Domestic Violence- No Joke

Vintage sexist gag Wife Beaters Permit 1957

Today when we know domestic violence is nothing to laugh at, it’s more than disturbing to see that for some mid-century men, beating your wife provided an endless source of entertainment.

Who says there’s nothing funny about domestic violence?

For some mid-century men, beating your wife was not only condoned, but provided an endless source of  belly laughs and good-natured guffaws.

What red-blooded all American man  in 1957 wouldn’t be tickled to proudly hang this “wife beaters permit” on his rumpus room or home work shop next to his Stanley hammer and crowbar.

A real knee slapper, this Wife Beaters Permit entitles the lucky  bearer to take his proper place as King of the household whenever m’ lady starts to nag or scold. As the entitled one,  you are to assert yourself “by crowning your Queen,” ( that hammer might come in mighty handy)  then “parade about with a star spanking banner (scars and stripes)” qualifying the brute to join the Men’s Revolution”

Who Doesn’t Get a Kick out of Wife Beating?

sexist cartoon about domestic violence 1950s

Whether in cartoons or advertising, mid-century America was a climate where media images and social practices supported and condoned domestic abuse by normalizing , trivializing and romanticizing male violence against women.

Are You a Real Man?

sexist van Heusen 1947 SWScan03281

Are You a Man? Vintage Van Heusen Shirts 1947

Real men apparently  take to physical violence when called for to keep the little lady in line. These 1940’s ads for Van Heusen Shirts might have caused a snicker but they are powerful enforcers of suffocating stereotypes and underlying assumptions of a culture that continues to reinforce traditional alpha masculinity and the submissive femininity,


sexist vintage ad Van Heusen

Audaciously sexist vintage ad Van Heusen Shirts 1949

vintage cartoon domestic violence 1930'sThe only lesson to learn here is domestic violence is nothing to laugh at, not now, not ever!


© Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.



  1. I am sitting here shaking my head, not believing what I am reading. And we have people who want to return to the fifties. They are called Republicans. Isn’t that something?


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