By Daniel Margrain
The 30 minute documentary film Killing Us Softly (1979) based on a lecture by Jean Kilbourne focuses on the effects of advertising on women’s self-image and the objectification of women’s bodies. Kilbourne argues that the superficial and unreal portrayal of women in advertising lowers their self-esteem and that sexualized images of them are being used to sell virtually all kinds of goods.
Kilbourne then goes on to posit that these images degrade women, encourage abuse, and reinforce a patriarchal and sexist society. She also makes the connection between advertising and pornography, stating that “the advertisers are America’s real pornographers”.
Almost four decades after the release of the film, Kilbourne discussed her ideas as part of a campaign to bring her ideas to a new audience of young people (see below). Significantly, she says since her film’s initial release in 1979 “things have got worse, not better.”
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