Turning women into advertising things

| June 2, 2011 | 2 Replies

Look what we are doing to our  women in our advertising.  Jean Kilbourne explains, in an excerpt of a one-hour video titled Killing Us Softly.  I own the full version and it is thought-provoking viewing–or perhaps it struck my especially hard because I am the father of two daughters, aged 10 and 12.   What can we do about the unrealistic way much advertising portrays women?   Step one, according to Kilbourne, is to become aware of the problem.

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Category: advertising, Psychology Cognition

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich and his wife, Anne Jay, live in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where they are raising their two extraordinary daughters.

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  1. A similar process has long been at work for men, but it's less obvious. Physical perfection has been taken off the table and instead the focus is on accoutrements. What do you HAVE? A man is judged by the clothes he wears, the liquor he drinks, the credit card in his wallet, the car he drives, the clubs he attends, and toys he plays with. He is responsible for the material maintenance of an image in which he is not really present, because if you stripped all that away and looked at him you would more often than not find a person who is overweight, stressed to the limit, suffering hypertension, possibly borderline diabetic, with a constellation of health problems that will one day combine to kill him. Having "fun" has become the pursuit of the right set of props—which includes the wife and kids, who are part of this depersonalization. He looks with envy on the Hollywood type that doesn't have to punch a clock or answer to anyone, who can "get away" in his 4 X 4 anytime he likes to a place where there are no other people (except the camera crew recording his escape) and where he can be "himself." But this is a rich lifestyle and for the vast majority of men (and women) it is impossible to achieve. Merely being content with one's self, for either sex, is simply not an option, because that risks not being seen, which translates to not being envied. Men and women are both sold an image and told to pursue it ravenously in order to reap the reward of the ideal life, hopefully together, but at the end of the day (or the life) neither has achieved either the image or any of the presumed rewards. If a couple, they work to perfect this image so they can be ideal for each other, but the time, energy, and attention required to reach the image leaves them with no time, energy, or ability to pay attention to each other. On the flip side of this, Society tells both men and women that to have a fulfilled life they must partner and reproduce (the specter of the biological clock for women, the taunt of "responsibility" for men) which guarantees that the much vaunted "image" of the advertisers cannot be achieved, and this then is the real shell game, since this Image is reserved for the few who "know better" than to buy into, on either end. But those people aren't visible to the rest of us, while for the majority who we really are is kept hidden because it doesn't match any of the expectations constantly shoved at us.

    I suppose all this just to say It isn't just the women getting screwed by the Image Game.

  2. Erika Price says:

    I think, Mark, you are referring to a consumerist trend that dogs both men and women. Both sexes are tricked into thinking that their character is defined and expressed by the products they buy and the way they use them to earn the envy and desire of others. Men may be stricken more by the desire to be a rugged individualist with an SUV full of beer and babes sitting in the desert, but people of all stripes are lulled into the idea that objects (and the turning oneself into a fancy object) are the ultimate success barometers.

    You're right that women aren't the only people getting screwed by the Image Game. I agree that things are getting worse for men as well. Men are increasingly expected to devote excessive attention to clothing and primping in the way women have been for decades- plucking, shaving, dyeing, dressing, tanning, accessorizing, dieting- these used to be the stresses of female presentation. Now men GTL (gym, tan, laundry) with almost as much fervor as women. Image consciousness- and eating disorders- appear to be especially problematic amongst gay men, but guys in general are learning more and more physical things to stress over and be ashamed of.

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