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13 sexist vintage airline ads from the '60s: "Someone may get a wife"

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Admire ad men for their artistic talent, but when they created advertisements for airlines in the 1960s, you can't deny they celebrated the worst, most patronizing aspects of sexism. It's difficult to imagine that an industry that championed strong, working women in earlier decades, as this ad from 1953 shows...

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Trans World Airline’s TWA Constellation: "Who says, 'It’s A Man’s World'"? 1953.

...would be the same exact industry to devalue and sell a woman's body, ethnicity, and personhood as a core part of a consumer product during a decade when women had more freedom than ever to define their role in society, in family, and at work.

US News & World Report, April 22, 1968.

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The airlines portrayed women as "girls" who act like children

United Airlines: "Two months ago, Sheri Woodruff couldn't even balance a cup of coffee. But she was friendly, intelligent, and attractive." 1967.

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American Airlines: "We can't afford the sweet young thing who just stands there, and we bring up our girls on just that basis." 1967.

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Airlines trained women employees to be future wives for male travelers

United Airlines: "Old Maid. That's what the other United Air Lines stewardess call her. Because she's been flying for almost three years now. ... [S]ince United invented the stewardess back in 1930, we've trained over 15,000 smiling reasons to fly the friendly skies. ... Everyone gets warmth, friendliness and extra care. And someone may get a wife." 1967.

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British Overseas Airways Corporation: "Whether she's decorating a house, or cooking Moo Goo Gai Pen, the result is always beautiful. If Lancy's aboard your next BOAC flight to the Orient, watch every move closely. She's an art in herself." 1965.

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United Airlines: "United 'invented' the airline stewardess back in 1930 to make air travel a little easier for our first customers. In those days the specifications were: Registered nurse, not over 25 years of age, weighing 115 lbs. or less, not over five feet four inches tall." 1966.

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Japan Airlines: "A Japanese girl is taught from childhood the satisfaction of doing something for its own sake. ... [Y]ou feel her real desire to please you, and only you. For she satisfies herself only as she succeeds in making you happy." 1959.

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The successful man was airlines' ideal traveler

American Airlines: "The man we wanted wanted service. We gave it to him. We called in restaurants for advice. Started a stewardess college." 1966.

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American Airlines: "Flying just isn't much of a thrill for Mr. Hilton anymore. He expects attention for his money." 1966.

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Women flight attendants belonged to the airline and were part of the product

Air France sold its air stewardesses while simultaneously devaluing them: "Beautiful French girls alone do not make Air France Air France."

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Delta: "Only one girl is important. The one on your flight. The one who serves you." 1967.

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British Overseas Airways Corporation shows : "Suki's more than beautiful. ... she can serve you sake, sushi, and teriyaki steak with ancestral grace." 1964.

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United Airlines: "You went to sleep after dinner. Why not? You work hard. When the flight landed, the stewardess smiled goodbye like she really meant it. She does. She even straightened your boutonniere. You get this kind of 'extra care' every time you fly with us." 1966.

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Decades later, it's easy to forget that cultural shifts actually live and die in the same space occupied by those who are opposed to change. And the narratives, icons, and symbols we witness and consume in the media today, whether in a YouTube ad or embedded in a blockbuster movie, will tell future generations the truth about what equal rights struggles we denied or faced, too.

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