On Tuesday, the cleaning supply company Swiffer issued an apology for using a famous feminist icon in an advertisement promoting a new mop. The move was a swift and admirable response to public outcry that the image was sexist, connecting feminism to house cleaning and traditional gender roles. But in the scheme of things, the Swiffer ad was far from the worst sexist advertising out on the market these days.
Companies have run ads that go much further in objectifying or degrading women — and they’ve gotten away with it. Here are just a few of the innumerable sexist ads that no company ever apologized for:
1. PETA’s ‘rough sex’ ad. There is simply no end to the atrociously sexist ads pumped out by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Nearly every ad campaign intensely objectifies women. NBC even rejected a PETA ad from running during the Super Bowl because it depicted women having sexual relations with vegetables. Instead of apologizing, PETA doubled down and launched a website for the ad. But perhaps the worst of the worst was this ad from PETA, showing a woman in extreme pain after rough sex with her vegan boyfriend. The ad makes light of violence against women and depicts unbalanced sexual power. While the man looks totally fine, the woman wears a neck brace:
PETA also stood by this ad, dedicating an entire website to it.
2. Axe’s ‘women are just breasts’ ad. The body spray company Axe seems to have a business plan of trying to affirm potential buyers’ manliness by assuring them that using the company’s products will make them more attractive to women. Often in the process of trying to convey that message (which is in itself offensive for assuming women are shallow enough to date someone because of how they smell), Axe treats women as a series of body parts instead of a whole person with a brain. No Axe ad better exemplifies that than this one:
3. GoDaddy’s Super Bowl lineup. The Super Bowl seems to be prime time for sexist ads, something not lost on the web domain host GoDaddy.com. The company makes virtually no effort to tie the scantily-clad women in its ads to what it’s selling. Rather, they try to appeal to an audience by simply exploiting women’s bodies. A good rule of thumb for judging whether an ad objectifies women is if it covers a woman’s face, instead depicting her as a series of body parts. GoDaddy knows this tactic well, as evidenced by their 2012 Super Bowl ad:
4. Miller Lite’s ‘Man Up’ series. Like Axe, Miller Lite is interested in affirming the “manliness” of its customers through its commercials. The company’s ‘Man Up’ series compares drinking the wrong light beer to men wearing a purse, skirt, or skinny jeans. Its commercials also remind customers that it isn’t manly to go to the bathroom with a friend or be scared of a roller coaster, traits often attributed to women. The commercials, of course, ignore the fact that women drink beer. But the ads aren’t just offensive to women — they also try to rigidly define masculinity, alienating men who don’t fit Miller’s stereotype: