January 30, 1985 · Cavalier Daily

Kilbourne: Ad Images Hurt Women, Men

Media analyst Jean Kilbourne delivers a speech in Old Cabell Hall regarding harmful gendered stereotypes perpetuated by advertisements. She maintains that advertising media promote an imaginary white, patriarchal and heterosexual universe, which it identifies as normative. This, she asserts, affects women's body image and the way they clothe and present themselves to society.


1985-01-30 Kilbourne Ad Images Hurt Women, Men.pdf
1985-01-30 Kilbourne Ad Images Hurt Women, Men part 2.pdf
Leslie Aun
Cavalier Daily
Cavalier Daily
Kilbourne: Ad Images Hurt Women, Men
Cavalier Daily Projects Editor
Advertising promotes harmful and potentially dangerous stereotypes about men and women, writer and media analyst Jean Kilbourne said to an enthusiastic crowd Monday night in Old Cabell Hall.
Although people tend not to take advertising seriously, "it is the most powerful educating force in society," Kilbourne said.
Since the average person will spend a year-and-a-half of his or her life viewing advertisements, their effects are "as inescapable as air pollution," she said.
Based on years of research, Kilbourne said she concluded that advertising determines and shapes our basic attitudes towards ourselves and other people.
Advertising, she said, creates a mythical world where everyone is young, white, heterosexual and part of a nuclear family. It also sells images of normality, success and romance.
"No one is mentally or physically disabled unless you count the women who talk to little men in toilet bowls,” she said. "Advertising is the foundation of the mass meeting ads tell us who we are and who we should be.”
According to Kilbourne, women are usually portrayed as “sex objects or demented housewives pathologically obsessed with cleanliness.”
Women are conditioned to believe they must change themselves physically to be of value in society and must use enormous amounts of cosmetics, clothes and other products, which can actually prove harmful, Kilbourne said.
In advertising’s view of the world, she added, the most important thing for a woman is to be beautiful – and $1 million is every hour on cosmetics by women in search of beauty.
"The underlying message is you're ugly, you're disgusting, buy something," Kilbourne said. As a result women die every year, she added, because in response to a national mania for thinness, they develop eating disorders such as bulimia [sic] and anorexia nervosa.
With the exception of some laxative commercials, older women rarely appear in ads except as figure to be ridiculed, she said.
Kilbourne said women are also frequently shown as passive creatures who need the approval of and are always inferior to men.
In most ads featuring both a man and woman, the woman is placed below the man and is pictured looking up to him or staring down at the ground, she said.
Men, on the other hand, are given the message that they must be “invulnerable, dominant and powerful," and they are often shownn as parents and buffoons in the home, she said.
These stereotypes cause society to devalue what are considered devalue what are considered to be “feminine qualities” such as cooperation, compassion and sensitivity, and society loses when the sexes are confined to such roles, she added .
“Advertising keeps us trapped in crippling roles,” she said. “It teaches us to be consumers and that happiness can be bought. It motivates us to buy things we don’t need”
Today, such distorted images are being impressed at even earlier age because the average child spends half his waking hours watching television and views about 1,000 ads a week, she said.
Using glides of many types of magazine and newspaper ads, Kilbourne demonstrated that advertisers often use highly sophisticated methods to sell products. To varying degrees, many utilize images of sex and violence to disturb the consumer into noticing a product.
"Advertising and sex are integral parts of a system that values profit more than human qualities,” she said.
Sexual symbolism is used quite frequently in advertising, as when scantily clad women pose with the product, Kilbourne said. But some advertisers use more underhanded methods of influencing consumers, she added.
According to Kilbourne, although ad agencies firmly deny their existance [sic], many ads appeal directly to the consumers [sic] subconscious with subliminal messages. Hidden symbols alluding to sex or violence may be present in advertisements and may not be picked up by the conscious mind, she said.
More graphically, Kilbourne said, a newer trend in advertising places more and more emphasis on children as sexual objects and women as victims of violence.
Young children are dressed up seductively to sell just about everything and these images create a climate that makes it easer to regard children as sex objects, she said.
Even in business settings, women in advertisements are treated as sexual objects, she said, showing off their panty hose, underwear or daydreaming about how to please that man instead of working.
Kilbourne said her goal ig to help bring "hidden messages out in the open" because that reduces their impact.
Calling for immediate action, Kilbourne said that society must reexamine its values and be more aware of these messages. Public awareness must provide the impetus to change, she said, and profound changes are needed.
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Date Added August 11, 2016
Date Modifed December 9, 2017
Collection Cavalier Daily: articles about gender discrimination

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