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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


    Kilbourne Explores Female Exploitation

    The Wo/Men’#146;s Center presented the last installment of their ‘Film,Food, and Feminism’ series on April 24, in the Student Union, during campuslifetime. Their series is open to those who wants to share their thoughts onfemale issues.

    The film, ‘Still Killing Us Softly’, showed how women are portrayedin the media. Jean Kilbourne, the speaker in the film, believes the vision ofwomen in advertisements is negative. According to Kilbourne, advertising ispowerful and it shapes our behavior.

    ‘It tells us who we are and how we should be,’ Kilbourne said.

    Advertisers surround us with the ideal image of beauty, Kilbourne said. Thewoman is showed with a flawless face. She has no wrinkles, scars or blemishes.She is always young and thin. Kilbourne believes women are being judged againstthe standard.

    ‘In order to be attractive we must transform the way we look,’ Kilbournesaid.

    This standard of beauty has caused women to criticize themselves. Eighty-percentof American women think they are overweight. In the 1980s, the Virginia Slimsad portrayed a thin woman smoking a cigarette. As a result, women started smokingto control their weight.

    Smoking was also a way for women to feel independent, Kilbourne said.

    Another marketing strategy is to portray women as young girls. Kilbourne showedone ad where a woman is dressed in children’#146;s clothing, but showing cleavage.

    The young girl image helps marketers send a representation that women are passiveand dependent, said Kilbourne. The message they want people to understand isthat innocence is sexy.

    The ideal of the little girl is now damaged because she is presented as a sexobject. As a result there is child pornography and one in ten girls are molestedeach year.

    The ideal of men in advertisements is also distorted and bias. The man shouldbe dominant and in control. Men are usually not presented around the familybecause it is the image left for the woman. Men are focused around their jobsand women are focused on love.

    The film produced in 1987, still shows distinct similarities to advertisementstoday, and the statistics hasn’#146;t changed a bit.

    Viewers shared their thoughts on the film. Laura Williams, the director ofthe Wo/Men’#146;s Center believes that sex sells.

    ‘As a culture we buy it,’ she said. ‘We can’#146;t blame theadvertisers.’

    ‘I was disappointed,’ said Maya Chahine, the undergraduate internfor the Wo/Men’#146;s Center. ‘Because advertising and marketing companiesallow this [negative portrayal of women] to happen.’

    Chahine was referring to what Kilbourne labels as ‘lethal ads.’

    These are advertisements that show violence towards women. A department storewindow showed a dead woman in a trashcan. The advertisement read: ‘We’#146;llkill for these shoes.’

    ‘These ads don’#146;t necessarily make us more violent,’ Kilbournesaid. ‘But make us callous to violence.’

    Generally, everyone agreed with Kilbourne’#146;s research. The film shinedsome light on the woman’#146;s portrayal in advertising. Even though it’#146;s15 years after the film was made, changes in advertising seem unlikely.

    ‘As we [women] get more power,’ Motoni Fong Hodges, a staff to Wo/Men’#146;sCenter, said, ‘the body size shrinks.’

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