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Gender in advertising: What if tables were turned on men? November 8, 2013

Posted by rmshepard in Uncategorized.
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Feminist media scholar Jean Kilbourne was a pioneer when she began talking about the image of women in advertising in the 1970s. Her slideshow academic talk morphed into the documentary Killing Us Softly in 1979, forcefully making the argument that ads create an impossible standard of beauty that hurts women’s self-esteem and reinforces norms of a patriarchal society. The documentary was updated in 1987, 2000, and 2010. As Kilbourne warns anyone who will listen, “It’s gotten much worse. The tyranny of the ideal image of beauty, the sexualization of children, the objectification of women — it’s all gotten worse.” She adds, though, “The thing that’s gotten better is the fact I’m not the only person talking about this anymore.”

Kilbourne has become a bit of a hero to generations of media scholars and students who have viewed her film. So much so that some have been inspired to do a bit of “culture jamming” so encouraged in Kilbourne’s work. Recently, for instance, a group of students at the University of Saskatchewan were challenged to create a viral video in their gender studies class, and produced many of the same ads from Kilbourne’s talk with gender roles reverse. That video, which earned those students an A, was a huge hit. You can see that video below:

Discussion Questions:

1.  How do ads, according to Kilbourne, objectify women?

2.  What are the harms of such objectification?

3.  What argument is made in the video above, and how does it relate to Kilbourne’s point?

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