Killing Us Softly
"Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels." -Kate MossAfter watching "Killing Us Softly 4," I feel more disappointed in today's culture than surprised by it. As Jean Kilbourne explains, this has been a problem in American culture for decades, which has led to several new additions to her original "Killing Us Softly" video. Kilbourne says it hasn't gotten better, though-- If anything, it has gotten worse.
The issues presented in the video center around the idea of what it means to be a woman in today's culture, which is primarily conveyed through advertising. According to Kilbourne, the average American is exposed to 3000 ads each day. How is this possible?! Ads are literally everywhere, though... They're on Facebook, on clothes, on food, before YouTube videos... the list goes on.
Yet people still believe they aren't influenced by advertising, which is a problem. Many of the images we see in ads slip into subconscious, so we are influenced by them whether we realize it or not. And many of the images we are exposed to are unhealthy. As Kilbourne says, ads sell more than products. They sell the idea that women need to live up to a standard of beauty that doesn't exist because the women do not exist.
Ads break women into parts. They focus on women's breasts, their butts, and their legs. They target areas of the body where women feel insecure and tell women they need cosmetic surgery to fix themselves if they don't look like the picture. This also leads to women's obsession with being thin. They are literally taught to aspire to becoming nothing: the size 0.
It is also leading to the sexualization of young girls. Girls are taught to see themselves as objects and to take pride in this. As one ad said, "My boyfriend told me he loved me for my mind. I was never so insulted in my life." Girls are told not to care about being smart. They are tricked into believing they are successful if they attract men, and nothing else in life matters.
The part of the film that had the biggest impact on me was the part which discussed the danger of linking sex with violence. We live in a culture where ads show women being sexually abused to sell a product. This is just screwed up. I don't know how anyone in the world with find this okay, yet whether I understand it or not, it is happening. And I believe we need to take a stand to stop it. Like Kilbourne said, though, the ads aren't the real problem here. It's the attitudes behind the ads. And changing attitudes is going to be a long, hard process that can only happen if we think of ourselves as "citizens instead of consumers."
I agree with the majority of the claims Kilbourne makes, but there is one point that I feel she should have addressed. In today's culture, there is a concept known as "thin shaming." Many of the women who discuss thin shaming, such as this article written by a UNI student entitled "Thin Shaming: My Size Zero Life," discuss how they are made to feel bad about their bodies when people ask if they are anorexic and tell them they need to eat McDonald's. I am curious to know what Kilbourne makes of this. Personally, I believe thin shaming is a real issue that people who are naturally thin face. But I do not believe it is the same or even comparable to fat shaming. This is because women who are labeled overweight are not the "ideal" size. They are not the women that other women want to look like. This is a fact. I am not saying that people don't make rude comments to thin women all of the time; it happens, and it is rude. I am saying, though, that a woman who is skinny cannot say she experiences the same prejudice and hate as a woman who is overweight.
I believe the film is called Killing Us Softly because advertisements are, in fact, slowly killing us. The term "killing" comes from the fact that women diet to the point in which they die or become suicidal because they do not look like the women in ads. "Slowly," on the other hand, comes from the fact that ads are destroying us gradually over time and subconsciously. Most people deny that ads affect them, yet we look at ourselves in the mirror everyday and wonder what we could do to manipulate ourselves to look better.
The issues discussed in this film apply to men to an extent, but in a different way. As Kilbourne says, men and women inhabit very different worlds. Men do not face routine scrutiny, criticism or judgment for their bodies. They are also not as commonly raped, harassed or beaten as women. Even in terms of clothes and weight, there is not necessarily an "ideal size" for men or a certain number he should weigh. While women are told to be smaller and less powerful in ads, men are told to be stronger and more powerful. This is still an issue, though, especially as masculinity is linked with violence in ads. It is not the same objectification and sexualization as women experience, though.