Violence, eroticism and the advertising industry

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Violence, eroticism and the advertising industry

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There's no question that the objectification of women in advertising, the constant turning of women into objects and into things affects female self esteem. It also does something even more insidious. It creates a climate in which there's widespread and increasing violence against women. Now, I'm not at all saying that an ad directly causes violence, it's not that simple. But it does create a climate in which women are seen as things, as objects, and turning a human being into a thing is almost always the first step toward justifying violence against that person. It's very difficult - I actually think it's impossible to be violent to someone we think of as an equal human being, but it's very easy to abuse a thing. And we see this with racism, we see it with homophobia, we see it with terrorism, it's almost the same process that the person is dehumanized, seen as an object, and then violence becomes inevitable. And that step is already and constantly taken with women and with girls so the violence, the abuse is partly the chilling, but the logical result of this kind of objectification.

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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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