The obsession with thinness in our culture

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The obsession with thinness in our culture

In recent years, the ideal image of beauty has been for women to become thinner and thinner, and we see this with the models, the celebrities, advertising and the popular culture. The dolls are getting thinner, Barbie's thinner than she's ever been before, and this is sending a powerful message to girls that they need to worry about this and starting at a very early age, a recent study found that 50% of three to six year old girls worry that they're fat. Now, girls that age shouldn't be thinking about this sort of thing and they should be very unhealthy for them to be trying to change, you know, their body at that age. It creates enormous harm, it puts enormous pressure on girls to achieve an ideal that really isn't very healthy. And I think the obsession with thinness, to a great extent, is about cutting girls down to size, making sure that girls don't feel too full of themselves, too big, too powerful; and that this happens to girls in many different ways as when girls enter adolescence, they're encouraged to not only be very thin, but maybe not to speak up as much as they used to or to express themselves as fully as they used to. So cutting girls down to size is something that happens in the culture in many different ways and does enormous harm to girls. About 65% of American women have some form of an eating disorder, so that's a huge problem in and of itself. Sometimes, people are so worried about obesity, which is a major public health problem now, that they think it's somehow better for our children to be dieting than to get fat. But the solution to obesity isn't to make our girls hate themselves and starve themselves. Obesity is really a very complex problem, huge genetic factor, and in some ways, it's related to the obsession with thinness, so what we need to do for both these things is to transform our attitudes about how we eat and how we exercise and help our children to think about eating and exercise in terms of how it makes them feel in terms of their energy rather than in terms of how it makes them look.

Watch Video: The obsession with thinness in our culture by Jean Kilbourne, EdD, ...


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Jean Kilbourne, EdD

Author & Social Theorist

Jean Kilbourne is internationally recognized for her groundbreaking work on the image of women in advertising and her critical studies of alcohol and tobacco advertising. Her films, lectures, and television appearances have been seen by millions of people throughout the world. She was named by The New York Times Magazine as one of the three most popular speakers on college campuses...

She is the author of the award-winning book Can’t Buy My Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel and So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids. The prize-winning films based on her lectures include Killing Us Softly, Spin the Bottle, and Slim Hopes. She is a frequent guest on radio and television programs, including “The Today Show” and “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” She has served as an advisor to the Surgeon General and has testified for the U.S. Congress. She holds an honorary position as Senior Scholar at the Wellesley Centers for Women.

According to Susan Faludi, “Jean Kilbourne’s work is pioneering and crucial to the dialogue of one of the most underexplored, yet most powerful, realms of American culture —advertising. We owe her a great debt.” A member of the Italian Parliament said, “Hearing Jean Kilbourne is a profound experience. Audiences leave her feeling that they have heard much more than another lecture, for she teaches them to see themselves and their world differently.”

She has received many awards, including the Lecturer of the Year award from the National Association for Campus Activities. A more unusual tribute was paid when an all-female rock group in Canada named itself Kilbourne in her honor.

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