You don’t have to look far to find sexist vintage ads. In the middle of the 20th century, these advertisements were considered completely normal and even amusing. Nowadays, they’re not just dated but appalling for the misogynistic treatment of women they display. (Of course, these types of gendered stereotypes in advertising still exist today, though in less potent forms.) To help expose its toxicity, photographer Eli Rezkallah is reimagining some of the worst old sexist ads by swapping gender roles.
Rezkallah calls his series In A Parallel Universe, and it’s a redo of the advertising of yesteryear—with men taking on the tasks commonly reserved for women. In his retelling, the women are the ones who have careers and demand dinner be on the table when they come home each day; the men, however, are so inept that they can hardly open a ketchup bottle.
The photographer had the idea for In a Parallel Universe after Thanksgiving with his relatives. “I overheard my uncles talk about how women are better off cooking, taking care of the kitchen, and fulfilling ‘their womanly duties.’” he explained. “Although I know that not all men like my uncles think that way I was surprised to learn that some still do, so I went on to imagine a parallel universe, where roles are inverted and men are given a taste of their own sexist poison.”
Rezkallah’s images are a satisfying rebuttal to the advertising of long ago, but it’s not a solution to their harmful point of view. Instead, he intends for this series to help illuminate the problematic aspects of the print ads. “I hope that people who are stuck in stereotypical gender roles imposed by patriarchal societies will be able to visually see the cracks in the limitation that those roles carry through this project.”