Tomorrow marks the first day of TEDWomen 2015 — and the nearly 250 TEDxWomen events watching the conference worldwide! To celebrate, we’re featuring talks that look at the state of women in the world today.
Cultural theorist Jean Kilbourne is an ardent investigator of advertising. Since the 1960s, she has collected print ads, examining the ways women are portrayed in American advertising.
“Gradually, I began to see a pattern in the ads,” she says in a talk at TEDxLafayetteCollege, “a sort of statement about what it meant to be a woman in [American] culture.”
And in the decades that have passed that statement has grown to be more and more dangerous, Kilbourne says. “The pressure on women to be young, thin, beautiful is more intense than ever before,” she says, citing the photo manipulation powers of Photoshop, which allows advertisers to permeate ads with images of women that are not only unrealistic, but also poisonous, Kilbourne says. These computer-altered images permeate and distort society’s expectations for the female body, Kilbourne says, encouraging women to model their self-image on artificial models and for both sexes to accept this as normal.
With the help of many, many real world examples, Kilbourne shares how ads insult, dismember and objectify women’s bodies, and how these advertisements affect ideas of female beauty, expectations for female physical perfection and reinforce the nefarious idea that women are mere objects for male sexual desire and use.
Watch the whole talk below:
Insight from the TEDx office — why we like this talk:
The speaker is a researcher who has spent decades studying her field — advertising within the context of gender and culture. She delivers a talk that is engaging, clear and evidence based. She supports her idea through the use of arresting images, recent studies and real world examples. She not only presents her idea, but also offers a call-to-action: that we all should question, think about and fight against the now-normalized, but very dangerous portrayal of women in advertising.