Society has made so many strides in the past century to break down the patriarchy and fight back against sexist double standards. However, that doesn’t mean that ridiculously sexist ads don’t still exist and get published on the regular. Here are fifteen examples of cringe-worthy ads that will make you want feel like you’ve been transported back to 1953. Some of the ads slut-shame and others say cooking is a woman’s true role while some promote borderline graphic and violent imagery. But, what all of them have in common is that reinforce sexist ways of thinking that we have tried so hard to eradicate. We hope these ads make you angry and disappointed in the world- just like we felt when we first discovered them. Though gender equality has made a lot of strides especially in recent years, these ads prove we still have a very long way to go until everyone is equal.
14 Burger King
Burger King is a huge, international fast food chain, so we thought they’d be able to come up with advertisements better than this overtly sexual one. To advertise a new sandwich, the company thought it would be a good idea to sexualize a woman and blatantly refer to oral sex.
In the image, a young woman is seen opening her mouth as the sandwich stands several inches away. In bold writing, the ad says, “it’ll blow your mind away”. They equated the tastiness of the sandwich to getting a blowjob from a young girl. Not only is this ad only directed at a fraction of the overall population- that being, straight men- but it capitalizes on the innocent sexuality of the girl pictured to sell the product. Anytime food is referenced with oral sex is bad idea in our books, so we’re not sure how Burger King ever let this explicit ad go public.
13 Dolce & Gabbana
Dolce & Gabbana famously got a lot of heat for this overtly sexual advertisement. The ad did a better job at reminding people of a gangbang than of actually selling the clothing. Social media users went in an uproar when this image was released, criticizing its obvious sexual overtones and seeming reference to violence.
Critics have said the ad helps promote and normalize sexual violence. In the image, a young woman is being held down by a shirtless man. Her dress is pulled up to reveal the majority of her legs. There are three other males in the photo, looking on as the main guy holds the female down. This image has been cited as a trigger for sexual assault survivors. Ultimately, Dolce & Gabbana should know that resorting to sex and violence to sell fashion is not the right route to go.
12 Got Milk?
There is a ridiculous amount of taboo and stereotypes surrounding the female menstrual cycle. This Got Milk? ad only helped to perpetrate those types of false characterizations that help reinforce the patriarchy.
The ad features a man holding two cartons of milk and then big, bold lettering that reads “I’m sorry for the thing or things I did or didn’t do”. But, it’s the writing in the small print that really reveals how sexist this ad is. On the bottom, the image reads in smaller print, “Everything I do is wrong.org. Milk can help reduce the symptoms of PMS.” This image trivializes women’s feelings as irrational due to their period, and insinuate that they get upset at everything because of PMS. While periods suck and do come with uncomfortable side effects, that in now way means their feelings are less legitimate. Milk may help reduce signs of PMS, but we wish it reduced sexism in the media.
11 Organ Donation
Organ donation is one of the least sexist things we can imagine but this ad still manages to give it a sexy spin. The Organ Donation Foundation thought that, since the person can’t get a woman this beautiful to sleep with them, then they should donate their organs instead. What? That makes no sense to us.
Seriously, this is a marketing fail. The ad features a young woman dressed in lingerie and sitting in a suggestive position. The medium sized lettering reads “becoming a donor is probably your only chance of getting inside her”. Again, this is another ad targeting primarily the male population with its message. There are so many other reasons for organ donation we can think of- like the possibility of saving someone’s life- that this ad should have mentioned instead of relying purely on sex to sell. After this ad, I definitely don’t want to part with my liver any more than I did before.
10 Madison Avenue
We swear this ad belongs somewhere in the 1940s. But lo and behold, this is actually a modern day advertisement released by Madison Avenue. Evidently they have a pot that cooks *almost* as good as a real woman does. The sexist image features a new stainless steel pot on a stove with the captioning, “the only thing that cooks better is a woman”. Hold onto your apron ladies, cause we bet this ad made you want to handover your credit card right away (hint: sarcasm).
One of the biggest sexist stereotypes that still perpetuates in society is that a woman’s place is in the kitchen. Or, at least that a woman should be doing the cooking in the household. Cooking is a not a feminine activity in itself, but instead has been portrayed to be that way thanks to the patriarchy and media like this. Both genders have equal potential to be good (or bad) cook. So, we hope this ad was changed to saying the only thing that cooks better than this pot is an actual human being.
9 Natan Jewelry
Oh no they didn’t. Natan Jewelry got all kinds of sexist when they released this advertisement and we’re still not over it. The double spread ad features the images of a woman receiving a piece of jewelry from a man. The ad reads, “the first remote control ever invented…”. It basically insinuates that you can control women by buying them off with expensive jewelry (thus you should shop at Natan Jewelry).
Evidently this ad forgot that women are human beings who can’t be bought over with expensive items. Sure, a nice necklace or pair of earrings doesn’t hurt, but it doesn’t make a difference if the man buying them is a total douche bag. This ad reinforces the idea that woman can be controlled merely by buying them nice things. Its like saying women are dogs who can be kept happy and content with a store-bought bone and some affection once and a while. Well, newsflash, women aren’t dogs and can’t be controlled simply because you buy them something flashy.
8 Slim Fast
On her wedding day, the last thing a woman should be worrying about is her weight. But that’s not what Slim Fast seems to think. Their worrisome ad features a groom and bride cake toppers that have their backs turned to the camera. However, the bride’s dress is gapping in the back, showing off her underwear. On the bottom, the ad cheekily reads, “Need to lose a little weight before your wedding?” and then features a photo of their product.
The media is constantly telling women to be unhappy with their weight, whether they’re too slim or too big. However, we rarely see advertisements targeting men’s weight and appearance negatively. The groom doesn’t have to worry about his weight for the special day, but obviously the bride should have to. We hope these ridiculous double standards are gotten rid of one day because no one should have to be criticized in the media this way.
7 This Insurance Company
There are many other ways this local insurance company could have advertised they have the lowest prices around. Instead, they took to sexualizing a girl and slut shaming to sell something as unrelated as insurance. This ad was plastered on the side of a city bus and reads “no one drops them like we do..” while featuring the legs of a young woman with her pants pulled down.
This reinforces the stereotype the a girl is “easy” if she has sex regularly. Or, to put it more explicitly, drops her pants down real low. This insurance company thinks they have even lower rates than a promiscuous girl does morals when it comes to lowering her pants. A woman who has a lot of sex is anything but a slut. Instead, she is an independent, strong woman who is not afraid of her sexuality and getting what she wants. It’s about time we stop shaming women for embracing their sexuality while guys are praised for adding another number to their little black book.
6 Tom Ford
It’s funny how this cologne specifically says it’s for men, except there’s no men actually advertising it. When Tom Ford released this new fragrance “for men” they thought a set of breast would be the best way to advertise them. Then they got this image; a close up of a young woman’s breasts with only her hands covering her nipples and the infamous fragrance situated right in between her bosoms.
True, this ad doesn’t overtly perpetuate or reinforce sexual violence, slut shaming, or dated stereotypes. But the use of the explicit female body is just as bad. The fact that Tom Ford is using a naked female model to sell a man’s product is further proof of how sexualized woman in the media are- and how ridiculous it is. We don’t think this fragrance will make boobs attracted to the male wearer when they spray it on, so there’s no need for breasts in the advertisement of this product.
5 Che Men's Magazine
This ad for Che Men’s Magazine is just downright disgusting. The image features the backend of a young female who is wearing a skirt so short that it reveals part of her buttocks. The skirt also says “my number” with an arrow pointing down to the bottom where there are removable pieces with the girl’s phone number you can take. On the bottom of the ad it writes, “Let us keep on dreaming of a better world”.
There are so many other ways the world can be better without women having to give their numbers out to random strangers. There’s a continuing problem in society where the majority thinks women should be receptive to men’s advances. They should offer their number when asked, even out of courtesy. But women shouldn’t be expected to be flattered and give out their number whenever, just like men aren’t expected to do so. There’s no place for this sexist ad and its ridiculous message in the modern world.
4 American Apparel
American Apparel always seems to be making headlines for its controversial advertisements. Whether it has to do with race issues or body positivity, this clothing retailed is always getting into trouble. And this advertisement is just another proof of their lack of consciousness when it comes to sexist double standards.
On the left, we see a male model wearing a unisex flannel shirt. The shirt it button almost all the way and we can’t see any of the model’s skin, sans his face. However, when the same shirt is put on a female model, the image is sexualized to the extreme. The flannel is unbuttoned with nothing underneath and the model is striking a suggestive pose. We have a clear view of the model’s breasts and upper stomach in the image. For whatever reason, it was felt the male model didn’t have to be sexualized but the female did. And we are so not okay with it.
In advertising, the product you’re trying to sell should always be front and center in the ad. But that’s not the first thing we’re noticing about this ad released from Puma. The athletic wear company is another one who seems to believe that sex sells. They advertised their new running shoe and bag by positioning the female model to make it seem like she’s giving oral sex to the male model. Evidently we’re supposed to believe that if you rock this shoe and bag yo0u too can be giving head to someone in a dark alley. That doesn’t seem too appealing to us, to say the least.
This suggestive sexual image is enough to make our stomachs churn. Sex is not what you think about when you’re shoe shopping, so it doesn’t make it a good idea to use it in an advertisement either. Hopefully Puma learned their lesson with this ridiculously sexist ad, or we at least hope their sales fell.
2 Fluid Hair Salon
We’re really not sure what Fluid Hair Salon was thinking when they released this insensitive ad. First off, it’s not made clear that this ad is even about a hair salon in the first place. Obviously that’s a huge mistake for any business wanting to benefit from publicity.
But, most importantly, this add trivializes domestic abuse. The image features a badly bruised woman with a black eye sitting on a couch and a man standing solemnly behind her. The ad features the caption, “look good in all you do”. So, this woman is supposed to look nice in her designer dress, heels, and perfectly coiffed hair despite the fact she looks brutalized. Yes, because looking good is all women really care about. It doesn’t matter that this guy (or at least we assume it was him) gave her a black eye. At least she has a nice hair do- which isn’t even that nice, to be honest. We’re shocked and confused by the message this salon was trying to get across. All we know is this is incredibly insensitive to anyone who has or is going through domestic abuse.
1 Kellogg's Special K Cereal
Women do not and should not eat a certain cereal because a certain guy was their motivation! But that’s not what Kellogg’s Special K Cereal thinks. This ad features a woman in a midriff-bearing outfit whose husband is staring at her from behind as he sits on the couch. The image writes, “the look that makes him look again”. Evidently eating this special cereal will make that special man in your life look at you the way you always wanted him to. And, even more, that's evidently all women want in life- or at least this ad makes it seem that way.
The logic behind this is so messed up. No, eating one specific thing is not going to alter they way your significant other looks at you. Eating healthy and looking and feeling your best shouldn’t be motivated by a romantic interest. This ad should promote eating their healthy cereal because it will make you the strongest, healthiest version of yourself you can be, not because it will bring you male attention.
It’s funny how this is an ad for a designer car yet there are no cars in sight. This ad for pre-owned Aston Martin cars (of course) features a scantily clad young lady. With her back facing the camera, the faceless women’s derriere is front and center as she lifts her legs up to the kitchen counter. Not to mention, she’s also dressed in seductive lingerie and high heels. How is this related to a car again?
The ad reads, “you know you’re not the first, but do you really care?” Basically this ad is equating having sex with a woman who is not a virgin is the same as driving a car that was previously owned. A woman’s virginity or lack there of is not a symbol of her worth, and making it seem so in media is just perpetuating harmful, sexist stereotypes. No matter how many people a woman has had sex with, it doesn’t mean her value is less than if she’d slept with no one. Surprisingly, women are not cars. They are people. And they should be treated like such both in the media and the real world.
How mad did these ads make you? Are you foaming at the mouth and clenching your fists like us? There is no denying that all of these ads are just plain wrong. They perpetuate inaccurate, harmful stereotypes and double standards and reinforce the patriarchal bonds that have captured our society for centuries. While we know these ads were a bad idea from the beginning, we also hope that the companies that originally used them have learned the ills of their way. While sex may sell (though we wish it didn’t), it also does a lot more harm than good to our society by promoting these negative ways of thinking. Ads that reinforce sex, violence, and gendered double standards are going to continue to harm society until they are completely gotten rid of. This is proof we have a very long way to go to eradicate sexism from the modern world, but we’re not going to let that stop us. Hopefully one day we will achieve gender equality and sexist ads like these will really be a thing of the past.