Cutting Girls Down to Size

I recently rediscovered an awesome documentary about the effects of media and advertising on woman’s images of themselves, their body images, their mental health, and the positioning of women in advertising and society. It’s called “Killing Us Softly III” by Jean Kilbourne. Unfortunately I couldn’t find the film online, but the Barnard Library has it, as does Butler. It’s only 33 minutes long. I highly recommend it. It changed the way I think about my body and about body image in general. And I always find it fun to bash capitalism once in a while. Sara…don’t kill me for that.

Some provocative statements that Kilbourne makes:

“The primary message that young women and girls get in our culture today is the message from this advertisement, at the top it says, “The More you Subtract, the More you Add.”…now this is a fashion ad. They’re talking about simplicity in fashion, but [the teenage model] is also very thin. They’re obviously talking about girls staying very thin and in general as girls reach adolescence they get the message that they should not be too powerful, should not take up too much space. [An advertisement for a collapsible treadmill reads] “Soon you’ll both be taking up less space.” [Girls are told] not to be too full of themselves, not throw their weight around…so no wonder given this, at least 1 in 5 young women in America today has an eating disorder. And if you think of an eating disorder as any kind of disordered attitude towards eating and one’s appetite, it’s probably closer to 4 out of 5. Now where else could this image of thinness come from if not, at least in part, from the media images that surround us and that tell us in order to be acceptable we need to be painfully, unnaturally thin…the obsession with thinness I think is really about cutting girls down to size, silencing them. So not only do we have images of very thin girls and women, we also have many many images of girls in ads with their hands over their mouths. or worse, with their lips sewn together or silenced in may other ways…”



3 thoughts on “Cutting Girls Down to Size

  1. Anne…

    ….I may not be able to forgive you for your distaste of capitalism….

    ….But I might commodify my forgiveness and buy something for the occasion.

  2. This doesn’t have to do with the media’s effect on girls’ BODY image, but it is certainly related:

    I know almost everyone has seen this before, but it gets me every time.

  3. This gets me every time too…it’s amazing how the media is obsessed with warping images of real-life women. Not even the model looks like what numerous women aspire to look like!
    This reminds me of a quote by supermodel Cindy Crawford on retouching:

    “I think women see me on the cover of magazines and think that I never have a pimple or bags under my eyes. You have to realize that’s after two hours of hair and makeup, plus retouching. Even I don’t wake up looking like Cindy Crawford.”
    – Cindy Crawford

    Thank you for posting the video AVL.

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