Killing Us Softly

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Advertisements are an integral part of our environment and infiltrate our daily life on television, highway billboards, computer pop-ups, and even on the subway on your commute to work! Advertisements are not only designed to present a product, but also communicate how that product could be used in the consumer’s life, such as achieving a thinner body, sexual appeal, popularity, or affluence. In 1960, Dr. Jean Kilbourne began research on the effect of advertisements on consumers and how they contribute to several public health issues such as violence against women and eating disorders. Since then, Dr. Kilbourne has received numerous awards, spoken at the majority of U.S. college campuses, written several books, and produced films based off the results of her studies such as a four part series titled Killing Us Softly: Advertising’s Image of Women. According to the film, the majority of advertisements geared toward women display unattainable body ideals that have revolutionized the way women view themselves in comparison. Women usually take up poses that are weaker, rarely make eye contact with the camera, and are presented in a sexually provocative manner. Sexualized images of women are often used to sell products primarily geared towards men, such as guns, machine tools, and industrial equipment. Women are dressed up to look like young girls, whereas young girls are often wearing clothes much too mature for their age. Body technologies such as liposuction, breast augmentations, and Botox are presented to promote society’s notion of an ideal body type. Sexualization in advertising is a pervasive and dangerous aspect of the industry. Kilbourne’s research shows the dangerous effects of young girls being taught that the sexualized body is an integral aspect of female identity and even a type of currency with which to gain favoritism or rewards.

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