Kilbourne Addresses Advertising

Media Critic: Industry Distorts Women

The advertising industry portrays a distorted utopia which dehumanizes women, media critic Jean Kilbourne said yesterday at Boylston Auditorium.

"[Advertising] doesn't just reflect the attitudes of society, it reflects the mythology of a society, where everyone is white, where men outnumber women two to one, and all women are young and beautiful," Kilbourne told the overflowing audience of more than 200.

With "1,500 advertisements a day," Kilbourne said, "It's difficult not to see this as normal."

"The Naked Truth," an address on the negative images of women in advertising, was sponsored jointly by Radcliffe College and the International Relations Council, which manages this weekend's Harvard Model United Nations (HMUN) conference.

Kilbourne said "advertisements are the most powerful education sources" available today, and "as inescapable as pollution."

Kilbourne used dozens of slides of mainstream advertisements to illustrate her claim that advertising consistently portrays women as sex objects, demented housewives, or targets of physical violence.

Along with her descriptions came a persistent wit which had the audience continually laughing and applauding.

"During all that fuss about ring around the collar, nobody asked why he didn't wash his neck," Kilbourne said.

The speech was followed by a long question andanswer session and a meeting of the Model UnitedNation's committee on the status of women.

The listeners who filled the chairs, tables andaisles were a mix of Harvard students and highschool students in town for the conference.

Listeners of both sexes were highlyenthusiastic about Kilbourne's speech.

Jennifer L. Credidio, in town from New Jerseyfor the HMUN conference, said the speech was"phenomenal."

"I'll certainly pay more attentions toadvertisements and try to figure out why I buywhat I do," Credidio said.

Carl M. Santiago, also here from New Jersey,showed similar enthusiasm. "She wasphenomenal--very informative. It will mostcertainly affect how I buy things in the future."

Jyoti Nanda '95 said Kelbourne "wasamazing...I'm glad she's not just a male-basher.