or tied up, or whatever, but they’re really free to put an end to it whenever they please.

      50 Shades of Grey is another matter altogether. It was originally written as x-rated Twilight fanfiction (which should give you an idea right there as to how healthy the relationship dynamics are), with the names swapped out so it could be published without copyright issues. And it’s both horrific from a writing perspective, and also everyone who’s into BDSM says it’s not safe and the way the relationship is portrayed is questionable in the consent department, so those are two issues that you can bring up when people are discussing the book.

      • Adelwolf

        I know this is a late reply, but I wanted to thank you for your perceptiveness on the topic of BDSM vs Feminism. I am a Feminist, and I am involved in BDSM. Your reasons why there is no disconnect between the two is pretty much spot on. Even if the female is the submissive in a BDSM relationship, *it is by her choice*. I can’t stress that enough: in a healthy power-exchange relationship, terms are negotiated, and everything that transpires is done with the consent of both parties equally. What more, whomever is in the submissive role almost always has a ‘safeword’ which, when used, will halt whatever is going on dead in its tracks. This lets both consenting adults stop, breathe, and figure out what was going wrong, and how to fix it.

  • ‘Becca

    Great post! You are so right, both that it wasn’t that long ago and that it isn’t completely over.

    Just the other day, a friend and I were talking about the early-1980s film “9 to 5″ in which women working in an office take action against their sexist boss. (If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it–VERY funny as well as inspiring!) It’s amazing to us that if we had started working in offices just 15 years earlier, the culture would have been quite different. We should not take for granted the respect we’ve gotten in our careers.

    When I was 22, I read a magazine article about a feminist organization (was it Ms. magazine? I can’t recall) founded the year I was born. One of the founders was talking about how, in 1973, a woman who tried to go to a restaurant alone could expect to be harassed, get poor service, and/or be seated at the worst table. I looked up. I was eating in a restaurant, at a nice table where I had been getting good service like anyone else. Furthermore, the reason I was having breakfast in this restaurant was that I had just spent the night in the San Francisco airport, alone, sleeping on the floor. Nobody had tried to harm me. The airline hadn’t treated me any worse than its male passengers (or, for that matter, its older and classier-looking passengers). Again, not something to take for granted!

  • Kmarie

    I loved this post and linked to it. Thanks for the amazing points and thoughts. I am happy to be a feminist. Love your blog:)

  • Kate Corbett

    Amazing! Keep up the good work. You have very important things to say. Don’t stop writing.

  • JJ

    Programming used to be considered “women’s work.” It was seen as menial , and the sort of pattern making work like knitting or embroidery, it was advertised in women’s magazines as being “like throwing a dinner party.”

    Women were really good at it, and it was an expanding field. In order to elevate the position of programmer (so that it would hold a higher status for men starting to work in the field), women were blamed for all errors and fired. ,They also implemented a rigorous standard of hiring only men with requirements like: disinterest in people,


  • Feminerd

    Dude, you have issues. You seem to think that women enjoy hurting their children, instead of being trapped in the same system they are reifying.

    The women in your top picture are beautiful. They are certainly not obese. I don’t know where you get your hatred of women, but I suggest you seek therapy for it. ASAP.