Killing Us Softly 3: Advertising’s Image of Women

Jean Kilbourne continues her groundbreaking analysis of advertising’s depiction of women in this most recent update of her pioneering Killing Us Softly series. In fascinating detail, Kilbourne decodes an array of print and television advertisements to reveal a pattern of disturbing and destructive gender stereotypes. Her analysis challenges us to consider the relationship between advertising and broader issues of culture, identity, sexism, and gender violence.

Sections: Does the beauty ideal still tyrannize women? | Does advertising still objectify women’s bodies? | Are the twin themes of liberation and weight control still linked? | Is sexuality still presented as women’s main concern? | Are young girls still sexualized? | Are grown women infantilized? | Are images of male violence against women still used to sell products?

Join The Conversation

24 Comments / User Reviews

Leave Your Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. Who believes this nonsense? Are people so dumb that they cant make an informed decision about which product they buy? Are women so stupid that they lose all control when faced with adverts? Are teenagers hypnotised into believing all the images theyre bombarded with? Maybe all of us are hoodwinked by subliminal messages to the point where we believe the impossible standards depicted by the adman are actually achievable? Of course ads can influence. However, I submit the idea that people arent as easily influenced as suggested  I reckon this woman is just as condescending as the ads she maintains to ‘expose’

    • People who think that they are totally immune to the effects of advertising are the ones most vulnerable to it. You’re a good example of that.

    • it’s called psychology. you’re not as smart as you think you are. none of us are. it’s how our brains operate.

  2. I generally agree with Jean. But she reads too much into some ads. And some of her comments are demeaning to men. That does not help her cause.

  3. Advertisers give us what consumers want to see. Advertising is a measure of societal values, not only an enforcer of it.

    I don’t know where these companies get all their business from, I certainly don’t waste my hard earned money on over-priced “stylised” crap. So who is buying these products?

    Goodluck to the people who waste their lives and weath on superficial relationships and consumerism. I keep myself healthy and wealthy by staying away from the BS, which makes me a hell of a lot more attractive to the opposite sex. Just like in the wild, the strong-minded thrive and the weak fall by the wayside.

  4. You know what’s hilarious? Awful comments about how ‘all feminists are ugly’ or about this woman being ‘bitter.’ Those comments just further demonstrate that what she’s driving at is true; women are deemed as without value if they aren’t overtly sexualized and good looking. Are all male speakers good looking? Do they need to be? If a man who you saw as somehow not attractive explored this topic as the speaker here has done, would we brush him aside and see him as another ‘bitter feminist’?

    Address what someone says, and don’t brush them aside if they don’t look like your constructed ideal of beauty.

  5. Men need to be brought inside the tent. And this speech is not helping.

  6.  Why have I never met an attractive feminist? LOL 

  7. bitter, ugly woman is bitter…

  8. Well ya’ll just arent gettin the point! I’ve been modeling for to years and found the process kinda demeaning… But shes right, we barely even notice some of these things until its put in front of us. Many valid points and Kudos to this woman. (and to whomever commented on it “happening with men to” they had it fairly easy on some of the shoots! and enjoyed posing as they did with some of us!

  9. This made some good points although her seeming hostility towards men or perhaps her feelings of being a victim to advertising (either you are a victim if you look and act the part or you are a victim if you don’t but think you should since media tells you to).

    To so blatantly disregard that men are having problems of this kind and always have is quite frankly making her seem less professional and knowledgeable. And the problem for men are the same, as advertising tells you how to look and act and be if you are a real man and not a failure. And if you somehow really do manage to disregard all the advertising you can be sure that the people around you do not.
    And if advertising are telling women to “subtract to add” it is telling men to “add or go alone”.

    And what really ticks me of is the attitude towards it all, if a woman was in any way offended by the  doc it is met with contempt and anger to the inequalities but when men are insulted or , and no one even asks if they are offended. they laugh and continue to ridicule, all women in the audience laughing, what does that tell the men? Or the women for that matter.

    I am a man and I know I am offended and care less about any problem a woman might have if this is the way it is presented, why should I care about any of them when I am insulted by the very people who are trying to make me aware of them. I am more aware of the blatant disregard of respect towards men from nagging women.

    Now if the one discussing this would only see that there is more out there or if she does not wish to she could at least not attack men. I do not know any woman who is more inclined to listen and agree to my words if I insult her.

    • If you are offended, maybe it’s the shock of hearing a woman express her real thinking. I didn’t hear her attacking men at all, just attacking misogyny. Heck, if you think she is attacking, it’s what we put up with all the time.

      Maybe it’s male fragility.

    • you have no idea what it’s like to be a woman, but of course you comment on it. “nagging women”? you prove all of her points. you are extremely ignorant and I really hope you don’t have a daughter.

  10. Same thing is happening with men too. This really isn’t a problem between women and advertising. It’s a problem between humans and advertising.

  11. only one thing missing……admen dont show anything if there isnt a market for it….what do you think advertisers do? Do you think they just stick a pin in your psychological map and hope they hit the right spot?

  12. All I can say is, that the media is not the one that will change things. We have to insist that things change, and see to it that they do. By our attitudes and respect for ourselves.

  13. This really brought up some important points about advertising, and where it is taking us. She didn’t touch on what we could do to stop it, however. In future video series, I would really love to see this.

    As a man (I admit it!) I see advertising that tells me I should be “buff”, my hair should be sandy-blond and filled with gel, and my armpits should smell like “OPEN AIR & FREEDOM!”.
    It is certainly not as severe as it is towards women, but I think that point in time is coming. My point is: Men should be worried as well.

    Here is one example of an ad that targets men:
    I don’t think they’re talking about screwing a nail into mom’s wall to hang the new telephone.

    • Amen to your post mate. Body Image sells and its on the rise in products marketed to men as well.

      Terms like “manscaping” and “metro man” are describing the rise of this phenomena.

      I enjoyed this Doc and I think the producer,  while making some very valid points about the exploitation of women in advertising, does’nt do herself any credit by minimizing the impact this is also having on growing numbers of men. As a male watching this doc, she offsided me somewhat which wasn’t necessary for her to make her point.

      My mate just got back from a 3 day hiking trip in Tasmania. When i asked him how it went he said “great. I lost 4 kg and you can see the outline of my stomach”. Its happening JZ!!!

  14. She reads wayyy too much into adds!

  15. Man… I don’t like that woman. She talks such BS.

    But this made me love my slim body… and now I don’t care about getting my weight up!