Pioneering Advertising Researcher & Filmmaker
Jean Kilbourne is internationally recognized for her groundbreaking work on the image of women in advertising and for her critical studies of alcohol and tobacco advertising. In the late 1960s she began her exploration of the connection between advertising and several public health issues, including violence against women, eating disorders, and addiction, and launched a movement to promote media literacy as a way to prevent these problems. A radical and original idea at the time, this approach is now mainstream and an integral part of most prevention programs. 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.” Mary Pipher has called Kilbourne “our best, most compassionate teacher.” Read More >
While some people are fighting to keep sex education out of our schools or to limit it to abstinence only, children are getting a very powerful and very damaging kind of sex education from the popular culture. Even very young children are routinely exposed to portrayals of sexual behavior devoid of emotions, attachment, or consequences. Media messages about sex and sexuality often exploit women’s bodies and glamorize sexual violence. Girls are encouraged to objectify themselves and to obsess about their sex appeal and appearance at absurdly young ages, while boys get the message that they should seek sex but avoid intimacy. These messages shape their gender identity, sexual attitudes and behavior, values, and their capacity for love, connection, and healthy relationships well into adulthood.
Jean Kilbourne’s pioneering work helped develop and popularize the study of gender representations in advertising. This presentation reviews if and how the image of women has changed over the past 20 years. So many problems today, such as date rape and other forms of violence, eating disorders, and increased rates of drinking and smoking for women, are considered “women’s issues.” Unfortunately, sometimes the people who most need to learn more are reluctant to attend lectures on these topics. Jean manages to discuss these issues in a way that includes and reaches men as well as women and that powerfully illustrates how these images affect all of us. Entertaining, fast-paced, sometimes hilarious, the presentation is also profound and deeply serious. It encourages dialogue and discussion and a new way of looking at oneself as well as one another.
Addiction is arguably the number one public health problem in our country, one that affects all of us. This presentation exposes the manipulative marketing strategies and tactics used by the alcohol and tobacco industries to keep people hooked on their dangerous products. Jean Kilbourne presents a compelling argument that these cynical industries have a clear and deep understanding of the psychology of addiction – an understanding they exploit to create and feed a life-threatening dependency on their products. She also educates the audience about targeting and the primary purpose of the mass media, which is to deliver audiences to advertisers. In addition, she demonstrates how the objectification of women and the obsession with thinness are related to addiction. The presentation contains sections from most of Jean’s other presentations and can be adapted for many different audiences, from health professionals to high school students.
This presentation illustrates how advertisers and the media target women and sell addictive products to them, such as alcohol, cigarettes, diet products and prescription drugs. The presentation also examines how sex role stereotypes undermine female self-esteem and encourage sexual abuse, addiction, and violence against women.
This presentation explores the origins and terrible consequences of our national obsession with excessive thinness for women. Most women suffer from this obsession, not just those who develop eating disorders. The presentation examines ads for rich foods and junk food, ads for cigarettes, and ads for diet products. It also illustrates how the ideal body image has changed in the past thirty or forty years, and explores the fact that thinness has become a moral issue (the menage a trois that women are made to feel ashamed of these days is with Ben and Jerry). It offers a new way to think about life-threatening eating disorders and provides a well-documented critical perspective on the social impact of advertising.
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