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Coffee – outraging husbands and preventing women’s depression since the 50s


Sarah Cheverton
WVoN co-editor

As a sociology graduate, I become positively aroused when I hear the phrase ‘Sociological Images’, and when that phrase is linked to one of my favourite addictions, coffee, I veer dangerously close to aΒ ‘When Harry met Sally’ momentbut without the fakery.

So when my editor sent me a link to this story from the website ‘Sociological Images’, I knew it was going to be good.

And so did my neighbours.

The story highlights a video montage of coffee adverts from the ‘Mad Men’ fifties – yes, they called the series that for a reason – that repeatedly show husbands belittling their wives for their appalling coffee making.

It’s hilarious, particularly if you, like me, imagine that the women have just urinated straight into the mug before handing it to their obnoxious and patronising spouses.

One husband laments pitiably:

“How can such a pretty wife make such bad coffee?”

How indeed.

Perhaps because in the era in question, wives like these might have been distracted during their coffee-making routine by recurring thoughts that there has to be more to life than looking ‘pretty’ and being regularly patronised by the household’s breadwinner.

Not that that’s any excuse.

After all, the vacuum cleaner had been invented by then, along with every other domestic appliance known to woman, and it’s not like these wives had anything better to do with their time than make perfect coffee and bake perfect muffins.

Fortunately for husbands and wives everywhere, women’s coffee-making skills have improved significantly since the fifties.

Indeed, women now enjoy coffee so much,Β a recent study has just announced that there may (science reporters will note with interest the ‘may’) be a link between coffee consumption in women and their likelihood of experiencing depression.

The study states that further research is needed, but their findings concluded that:

“…depression risk decreases with increasing caffeinated coffee consumption. Further investigations are needed to confirm this finding and to determine whether usual caffeinated coffee consumption can contribute to depression prevention.”

One of the reasons that further investigation is needed is because studies looking for a relationship between coffee drinking and depression are scarce.

I know! I mean, what are those scientists doing all day, looking for ways to prevent climate change?

Another reason might be because, as we social researchers were frequently told in training, ‘correlation is not causation.’

Or, as the theory is sometimes known – just because your wife gives you bad coffee doesn’t mean she can’t make good coffee (she just hates you).

Yeah, ‘correlation is not causation’ is just catchier.

Personally, I’d be interested in knowing if the coffee drinkers among the 50,739 women tracked in this study over 20 years had anything else in common.

For instance, were the women drinking coffee also more likely to be single, because I’ve got a strong theory that not being married to dickheads like these helps to reduce the risk of depression, too.

As might living in a society that doesn’t make vast assumptions about individuals based on sex and gender.

Like I say, just a theory.

Nonetheless, one thing is for certain, the housewives in the fifties commercials weren’t depressed because of the absence of good coffee.

In this case, they were most certainly frequently depressed by the presence of husbands who were more in need of a sippy cup than a mug of coffee.

And if I was going to give these guys a steaming cup of anything, it certainly wouldn’t be coffee.

I’m guessing that unless you’ve revisited these sorts of historic sexist adverts before, the obviousness of the sexism might be surprising.

And if you’ve been surprised by the adverts and the coffee and depression story, you might also be surprised to know that thanks to the feminist movement, the phrase ‘Make your own coffee, arsehole’ was invented in 1962, saving these housewives from years of repeat coffee-making related doubt and abuse.


  1. Hehe. Yeah, I’ve seen those ads before, people have posted the link on facebook. Always, but *always* with the ‘…make your own damn coffee then!’ comment, or one very similar. πŸ™‚

    We have come a long way since then, no more ads tutting and smiling ruefully about ‘women drivers’ and the like. However there are plenty of bad ads out there still, and as someone pointed out the other day, things like packets of crisps with ‘man crisps’ on them and IKEA in Oz having creches for men. 😐 (not directly advertising related but still…)

  2. The sad thing is that this is STILL happening: there is one on TV at the moment where as a result of the wife making a good cup of coffee the husband feels she deserves a hug. Can’t find it – but will post it when I do. Annoying.

    • O_o

      There is one where the bloke decides a dance is in order because the coffee is good. Don’t know if that’s quite the same. Can’t think of any other current ads that are as awful. The old Nuts ad was quite bad, of course, but then I think that’s gone now. Oh, the ad with the lazy fella asking his mum to help his wife with the housework – gah!

      Tangentially, the advert that drives me daft, every time, is that stupid razor ad with all the shrubs magically shrinking themselves into neat shapes as women go past. Since I don’t have a supply of corks to throw at the telly I have to content myself with flicking the V’s at the telly every time I see that. Seriously annoying ad – as are all the ‘OMG BODY HAIR SHRIEK!!!’ types of ads, but this one is the worst as far as I’m concerned.

      • Yes I dislike that one as well. In fact I dislike loads on ads – shall we make a list over the next week? The only criteria is sexism – and this can be sexist stereotypes of both men and women?

        • Indeedy. πŸ™‚ I will need to sort out which of the ads I dislike are sexist and/or stereotypical and which merely irritating. πŸ˜‰ Might not manage many from me, I don’t watch TV very often (bad programmes, worse advertising – it isn’t appealing) but I bet the readers here have more than enough examples!

  3. “they were most certainly frequently depressed by the presence of husbands who were more in need of a sippy cup than a mug of coffee”


    Really good piece, I loved the warm and friendly tone.

    • Thing is I don’t expect the ad company meant to hark back to the good ol’ days of rampantly sexist coffee ads with that one, but they’ve managed to anyway. Why isn’t he making the coffee while she reads the paper? πŸ™‚

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