I first saw the video Killing Us Softly in 2009, thirty years after it had been made. I’d never heard of it before, and I felt intrigued and shocked by Jean Kilbourne’s portrayal of the sexualisation and objectification of women in advertising and the media in general.
Looking back over the video now (YouTube is your first stop for them), I am surprised that – as thought-provoking as this must have also been in 1979 – the images Kilbourne uses to get her points across are just as applicable now, in spite of the awareness she has raised, the debate of PhotoShop in the industry, and news stories of the size zero catwalk model. We are still viewing adverts like this Nikon one below, comparing an upgrade in cameras to… a boob job?
We still have a long way to go, but what an amazing debate and thought-provoking process she started. What Kilbourne led the way with in her calm but authoritative, warm American tones, the likes of saucer-eyed Cherry Healey continues to follow through on in her latest episode of “Cherry Healey Gets A Life: How Prejudiced Are We?”, speaking with a female fire fighter who is appalled that children’s toy stores divide down the middle of pink, sparkly, fairy aisles and blue, truck and uniform ones.
With close female loved ones battling eating disorders, body dysmorphia, low self-esteem and poor self-image, it feels good to have the likes of Kilbourne, Healey and the 3% of female firefighters in the UK who – in their own ways – help us to question the role of women in society in its present state.
What are your thoughts on women in the media?
More: Visit Jean Kilbourne’s fascinating website here