Jean Kilbourne's "Killing Us Softly"

As Grand Rapids, Michigan yawned good morning at 7:45 am and the sun began blinking hello, I sat in my human sexuality and relationships class, watching one of the best videos I have ever seen in an academic setting. I strongly recommend that each and every one of you watch Jean Kilbourne's “Killing Us Softly 4”.

As an advocate for women's rights, I found this video very compelling and inspirational. It describes the advertising business and its push for narrowly defined sexuality, materialism, and the objectification of women.

The funny thing is that I have always been infatuated with the glossy covers of Cosmo, Glamour, and Vogue. There was something so undeniably glamorous and appealing to me about these magazines and the flirty techniques they promoted. I even used to wallpaper my bedroom with different ads and the like from those pages.

I think it’s about time I take those down.

As stated by Jean Kilbourne, these ads send subliminal message, and women are still considered to be objects, even despite the efforts of feminists today. Kilbourne does a wonderful job of giving examples and presenting visual aids to illustrate her position.

The worst part of what I gathered from this video, though, is that some women want to be perceived as things. Not directly, of course. Ask any girl out there - “So how would you feel about being compared to a piece of meat?” and she’d probably slap you in the face. But essentially any woman who is presenting herself based on the images she's seen in the media is basically allowing the comparison to manifest with her permission.

Take the idea of breast implants, for example. Sure, you might feel more proportional or sexy with those set of DD’s, but who are you really setting out to please? Probably not yourself. Show of hands here: how many of you actually know that by surgically enhancing your chest, you are actually reducing the amount of stimulation? Yeah. Therefore, you are quite literally making yourself an object for the guy’s pleasure.

If there is anything I feel strongly about, it is issues like these. Whether you want to believe it or not, women today are still undervalued and underrepresented, but a critical problem is that my sex is allowing itself to be recognized in this matter. Look at all of the magazines with the frighteningly thin girls. This too is a demonstration of how women are eager to cut themselves down to size. The literal minimization of their bodies parallels the belittling of their importance in civilization.

Until more women stand up for themselves and tell the world that they are worth more, this issue will not be resolved. If we as a culture and society continue to promote shows like America’s Next Top Model, Desperate Housewives, Toddlers and Tiaras, etc., then the entire feminist movement will have been in vain. Women will never be appreciated until they start earning respect for themselves.

The videos of the film can be found here (Part 1) and here (Part 2). If you disagree with me, please please please at least take the time to watch this, even if you just skim. I promise it’ll be worth your while.

More articles by Category: Body image and body standards, Feminism, Media, Misogyny
More articles by Tag: Activism and advocacy, Sexism, News, Gender bias, Advertising, Books



Rinckey R
Sign up for our Newsletter

Learn more about topics like these by signing up for Women’s Media Center’s newsletter.