Thursday, October 23, 2008

Girls and Beauty

This article entitled, “The More You Sutbract, The More You Add:” Cutting Girls Down to Size, written by Jean Kilbourne really was not a surprise to me, but still mad my stomach turn. In this article, Kilbourne discusses the development of girl’s identities, especially the identities of adolescent girls and how these identities are shaped by media. She begins by discussing how girls are becoming more and more involved in destructive behavior. Jean Kilbourne writes that the gap between girls and boys is lessening in the sense that girls are closing the gap between boys academically but also that girls are becoming more involved in the destructive behavior of boys such as smoking, drinking and other drugs.
This need to or example of girls engaging in male activities is evident even as girls become older. According to Kilbourne, “Girls are put into a terrible double bind” (259). Girls are encouraged to be quite and talk nicely, softly, while at the same time, as they move into a professional setting, they are told to compete with men in terms of becoming successful in the business world.
Kilbourne discusses the repercussions of this ‘double bind’. Because of the pull to not only be submissive and girly but also demanding, successful and strong, it creates a distorted image in the lives of women today. Kilbourne continues to address some of the other obstacles women face in terms of the identity that media places of females. Kilbourne says that advertising has been one of the most influential areas in which a woman’s identity has been distorted. Kilbourne describes how advertisements encourage women to be submissive or quiet. She addresses some advertisements for cosmetics that display a thin model with a caption that may say something like “Make a statement without saying a word,” or “The silence of a look can reveal more than words” (263). Not only are women encouraged to stay quiet but at the same time attractive and influential (in terms of their looks), media advertisements are also influential in displaying a distorted image of a woman’s physical body.
Kilbourne addresses the problem that so many women face today: dieting and the need to be thin. I found it extremely surprising and disturbing when Kilbourne wrote in regards to dieting: “The obsession starts early. Some studies have found that from 40-80 percent of fourth-grade girls are dieting” (261). The need to look thin and to eat foods different from what men apparently can eat is only supported through advertisements. Unfortunately, this standard of a specific way to look and act is only reinforced through images that women see every day. The fact that it is affecting girls at such a young age is troubling, and as Kilbourne also addresses, dieting and these images in advertisements sells and brings in a ton of money to companies is also extremely disturbing.

Image from:

When I first looked at this advertisement, I wasn’t sure what they were selling. In fact I had to look at the actual website to conclude that the ad is selling Kate Spade shoes. I wasn’t sure if it was advertising clothing or bags or whatever. Anyway, what I see in this image is a college aged woman sitting awkwardly. I can’t imagine sitting in that position, it would be so uncomfortable. It seems as though she may have been studying outside with some friends since there are books scattered about. Maybe they were in a fight because their purses are scattered around as well. It looks as if they left a trail of books behind them before they decided to sit down and pull their knee-high socks up. Anyway, the fact that their books are scattered and thrown around along with what looks like their purses or bags shows me that these girls pretty much view their books as an accessory like their purses. The way these girls are dressed, or the one in which we see her entire body, also looks as if they are clowns with the extremely bright colors and mismatching outfit and frills around the neck of her shirt. I’m not really attracted to their shoes, either since all the shoes are the exact same style but a different bright wild color. Most importantly, the message I feel like I may be receiving from this advertisement is that books should be taken about as seriously as a handbag and that books may only be for clowns. Of course, some women take their purses EXTREMELY seriously and in that sense, if you are a woman who takes your purses seriously, then maybe this ad is telling women that books are serious too…along with a great pair of shoes. But, the fact that everything is thrown around, the colors are bright and chaotic and the girl shown in the ad is sitting awkwardly and uncomfortably makes me want to run away from this ad very quickly.

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