How men are allowed to age and women are not

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How men are allowed to age and women are not

One of the harmful things that advertising does is it turns people into objects. Now, it does this massively with women and we see women turned into objects all the time. But it also happens with men, not nearly to the same extent that it does with women, but it does happen. But when men are objectified, it's very different than when women are objectified. When women are turned into objects, they're generally small, frail, passive. Whereas when men are turned into objects, they're generally big and strong and powerful. Also, there really aren't very many consequences for men as a result of being turned into objects. When women are turned into objects, there's always a sense of danger, a sense of the possibility of sexual violence or intimidation. So it's risky for women when they're turned into objects, whereas it isn't for men. So there's a world of difference in that way. In general, men are taken much more seriously in advertising. Women are often shown in very silly, childlike, ridiculous poses, men are not. Even boys are shown in much more dignified poses than girls are in ads and commercials. A huge difference in the portrayal in men in general versus women, is that men are allowed to age and women are not. Basically, there are two standards of attractiveness for men. There's the handsome young boy, the handsome young man, and then there's the distinguished, mature older man. And men can be considered attractive and sexy well into their 70s, even their 80s. For women, there's only one standard of beauty and that's the standard of a very young woman. So older women are considered beautiful only in so far as they stay looking very, very young. There is no standard of beauty for women that shows older women as sexy, beautiful, desirable. The ones who are shown that way are the ones who've had surgery, the one's who've been photoshopped to look as if they're much, much younger. The emphasis on beauty and on having to stay looking very young could seem trivial in terms of women and could seem that this is about vanity or something, but it's actually not that at all. It does enormous psychic harm to women because women get the message that our value decreases as we grow older, and that's a very damaging, very harmful message to get.

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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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