When my mom was 21, she worked in a bank in which everyone around her smoked while they would balance their checkbooks each night. As a young woman, my mom hated the smell of smoke, the feeling of smoking, and pretty much everything about smoking. However, as a 21-year old, she thought if she smoked she would fit in at her job, so she went out and bought a pack of Virginia Slims, a brand of cigarettes made for women. She told me, “I never even thought of not buying cigarettes that weren’t advertised for women.”
Virginia Slims was a line of cigarettes targeted at women between 1968 and the 1980s, and found success in its advertisements which “co-opted women’s liberation slogans to build a modern female image.” My mother still talks about the advertisement that she remembers most vividly, which says, “You’ve come a long way baby,” a slogan that speaks to the feminist movement in the United States by selling the idea of equality and progress.
While I was doing research on this slogan and the various advertisements that went along with it, I found advertisements featuring white women and black women, including black women with various hairstyles, including an afro, long straightened hair, shaven hair, etc. I was interested in this, since most of the advertisements I am used to seeing are almost exclusively white women. According to Stanford’s Tobacco Advertising Page, “in targeting black women, tobacco companies often portray an image of a strong, independent black woman.” This appeal of seeing a strong, independent (and beautiful) black woman is discussed in Deborah Willis’ book Posing Beauty: African American Images from the 1890s to the Present, who “recognizes that beauty is empowering in black culture” by examining how models “showed confidence through style and dress in posing beauty.”
As I think about how all these pieces fit together, I think about all the movements that were at play during this time, especially second wave feminism, which was predominantly white women, who were, for the most part, focused on white women’s issues. I find it interesting that these advertisements seem to be selling feminism to black women, who were not usually part of the discourses around women’s rights in this time (and to be fair, they are often left out of the conversations to this day). Therefore, it strikes me that Virginia Slims is commodifying feminism to black women, suggesting that if they purchase the cigarettes, they will be able to buy into feminism, and be part of the movement. It is just one of the many examples of times in which at first glance, it seems to be great that there is somewhat more diverse representation, yet it is actually not positive at all (especially because the product is cigarettes, but that’s probably a discussion for a different post).
 B. Toll and P. Ling, “The Virginia Slims identity crisis: an inside look at tobacco industry marketing to women,” Tob Control 14(3) (2005): 172-180, accessed May 28, 2017, doi: 10.1136/tc.2004.008953.
 “Tobacco Advertising Themes: African Americans,” Stanford, accessed June 2, 2017, http://tobacco.stanford.edu/tobacco_main/images.php?token2=fm_st267.php&token1=fm_img20341.php&theme_file=fm_mt019.php&theme_name=African%20Americans&subtheme_name=Virginia%20Slims%20Black.
 Deborah Willis, Posing Beauty: African American Images from the 1890s to the Present, (New York: W. W. Norton & Company Inc., 2009), xvii.