Violence against women comes in numerous forms and many feminists in modern America (including me) are of the belief that the media and advertising are detrimental to gender equality because sexism is used to sell everything. Now, I know there are a lot of groups in the US fighting against sexist and racist advertising in the media (like Ms. Magazine, About Face and SisterSong to name a couple) but today’s post is going to focus on the four installments of Jean Kilbourne’s documentaries Killing Us Softly and will feature some of the most offensive ads I’ve been able to find on the internet. Your submissions are welcome.
The original documentary was produced in 1979 when Jean Kilbourne got disgusted by the images she and all other Americans were constantly being fed. Obviously these two first ads are more vintage. The second installment, Still Killing Us Softly, was produced in 1987, Killing Us Softly 3 in 2000 and the newest film, Killing Us Softly 4 just last year, in 2010. Sadly, what this trend shows is that not much has changed in advertising in the past 30 years. Overt sexism declaring that women are stupid and belong in the home has given way to sex being used to sell everything from bodywash to beer.
Each and every one of these films should be required viewing for anyone in women’s studies programs (where they often are), sociology programs (where they probably aren’t), and advertising classes (where they definitely aren’t). And they are each only about 30 minutes long, so don’t waste 2 hours of your life watching a crappy Hollywood produced blockbuster, instead, grab your favorite snack and your favorite person to bitch to, and sit down for some eye-opening, and frustrating, entertainment. Jean Kilbourne handles each presentation with humor and warmth which helps diffuse the tension of the impact these destructive ads have on women’s views of themselves and men’s views of women.
The history of these films chronicles the intrenched way advertisers and the “beauty” industry deliberately encourage women’s insecurities so that they can offer up products to improve whatever perceived flaw women have. Kilbourne examines myriad issues concerning the images of women in advertising, including sexualization of girl children, violence against women, dehumanizing of women of color, promotion of eating disorders and plastic surgery, encouraging women to be submissive and childlike, and the literal objectification of women’s bodies. Newer advertisements promote an unhealthy beauty ideal for all women and erroneously teach that women can only be attractive if they are young, thin, white, able-bodied, big breasted and submissively sexy.
Here are a few other ads I find disgusting.
Promoting violence against women:
Sexualization of children:
Infantilizing adult women:
Promoting homophobia and transphobia:
And objectifying women and girls: