Jean Kilbourne is a feminist writer, orator and film maker who has gained worldly recognition for her contributions towards showcasing the negative depiction of women in advertising. In a YouTube video dubbed “Killing Us Softly 4: Advertising’s Image of Women”, Kilbourne in her lecture expresses strong sentiments on advertising use of women and the effects of the perspectives being conveyed through such adverts. Kilbourne is correct in her assertion that advertisements dehumanize women and can lead to violence.
In her opening remarks, Kilbourne avers that the position of women in advertising has continued to get worse during her forty year involvement in the area. She says, “…really, they’ve gotten worse.” She further goes to say that adverts sell more than products because of concepts they portray such sexuality, love, normalcy and success. In fact, Kilbourne declares that adverts have such a profound influence on viewers that they don’t only tell people who they are, but who they should be. The message conveyed about women is that outside beauty is paramount to any other thing. To bolster this message, advertisers flood the media with depictions of idealistic feminine beauty. As a result young girls grow up knowing that one must dedicate endless time, effort and finances towards their quest of attaining the zenith of beauty. Kilbourne says that in the event that one fails to accomplish the above ideals, they not only suffer from guilt, but feel ashamed too.
However, she is prompt to note that in such strenuous pursuits, one is sure to fail because the said standards of perfection are founded upon falsehoods. These falsehoods that have continually been upheld thanks to make-up artists and air brush have received technological backing. Photo shopping has gained prominence in the world of advertising and all if not most photos of women who are regarded as beautiful has been re-touched.
Kilbourne feels our society has continued to objectify women and these negative connotations are impacting negatively on the female gender. She states that,”…women’s bodies are constantly turned into things, into objects…” and continues to name several adverts that have gone to such extents. Some of the consequences of such depictions include women’s’ loss of self esteem and the creation of a conducive environment for violence against women to take place. Even though she acknowledges that such adverts don’t necessarily lead to violence against women, she suggests that objectification and dehumanization of people are usually the starting points for violence. She supports her notion by giving examples of homophobia, racism and terrorism where violence is always the aftermath of dehumanization. Young girls grow up in a world that demands absolute perfection in terms of beauty but makes them aware that such perfection is unattainable.
Eating disorders have become common because of the awareness that there is no prescribed formula to reach the said standards. Kilborne mentions the case of Ana Carolina Reston, a model who succumbed to anorexia as a sad example of how bad the situation is. However, she gives a positive example of KateWinslet, an actress who is well known for standing up for what she believes when it comes to weight issues and not letting her career dictate how she ‘should’ look. The manner in which she handles the media and exhumes confidence is truly admirable.
In the YouTube video, “Killing Us Softly 4: Advertising’s Image of Women” by Jean Kilbourne it is apparent that advertisements’ portrayal of women do not only affect women by making them chase an illusionary perfection, but also initiates acts of violence against them.
Kilborne, Jean. “Killing Us Softly 4: Advertising’s Image of Women.” 12 Mar 2012.
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