It is without a doubt that advertisement surrounds one’s life on a daily basis. According to Consumer Reports Website, the average American is exposed to 247 commercial messages each day. In the article “Two Ways a Woman Can Get Hurt” the author Jean Kilbourne strongly believes that advertising is one of the culprits behind the objectification and violence against women. Kilbourne points out that ads depict men and especially women as objects, which subliminally lead to violence but to compare the advertising and pornographic industries is an exaggeration in many ways.
In Kilbourne’s article she explains that advertising is damaging to the public and most often hurts women by persuading them to submit to a man’s sexual and non-emotional needs. The author also contends that the poses, the facial expressions, and the body language in these ads are being taken out of the pornography industry. Advertisement examples such as ties, watches and perfumes are used to establish that men are illustrated as being superior to women, leaving the woman to be degraded and submissive.
Through more examples of both women and men in ads, Kilbourne’s states that women don’t exactly mean no when they say no and that men are strengthened not to take no for and answer. The conclusion that such media provokes the increasing of rape, sexual harassment, and battery of women is also what the author narrates. Kilbourne points out that over the years men, children and especially girls of younger age are being sexualized in advertisements.
With Calvin Klein and Prada billboard examples illustrating young girls close to nudity and toddlers in underwear, the author states that this advertising industry is making it more common and acceptable for the audience to spend on designer underwear while disregarding that many children do not have the adequate nutrition. She applies the gender reversal test on commercials and ads and comes to the conclusion that for example, a young boy looking up a woman’s skit is seen as un-alarming while a girl doing the same to a man would cause it to be worrisome.
Furthermore, Kilbourne expresses the double standard between men and women and continues to suggest that the school environment is a place for harboring and even encouraging violence against women. Although I agree with Kilbourne’s remark, that advertising has become more sexual than before, supporting the idea that the advertising industry has now become pornographic is an exaggeration. The true definition of pornography is not the billboards or commercials that surround us daily.
Whether it is in photographs, film, writing or illustrations, pornography is the depiction of erotic behavior that is intended to stimulate sexual excitement. The intention of these advertisements is not to excite its audience but to expose its brand and lure in its potential customers. Examples given in her article can be misinterpreted and most are not American ads. Kilbourne’s examples are one of her weaknesses through out her essay, mainly because her uses of foreign ads are never fully explained. I believe using foreign advertisements is not a valid argument, especially when the author is concentrated on the American public.
Taking into consideration that different cultures have different points of view and customs is something Kilbourne also fails to take into consideration. What our culture and society find alarming maybe acceptable to another. It is also evident that the descriptions of the ads are exaggerated and most can be clearly seen as nonsexual propaganda. Kilbourne clearly overanalyzes one Prada ad when she states that the young woman is resembled as a child, who with her undeveloped body is in her underwear and is being surprised on while undressed.
This image can easily be seen as a young woman posing in the manner a European model would pose like. Although it is true that sex sells, the fact is that the examples being given can be seen from very different points of view and should not be denatured. Throughout the article Kilbourne fails to give statistical concrete evidence that violence has increases because of so much advertisement. The opinionated descriptions of these ads are composed of not facts but of the author’s point of view.
For example, the ad demonstrating the young man and young woman is said to be an image of a powerful man and a submissive woman. There are a lot of “fill in the blanks” that the author replies on as supportive evidence. There are no solid facts that support the idea that violence has increased with in the last few years. Instead the author tries to prove her point by degrading the advertisement companies’ real motive, to successfully sell their product. All in all, Kilbourne’s essay is disorganized with overwhelming opinions and very few facts.
We cannot ignore the reality that sex sells and that advertisements are here to stay. Though many ads might keep on pushing the boundaries of how to sell their products, its difficult to entirely prove that every woman and every man are hurt and pushed into violent sexual acts upon each other because of the pornographic type of propaganda the advertisement world had turned into. Pornography and advertising are not equivalent to each other and even as times change, I strongly believe that they are set to stay on far from one another.