We’ve come a *long* way since the 1950s

A new exhibition at the Museum of Brands, shows just how much the representation of women in consumer culture has changed...

Words by Emily Hollings

When Protein World told women to get ‘beach body ready‘ back in 2015, the women of London told them exactly where they could stick their unrealistic body standards. Mayor of London Sadiq Khan even got involved, calling for body-shaming ads to be banned from the Underground. And who can forget the terrible PR failure that was Bic’s ‘just for girls pen,’ along with Ellen DeGeneres’ hilarious take on it.

In fact, it’s often mind blowing to look back at vintage ads from the past, and wonder how on earth they got away with it.

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The Museum of Brands is inviting viewers to consider just how drastically things have changed in the last 60 years by commissioning a new film and series of talks entitled (handily) ‘Women in Advertising’.

The events will launch on International Women’s Day (8th March) and run through to 25th June. Lindsey Clay, producer of the film ’10 from 50 : Changing trends of female representation in TV commercials’ said: ‘Advertising is a key part of popular culture and a reflection of social norms –  the progress that has been made in the portrayal of women mirrors how society has developed. Initiating debate is an excellent way to judge how far we have come from women being glued to the kitchen sink in ad breaks –  and how far we still have to go.’

The museum’s permanent displays feature a range of vintage ads from the past, providing the perfect context with which to discuss  how consumer culture has evolved alongside women in society.

Unsurprisingly, the ads from half a century ago idealised images of domesticity and a woman’s commitment to household cleanliness. This is juxtaposed against today’s televised campaigns, such as Always’ #LikeAGirl and Sport England’s #ThisGirlCan which encourage girls to fulfil their potential.

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Karin Kihlberg, Manager at The Museum of Brands stated: ‘The representation of women in advertising has shifted considerably over the generations – often controversial, more often challenging. At a time when gender balance is the subject of many a debate in the media, in business and in government, we feel it’s important to look at the evolution of the female role model in advertising and how this feeds into our day-to-day lives.’

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Next time we turn on the TV, perhaps we won’t be running off to make a cup of tea as soon as the ads roll on…

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