I got a dose of 70s nostalgia today, so I decided to take a look at what was happening in Singapore in the 1970s. And one of the first things that I noticed was something that was definitely part of the 1970s – sexism (not that it no longer exists today, but it had a unique form in the 1970s).

sewing machine

Isn’t she beautiful?. . . I mean the sewing machine.


Buy a Xerox machine and get the services and expertise of three men and a girl. . . Cool!


And then there’s Quantas Airlines.

“Go see for yourself! There are over 700 gorgeously plumed birds unique to Australia – that’s apart from all the long-legged, bronzed varieties. . . Sample some of that famous, warm-hearted Australian hospitality en route. Whets the appetite for things to come.”

That’s subtle.


These advertisements are all from The Straits Times, and it’s always dangerous to assume that advertisements for Western products, and probably made by Western advertising agents, can tell us something about what people in other societies thought and did. Nonetheless, something likely got “communicated.”

And in looking at some advertisements for a Sony radio/cassette player, it made me think that perhaps “middlemen” like the Japanese (or the Chinese, who I mentioned in the previous post) were more effective at “transmitting” Western cultural ideas and norms.

Take a look, for instance at this series of advertisements, all from April 1973.


“Studious Sam says: For study or fun, here’s the one!”


“This Sony looks smart and acts as smart as it looks with Cue-and-Review controls that are great for language study or writing down notes recorded in class.”


“Singing Suzi says: Neat and sweet, it’s a compact treat.”


“Here’s a Sony portable that looks so neat, sounds so fine you’ll want to carry it with you everywhere and all the time”


“Swinging Slim says: For super-style, super-features, it’s the super-duper Sony CF 450!”


“What makes the CF-450 so super? Well, how about a radio sleep timer that you can set in advance to a 15, 36, 45, 60-minute shut-off time? Can you think of any better way to end a swinging day than to fall asleep to the sound of music. . . As for style. . . with this super Sony by your side you’ll go first class, the center of attention, everywhere you go.”

tune in

I don’t know about Studious Sam, but Singing Suzi and certainly Swinging Slim were definitely participating in the global youth culture that was to some degree centered in the UK and the US. However, at the same time, there’s something different about them. To use one of the expressions from the 1960s, they’re clearly “tuning in” (to what is cool), but it doesn’t look like they’re “turning on” (to drugs) and “dropping out” (of mainstream society).

Sony was definitely promoting the “groovy” lifestyle, but in a different way than Westerners were. So in the same newspaper, you have full-on Western sexism, and mediated Western grooviness.

I wonder what it is that Singaporeans at that time “processed.”