Why a coveted body type may be a genetic impossibility

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Why a coveted body type may be a genetic impossibility

The main thing that the advertisers do is surround us with images of the ideal female beauty so we all learn how important it is for a woman to be beautiful and exactly what it takes. And girls get the message from a very early age that they must spend enormous amounts of time, energy and above all, money, striving to achieve this image and feeling ashamed and guilty when they fail. And failure is inevitable because the ideal is based on absolute flawlessness. She never has any lines or wrinkles, you know, she certainly has no blemishes, indeed she has no pores. Nobody looks like this. Certainly, the models don't. The supermodel Cindy Crawford once said, "I wish I looked like Cindy Crawford." She can't, she couldn't because this is a look that's achieved, these days, entirely through digital or photoshop. Basically, we never see the image of a woman considered beautiful that hasn't been photoshopped to make her look absolutely inhumanly perfect. So the image is artificial, it's constructed, it's impossible. And yet, this is the image against which real women and girls measure ourselves every single day. So no wonder it has such a devastating impact on the self esteem of the women and girls. The only body type that we ever see in the media, in advertising or throughout popular culture that's considered desirable for women is the body type that fewer than five percent of American women have. The models are very tall, they're genetically thin, sometimes they have to starve themselves, sometimes they don't, but they're very and they for the most part have V-shaped bodies, fairly broad shoulders, narrow hips, long legs and usually small breasts. When they have large breasts, almost always, they've had implants. So it's a body type, there's nothing wrong with it, it's fine. It's just that it excludes about 95% of all American women because most women are more pear shaped, are heavier through the hips and thighs, but we literally never see that body type as desirable or sexy throughout the popular culture.

See Jean Kilbourne, EdD's video on Why a coveted body type may be a genetic impossibility...


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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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