Thursday, July 12, 2007

Aren't You Ashamed... of Everything, Ladies?

Ladies, it pains me to report that you are a mess, from head to toe.

Your teeth are dull.

Your dress is wrinkled.

And "your shoes are showing! Embarrassing, isn't it?"

My gosh, this is just so unfare! It seems that advertisers of the 40's and 50's spent all their time exploiting your insecurities about body image. And just who were those advertising execs? Men, of course! Its shocking, really.

I promise I'll try to find something, anything, to level the playing field with the guys for tomorrow's post.

But don't hold your (bad) breath.

*A note from PRINT magazine's editors that author Steven Heller has made his article about this week's topic available for download on his website in PDF format.


  1. Leif, it seems to me that you are being pretty tough on ol' hygiene this week. Some serious scholars have suggested that Renaissance art, which brought us from those pinched medieval images of the afterlife and "mortification of the flesh" to the pleasures of the physical world and the glories of the human body, was the direct result of soap. The Renaissance saw a huge improvement in personal hygiene with the first widespread availability of soap. (Venice in the 14th century was one of the first centers of soap production in the world.) For that reason alone, I would think that soap and even toothpaste have earned a little more respect from an artist!

  2. David;

    I apologize if my intentions have been misconstrued... I have no quarrel with soap - I'm a big fan of nice smells and bubbles and such, as well as clean - both the squeekie and the sparkly types.

    I'm only pointing out how Madison Ave. worked long and hard to take the concept of a clean public presentation well beyond the norm and into the realm of OCD.

    And how this strategy was used to an insidious extent on female consumers especially.

    This not so much as an artist - but more so as an amateur pop culture historian, I suppose.

    *As an interesting aside, when National Handwashing Day first came about some years back, I heard a rumour that the whole thing had been instigated by Lever Brothers' PR company to sell more soap. I can't confirm that - but it wouldn't surpise the conspiracy theorist in me!

    As an artist I say "hooray for soap" and "hooray for the glories of the human body". :-)

  3. Have you ever seen the Mary Barron "When A Slip Becomes A Social Error" series?

    A lingerie manufacturer pushes their "non-skid" slips by promoting the idea that if your slip shows you will be ostracized. Pictures of women in compromised positions with everyone in the room staring censoriously at them. One more reason for women to feel paranoid and spend money to keep themselves safe from general disapproval.

  4. Just a long-time blurker materializing out of the shadows...

    One of my favorite memories of Women's Studies class was rooting through boxes and boxes of old magazines, finding all of the sexist, racist, germophobe and just plain bizarre ads and articles we could. It was especially exciting to see what volatile household chemicals were recommended for, well, feminine douching. Lysol, Listerine, Clorox, and a myriad of other things I would NEVER consider sticking...down there.

    Your blog is a fantastic resource, Leif, and has provided invaluable inspiration for my own illustration efforts. :) Are we going to see more of those gorgeous Childcraft illustrations in the future? I'm currently trying to find a set for my own library, they are so beautiful.

  5. That's pretty funny (and sad of course too)

  6. Leif, there is of course another side to all this: After a successful military campaign, Napoleon is famous for having written to Josephine, "I'll be home in three days-- don't wash!"

  7. Yikes! Pee-yew! ;-)

  8. ckeis;

    Thanks for your comment - and that fascinating anecdote about rummaging through all those ald mags... I can, of course, totally relate.

    That's part of what has been so fun about putting together the topics for Today's Inspiration: seeing a backwards view the world through the distorted lens of mid-20th century print media. What a bizarre place it was, if this is at all a reflection of that reality. I only need to talk to my mother-in-law, who grew up in that time, to appreciate how very real those attitudes were.

    On another note - yes, you bet! - I'll be showing some more images next week from the amazing Childcraft books! :-)

  9. Anonymous6:59 PM

    I… can't… resist!

    "Son, you don't know *hit form Shinola!"


    Cool blog! ;)

  10. Hey Leif - Just found this site, and love it! I'm an efx animator down here in LA, and love all the old illustration. Had to laugh when I saw the Shinola ad. I bought a bottle of it at an antique store a few years ago, because my dad always said (like anonymous did) I didn't know sh*t from Shinola, and I proved to him I did.

    Great stuff. Keep it up.