Sunday, October 30, 2016

Killing Us Softly - Analyzing the Portrayal Women in Advertising

For Visual Literacy this week, we were asked to watch the Killing Us Softly videos below.

I think Jean Kilbourne did a great job of providing an overview of the way advertising affects us unconsciously not only as individuals, but also as a society. She focused a lot on the ways advertisements affect the self-esteem of women while mentioning other relevant topics (such as how those unrealistic women ideals affect men, how children are sexualized, how women of color are told to approximate to the white ideal, etc.). I think Kilbourne could have gone into further detail on any of those topics; she probably could create entire presentations dedicated to each. There are other media trends that I have noticed as well that were only briefly mentioned or not mentioned at all in her presentation. For example, what about the ways that drugs (including alcohol) are portrayed? How about the obsession with celebrities and celebrity culture? The lack of diversity (in all aspects, from skin color to sexual orientation to family structure... the list goes on)? I am not sure exactly why Kilbourne focused on these aspects of women in advertising specifically... perhaps because she is a woman, or because that was the topic she was asked to speak about. Just watching this presentation has made me think about the other aspects of my feelings, attitudes, and perceptions that advertisers have poked into and influenced!

Image used with permission from WikiMedia Commons - Notice that the ad claims the man has not said "I love you" because the woman is getting older.

Image used with permission from Classic Film on flikr - Do you think tan skin gives you a more colorful personality?

I think the part that struck the biggest chord with me was when Jean Kilbourne explained that the images of women in advertising not only affect women, they also affect men. Kilbourne's message that the standards of beauty portrayed in ads are not possible because the women pictured are not real (models have become impossibly thin, features are digitally altered, different aspects of multiple people can be merged together through technology, etc.) is not new. I had heard this message before, that it's impossible to become these ideals because they aren't real people. However, I hadn't really thought about how those advertisements affect men (perhaps because I am not a man). Not only is a woman's self-esteem affected, but a man's thoughts and feelings about the woman that he is with can be influenced by the ideals painted in these ads. I think that this fact puts more pressure on men (to find and be in a relationship with women who meet society's expectations of beauty), but also puts more pressure on women. For women, the pressure is not only to be like the models in the ads for our own ideals of beauty, but also to "win over" or attract men. The underlying affects that advertising can have on us are terrifying.

Can you think of any particular advertisements that have affected you (either consciously or subconsciously)? Are there ads you wouldn't want your kids (in the classroom or at home) to see? Share about it in the comments!

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