It’s no secret that advertisers prey on our insecurities in order to sell us things. In the modern era, it’s more fashionable to frame those insecurities in a positive, hopeful way.

Like “Hey, you’re great. Know how to keep being great? By buying our crap.”

But there was a time not long ago when ads were totally, unapologetically shame-based, ESPECIALLY when it came to products targeted at women.

Here are fifteen real ads and the things they’re trying to make women feel ashamed of.

15. Having skin

Is there any more horrifying opening line to an ad ever?

14. Living in the time dimension

“Wait, IS he younger than you? How much younger? Ma’am, we need to bring you in for questioning.”

13. Having a human body

To be fair I’d be quite concerned if I grew a stem.

12. Growing hair

Ya’ll, there’s a FREE BOOK involved!

11. Thinking with your brain

Sending some reeeeal mixed messages here, fellas.

10. Having lips

My mouth is old enough to drink, thank you very much.

9. Having hair that is colors

Today we’d call this an “employment discrimination lawsuit.”

8. Having organs

No one must know I am human-shaped.

7. Washing dishes for too long

Where do you even start with this? I have no words.


Seriously what the WHAT.

5. Being covered in all this pesky skin

The melodrama is palpable.

4. Having boobs that are too small

“Lovely, rounded curves are the vogue.”

3. Gaining weight

What the hell is a Frown Eradicator?

2. Having boobs that are too big

There’s no winning.

1. Being a macro organism

How to create an army of germaphobes in one simple ad.

It’s easy to look back on these clearly misogynistic ads and shake our heads in retrospect, but make no mistake, marketers are still trying to make you feel like you’re not enough, even if they’re more subtle about it now. Don’t fall for it. Keep your head on your shoulders.

What’s the worst ad you’ve ever seen?

Tell us in the comments.