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.

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:

Carrie Bradshaw


Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction


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?


"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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