Vintage Commercials Show Smoking As A Feminist Act

Illustration for article titled Vintage Commercials Show Smoking As A Feminist Act

The 1969 Virginia Slims commercials, embedded after the jump, focus on how women have "won" their rights, at last. This means they can smoke cigarettes "slimmer" than the "fat" cigarettes for men.

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Images of suffragettes are juxtaposed with images of "modern" women, yet the language is still sexist — the cigarette flavor is "mild," for women only; the cigarettes are "tailored for the feminine hand." As blogger Lisa of Sociological Images points out, the last commercial insists that the cigarette is "beautiful."





What's interesting is that this idea of the smoking woman as being both "beautiful" and "liberated" has stuck with us, to some extent. In the late '70s, women were being encouraged to smoke pretty. Some recent fashion layouts have featured smoking models, gorgeous in their utter lack of feeling "motherly." In 2007, a direct mail campaign marketed Camel cigarettes as a "designer" "must-have." And when thinking of contemporary iconic women who smoke, three images sprang to mind:

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Illustration for article titled Vintage Commercials Show Smoking As A Feminist Act

Carrie Bradshaw

Illustration for article titled Vintage Commercials Show Smoking As A Feminist Act

Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction

Illustration for article titled Vintage Commercials Show Smoking As A Feminist Act
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Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct

All beautiful, all "liberated," not the kind of women who ask permission. Do we as viewers see them as sexy and confident? Or as damaging their lungs and hearts?

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"You've Got Your Own Cigarette Now, Baby!" [Sociological Images]
Virginia Slims Commercials (1969) [Internet Archive]
Earlier: How To Market Death To Women: Make It Sexy, Make It Pink
Oldies But Goodies

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DISCUSSION

rare-affinity-old
Rare Affinity

I don't understand why otherwise smart, intelligent young women are still smoking. They don't have the excuse that they didn't realise how addictive and life threatening it could be. More to the point, why indulge in an activity that causes premature ageing and gives you bad breath. Vanity alone would have stopped me from ever taking it up.