Vintage Sexism: Driving with Women in Cars Edition

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Everyone knows that women are terrible drivers.  Sure, statistical data may show that women get into into fewer accidents than men, are less likely to drive under the influence of alcohol, less likely to speed excessively, and less likely to break traffic rules and regulations in general, but all that is of little consequence when it comes to making a buck or two. So, insurance rates aside, it makes perfect sense for car companies to capitalize on the well-known fact that women can’t drive.

Learn more about how women are inferior drivers after the jump!

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As this Volkswagon ad so keenly points out, “Women are soft and gentle, but they hit things. If your wife hits something in a Volkswagen, it doesn’t hurt you very much.” This old school ad does an effective job illustrating the indestructibility of a VW – even a woman couldn’t demolish it beyond repair!

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That’s right, ladies. Forget the hot rod. You need a small, simple car for your small, simple, female self to control.

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It would be downright cruel to make a man choose between his girlfriend or his 1969 Dodge Charger RT (so much for women’s lib)!

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The copy in this ad refers to the Subaru with feminine pronouns like “her” and “she,” blurring the line between the car (an object) and the woman (also an object). “The sculpted lines of the one piece body invite you in,” and what’s more, it “costs so little to keep you happy”!

Now, I know how overwhelmingly disheartening ads and commercials like these can often be. That is why I thought it would be nice to end on a positive note. Since anti-sexist commercials are particularly difficult to come by (especially when it comes to cars), I was ecstatic when I came across this one (below), on

Okay ModReaders, now you have the floor! Can you think of any current car ads or commercials that are sexist? Can you think of any other commercials or ads that openly denounce/poke fun at sexism? Please share them!

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  1. Jayme 02/10/2010 at 12:46 pm #

    That “love triangle” Dodge ad immediately made me think of the most recent Dodge ad that aired during the Super Bowl. For those who haven’t seen it, you can watch it on YouTube here:

  2. Dina 02/10/2010 at 1:14 pm #

    Pretty much half of the Superbowl commercials this year were blatantly sexist… what’s up with that?

  3. Serena 02/10/2010 at 1:30 pm #

    Its all about marketing. The superbowl audience is primarily targeting a male audience. You might notice that during action and sports programs they show more male oriented commercials, while during dramas and such they target females. I would say this definitely reinforces gender stereotypes, you know, what culturally men or women should or shouldn’t do based on collective opinion….

  4. Emily 02/10/2010 at 1:33 pm #

    Of course women are horrible drivers! That’s exactly why women ages 25-40 have the lowest car insurance rates, whereas young men have the highest…makes perfect sense…

  5. Alyson 02/10/2010 at 3:47 pm #

    I think my biggest pet peeve is why can’t a woman take her car to an oil change place without getting a) overcharged, b) sold some service for the car that you don’t need, and c) pretty much berated to feeling like “well you’re a woman you don’t know about cars”

    The sad thing is men truly believe that women want to drive mom-mobiles and mini vans and can’t drive. And the media only supports this blatant sexism. The same way that all cleaning commercials are targeted at women and not men, because men don’t use a swiffer. Mops aren’t having their heart broken over a guy throwing them out of the house. We could go on for days, but plain and simple these ads suck. 🙁 I can drive, I do know what’s under the hood of my car, and just because I’m in my 20s and blonde does not mean I am an idiot.

  6. Catherine 02/10/2010 at 4:46 pm #

    A boy and a girl in my high school were in an acident. They were on a small dirt road, one going one way, one going the other. They ended up colliding mirrors. The girl it seems was going the speed limit, and on the correct side of the road. The boy on the other hand was going about 90 mph, and in the middle of the road. When they arrived at school the boy ended up blaming the girl because “she was going too slow and should have moved out of the way. Besides everyone knows women are horrible drivers.” At those words she lectured him on the truth about male drivers and all of the stupid things he made that caused the accident. That situation reminded me of this article.

  7. denise 02/10/2010 at 8:27 pm #

    the comment above about cleaning products made me think of diaper ads. while almost all are usually targeted to women/mothers, a huggies commercial came out recently that featured a man and his baby but the tone of the commercial was completely different than the ones that feature women. most diaper ads i’ve seen have either this serious and nurturing tone where a tender mother is taking care of her tender baby, or a rambunctious tone where a mom is usually seen running around and trying to keep up after her playful baby. in the commercial featuring the dad, its got this slapstick joke about the baby’s pee stream going out of control and is instead played up for laughs.

    what is with that? why can’t dad’s be portrayed as tender or worn out too? why is it when a diaper ad acknowledges that dad’s are, or should be, changing the diapers too they feel the need turn their marketing approach into a funny beer commercial format to appeal to fathers? i won’t even go into the assumptions we need to make that there are two straight parents in the first place, i guess that’s a whole other topic to tackle. all in all the ad is funny and it’s probably funny to just as many women as men. i just find it interesting the way the same product is advertised so differently depending on gender.

  8. Jacky 02/10/2010 at 9:34 pm #

    DVR. I never watch commercials ha ha suckers. =P

  9. Jenny K. 02/11/2010 at 2:12 am #

    There is the most recent BMW ad “you’re not the first” pretty much using a girl as a sex tool, to get men to buy their cars.
    It’s all advertisement, people trying to make buck and even if it is sexist if it works there not going to be changing anytime soon.
    As for me..I get my driving skills from my mom, which by the way are horrible skills. I’m what you would call a gawker. I get distracted very easily and am pretty oblivious to my surroundings. I guess that’s why my boyfriend always insists on driving!

  10. Kim 02/11/2010 at 9:40 am #

    These ads are pretty appalling – and really some of them aren’t that old. You would think we would have come so much further than this by now. I totally agree about cleaning and diaper ads only featuring women – I’ve noticed that myself lately. That’s so infuriating. I can’t believe in the 21st century there is still such a blatently huge discrepancy between gender roles. I honestly don’t know how most people in the ad industry cleep at night

  11. Yo Mama 02/11/2010 at 5:41 pm #

    Seems like this topic is stimulating a lot of discussion. YAYA, modcloth! I thought many of the super bowl ads were degrading to men as well. How about a little
    R-E-S-P-E-C-T all around? Let’s keep the conversation going!

  12. Sarah 02/12/2010 at 11:57 am #

    Yeah, um, the Dodge Charger SuperBowl ad?!?!?!?!

    And here is a great parody of it.,38145/

  13. Lady Astor 02/25/2010 at 12:33 pm #

    While I have to agree with you all in what respects to these ads, and all of the diaper/cleaning product ads we have to think the following…Advertisement and marketing strategies are designed to create a desire. Men and women ARE different, in case you haven´t noticed, and they have to be marketed differently.
    It may be annoying but it is what it is.
    Evolution runs free, we cannot force it. Lots of things have happenned in the past 40 years, more need to, but we will get there.
    Marketing strategists are ruthless bastards. Let´s just deal with that fact.

  14. sarah 02/25/2010 at 12:58 pm #

    Oh get over your little feminist side, Jennifer and have a laugh for goodness sake!! It’s funny and you would have to be pretty weak in your security as a woman to dedicate a whole blog to showing “how far we’ve come” 🙂
    Have you ever been pregnant??
    Well, I am and the VW ad certainly describes me pretty well right now…:)

  15. Kiki 02/25/2010 at 1:48 pm #

    So this doesn’t have to do with cars, but I randomly found this vintage Barbie dreamhouse commercial. As it states: “You can arrange the furniture, and of course, rearrange it! A lady’s privilege!” I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried. It’s around :30 seconds.

  16. Stephanie 02/25/2010 at 1:50 pm #

    Well, I’m in the advertising business and I have to agree with Lady Astor up there. If you were to target a diaper ad at men using the same communication line you use for women… then the ad would fail because men wouldn’t relate to it. Advertising is pretty much a parody of our society as a whole and its exagerates the perceived gender roles MOST women have and MOST men have of THEMSELVES. And it’s even more complicated on TV where fine targetting is impossible.

    That aside, it was recently discovered that the people who MOST watch Super Bowl ads are women. Some companies are really wasting their money.

  17. Olivia 02/25/2010 at 2:59 pm #

    Not to encourage any stereotype, but my boyfriend is a much better driver than I am. My ability to multi-task makes me less attentive to what is happening around me, but he is really good at tuning everything out and just focus on the road.

    The ad that suggests women only want “small, simple cars” is so stupid. It is just as stupid that all mini-van/ SUV adds are directed at women. Some women want to drive sports cars too! We do not all have a gaggle of screaming children hanging off our necks!

  18. Janet 02/26/2010 at 3:14 am #

    i find it funny how well those ads grabbed my interest, sometimes I forget I’m of the opposite sex, but it isn’t that hard to believe since those depictions of women don’t seem to coincide with my own personal image, instead I place myself into the man’s role since it seems to have a better connotation and now I want a Charger…

  19. Maribel 02/26/2010 at 11:29 am #

    i’m glad this has been brought up. It just gives a young girl a glimpse of how women were still being talked about, or thought of like they couldn’t do things right, or fend for themselves. as if they absolutely needed a man to oversee them. Perhaps young girls will become aware and stop the stereotypes happening around them. I’m not saying they should take this with an air of extremity, but just to say “hey, that’s not cool”

  20. Robyn 02/26/2010 at 2:16 pm #

    I really don’t like that stereotype that all women are bad drivers. I am 23, never been pulled over, never been in any sort of accident, but because I’m a girl, I’m told that I am a bad driver. Which really frustrates me. Granted, I have more than two girlfriends who completely embody the stereotype, really, I don’t know how these girls passed their driving tests (which is why I drive when we go out), but I still don’t understand why I have to be lumped in with them.

  21. Margaret 02/26/2010 at 7:06 pm #

    I deal with badgers by 1.) waiting until they act the least bit shady and then telling them that I used to sell cars for a living. 2.) Getting the Consumer Reports new vehicle report that shows what the dealer cost is and what all the hidden factory to dealer incentives are (Don’t trust the “invoice” the dealer shows you, it doesn’t tell the whole story.) and 3.) Making sure that when my husband and I are in the “business office” that we are both armed with our own financial calculators to make absolutely sure that all the numbers on the contract check out.

    If us women are such bad drivers, why do we get better rates on auto insurance than men?

  22. Kaley 03/06/2010 at 12:02 am #

    I think the Fiat ad was a little far-fetched, judging by the picture – I couldn’t read the print. (Although I prefer the Spider 🙂
    However, the others were very degrading. Women “hit things”, and are thrilled to “clean the vinyl buckets”. Bleh!
    However, I see a common factor here – while the women are the victims, the ad is really playing on a man’s fears and egos. The Volkswagen ad tells a man his wife has a high accident risk, and by buying their product, he can keep her safer. The Dodge and Subaru ads appeal to a man’s ego, telling them they will get hot, spirited female companions if they buy this car, an inner reflection of their wonderful selves. (It would be easy to use this trick on a female audience today, and I think many commercials do).
    Think about some of the ads we see today for sleek new cars, compatible with all sorts of cool, modern gadgets, usually accompanied by images of hip young people doing something edgy and chic, like club-hopping in NYC, ferried from one place to another in their sexy new car. Ring a bell? It’s just the old thing, reinvented to cater to a new kind of ego.

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