“Killing Us Softly” is a movie we watched in class on women and men and how they are portrayed in the advertising world. Jean Kilbourne is the speaker; she started collecting advertisements in the 60’s because of her involvement with the women’s movement, her interest in the media and through her experiences as a model. I actually found this movie to be way more informational than I first thought it would be; I thought it would be all about statics and less about the image of advertising. What type of advertising environment surrounds us? Here are some facts that might answer that question. In the past 40 years Kilbourne believes that the advertising image of women has become worse. Advertising in the United States had turned into a billion dollar industry. The average American will be exposed to over 3,000 daily and will spend about two years of their life watching commercials on television. Advertisements are everywhere, they are at sporting stadiums, billboards, bus stops, and elevators etc., we cannot escape them. Advertising creates an environment one that makes us believe that we need to be healthy and beautiful.
We know that ads sell much more than products. They are trying to sell us values, images, love and success. They are telling us who we are now, and who we should be in the future, this is powerful especially if we are still finding our way in life. There rarely is a photograph of a beautiful woman that has not been photo shopped in one way or another. Women of color are considered beautiful only if they meet the white ideal which is lighter skin tone, straight hair and Caucasian looking features. A good example of this is the singer Beyoncé. In all types of advertising women’s bodies are turned into an “object”. One area on the body that advertising companies focus on is the breasts. There has been an increase in cosmetic surgeries in recent years. Ninety-one percent of all cosmetic procedures are done on women.
The society that we live in loves to make fun of celebrities who gain a little weight, we are obsessed with thinness. Models are becoming thinner and thinner. The sad reality is that if they are not thin enough in a photo shoot then they are photo shopped to make them look thinner. Some of the ads we see today encourage unhealthy attitudes which can lead to eating disorders. Advertisers target women with weight loss products. It has been found that many of these products do not work, with 95% of dieters regaining the weight back. An interesting study was done among Fijian women soon after the television was introduced to their country. The study found that there was a rise in eating disorders. The U.S has the highest rate of teen pregnancies, and sexually transmitted diseases in the developed world. The sexualization of girls has become extreme; there are padded bras and thongs for pre-teen girls that are sold on department stores. Ads are catered for heterosexuals.
Gay men hardly exist outside the publications that target them, and the way they depict lesbians is if it comes straight from the porn world. Over the years men have been featured as being bigger, stronger and more powerful than women. Men really don’t live in a world where their bodies are scrutinized, criticized or judged in the same way as women. Boys are growing up in a world where mean are shown to be perpetrators of violence and encourages toughness and insensitivity. The most dangerous image that can be seen is the one that eroticizes violence against women. These images could feature women in bondage, being battered, or worst having been murdered. Advertising affects us all whether we realize it or not. It does not matter if we are rich or poor, young or old we are all slaves to it in one way or another.