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"Killing Us Softly" by Jean Kilbourne- Analysis Paper

"Killing Us Softly" by Jean Kilbourne- Analysis Paper



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Published by: babchr143 on Dec 13, 2007
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“[In the English language] there are 220 words for sexual promiscuouswomen and only 20 for an equally promiscuous man” (Transforming aRape Culture, 125).In this society, the equality which stands between men and women is almost non-existent. It is widely believed that we live in a man’s world. Even something as commonto our culture as the English language stands guilty to the possession of a rape content.With the “language of rape” surrounding our everyday lives and yet still being ignored asan issue seeking attention, it is common for many people to overlook the equallydegrading images in which advertising agencies surround us with day in and day out.“Advertising contributes to people’s attitudes about gender, sex, and violence,” statesJean Kilbourne in her article,
Two Ways a Woman Can Get Hurt 
. With advertisingagencies standing by the notion that “Sex Sells” it isn’t uncommon to find sex tied into anumber of advertisements seen everywhere on a daily basis.“Sex in advertising is pornographic because it dehumanizes and objectifies people, especially women …” (Kilbourne, 271). The objectification of women in our society is more prevalent than many would like to believe. Women being portrayed as passive, easy, innocent, needy, submissive and dependent beings creates an understandingthat women are less human than men. “Turning a human being into a thing, an object, isalmost always the first step toward justifying violence against that person” (Kilbourne,278). When advertisers continuously use women as sex objects in order to sell their  products they begin to form the mindset that “all women, regardless of age, are reallytemptresses in disguise, nymphets, sexually instable and seductive” (Kilbourne, 281). TheUnited States, of all the industrialized nations in the world, has the highest rate of sexual1
assault. Living in a culture with increasing violence against women, the objectification of a woman through advertisements does not help the females’ strive of obtaining equality ina male dominated world. When a community health class at the University of Illinois(CHLH 199-B) was asked to share different synonyms for what they believed meant thesame thing as “sex” some of the responses included: bang, screw, fuck, hit it, tap it,smash, tappin’ that ass, and hump. As you can see all of these words in some way, shapeor form relates the intimate activity, sex, as being some sort of violent act. Why do weconnect sex with such violent, disturbing illusions? Kilbourne writes, “Male violence issubtly encouraged by ads that encourage men to be forceful and dominant, and to valuesexual intimacy more than emotional intimacy” (272). The traditional role taken on bythe male gender is a tough, assertive, powerful, experienced, and dominating character.With men, being perceived as powerful and women being seen as passive and dependant people begin to believe that these figures are the norm and something idealistic to follow.The violent messages given off by certain advertisements begin to be overlooked and justabsorbed. Advertisers sell their products in the ways they do, one way being theobjectification of women, because it not only appeals to the male consumer but it alsoappeals to the female consumer making her believe that the ideal women looks, acts, andthinks in the ways a man would want her to. The irony in this idea is that an ideal woman,which all other women are trying to be: a sexy yet innocent, thin yet nourished, beautifuland perfect individual in all reality, does not exist. How is it possible for a human beingto possess all of these characteristics at the same time? The image of this “perfectwoman” is something that has been brainwashed into this society’s head and is somethingthat is nearly impossible to obtain. Advertising agencies contribute to the twisted thinking2
scattered throughout our culture by portraying the “uncommon/nonexistent woman” asthe “perfect woman” throughout their ads.Advertising constructs sex, gender and power in a very specific way. Advertiserstypically use sex in the form of a woman, specifically her body, and if a man is not in theimage she is portrayed as passive, innocent, sexy, and aggressive, all at the same time. Onthe contrary, when a man is in an image/shot with a woman she is portrayed as helpless,easy, needy, and dependent. Regardless as to which image the woman is captured, shemost commonly is portrayed as more of an object than anything else. The men in themedia are rarely portrayed as powerless. As Ann Quindlen said, writing about “reversedracism”: “Hatred by the powerful, the majority, has a different weight – and often verydifferent effects- than hatred by the powerless, the minority” (Kilbourne, 279). Drifting tothe idea of violence and hatred this idea still shows the overwhelming “power” men haveon women. Men, being represented as the majority are always something for women, theminority, to worry about. Men are not the ones afraid to walk home alone at night. Menare also not the ones being raped. In the world of media, men are not the ones being portrayed as having a gun held to their head in a cartoon version advertisement for Bitchskateboards which clearly targets young people (Kilbourne, 277). Men have the power and this power blossoms as early as childhood. “Many boys grow up feeling that they areunmanly if they are not always ‘ready for action’, capable of and interested in sex withany women who is available” (Kilbourne, 285). Advertisements seen all over our television, magazines, internet/virtual world, and even billboards emphasis this idea of  power and the people absorbing it are the ones with minds like a sponge, the youth. Withyoung boys, as early as the seventh grade, laughter and name calling to the over weight,3

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