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The sex stereotypes prevalent in advertisements are degrading to women, Jean Kilbourne, assistant director of the New England Screen Association, said last night.
Speaking at the Kennedy School Forum to a crowd of about 300, Kilbourne showed slides to demonstrate that advertisements often cause women to feel inferior to society's concept of the model woman.
A woman can never be "beautiful enough, young enough or a good enough housewife" when compared with women "without pores or lines," she added.
Each American sees about 50 million advertisements in his lifetime that determine his "goals, concept of success and images of others," Kilbourne said, adding that only by discouraging unreal portrayals of people will American mores change.
Kilbourne cited several advertisements that illustrate men as the dominant sex, pointing out that in the Wisk "ring-around-the-collar" commercial, "no one ever wonders why the man doesn't wash his neck."
Many advertisements "glorify" violence against women by portraying beaten or submissive women, Kilbourne said. Some, like the Black Velvet commercials, "inevitably lead to the acceptance of women being physically abused," she added.
Kilbourne said advertisements "reflect the dominant element in society (men) making them the norm. When women are depicted in advertisements, she said, they seem to be pathologically concerned with beauty.
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Women Against Violence Against Women recently persuaded Warner Records to avoid record covers suggesting violence, Kilbourne said, but she added that many other record companies still value profit more than responsibility.
Kilbourne admitted that some non-stereotypical advertising does exist, citing a commercial portraying a girl holding a completed LEGO airplane. She warned, however, that people must fight destructive advertising by joining feminist groups and other organizations opposed to harmful stereotypes.
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