-Just the Facts
-Women to Watch
of a Slam Poet
National Poetry Slam champion and outspoken feminist shares
a year of her life on the road. By Alix Olson
In these two articles, we explore some of the ways ads
Cultural critic Jean Kilbourne takes on ads offers new
insight into the not-so-obvious messages lurking behind
the luster. By Clea Simon
Today's advertising execs and their big- business clients
are betting that consumers will buy products made by companies
that support social causes. Are the ads just talk, or
is there substance behind the slogans? By Dan Bischoff
On the Ms.
Child by Robin Morgan
Crimson Edge: Older Women Writing (Volume Two)
by Sondra Zeidenstein
Women by Mary Zeiss Stange and Carol K. Oyster
Way by Paula Kamen
is for Everybody by bell hooks
White and Jewish by Rebecca Walker
Summer by Barbara Kingsolver
by Marcia Ann Gillespie
-The Latest on Tamoxifen
-In Poland, Feminism Is the News
-The Right's Stealth Tactics
-Gloria Steinem's Wedding Day
- Newsmaker: Aloisea Inyumba
- What Will Mexico's New Government Mean for Women?
- Opinion: Blaming the Messenger
Elouise Cobell Takes on the Feds
Aunt Jemima in the Mirror
What's a Hacktivist?
The Body Shop's Anita Roddick
Shirin Neshat Sees Beyond the Veil
by Daisy Hernandez, Patricia Smith, and Gloria Steinem
the feminist movement stuck in mid-revolution? According
to this well-known lawyer and activist the answer is
yes. Now it's time to move on and harness our power.
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really was the first one to look at how tobacco and
alcohol advertisers played on women's real expectations,
on their real desires and relationships," says Sut Jhally,
professor of communications at the University of Massachusetts
and executive director of the Media Education Foundation,
which produces educational tapes about gender and violence
in the media. "She took advertising images seriously,"
says Jhally, who worked with Kilbourne on the 1991 video
about tobacco advertising Pack of Lies, the 1995
video on the obsession with thinness Slim Hopes,
and the 2000 documentary about women and advertising
Killing Us Softly 3.
this ad, the young women are the accessories and
the backpack is the intimate partner. The accompanying
copy assures the reader that the backpack "comes
with a lifetime guarantee not to rip, tear, break,
or ask for a ring." Taken individually, ads like
this are silly, sometimes funny, certainly nothing
to worry about. But cumulatively they create a climate
of cynicism and alienation that is poisonous to
relationships. Many people end up feeling romantic
about material objects yet deeply cynical about
other human beings. In a society in which so many
marriages end in divorce, we are offered constancy
through our products. As one ad says, "Some people
need only one man. Or one woman. Or one watch."
O.K., so we can't be monogamousat least we
can be faithful to our watches. We are told we can
adjust to fleeting, impermanent relationships by
focusing on our lasting relationships with products.
"The ski instructor faded away three winters ago.
At least the sweater didn't," says an ad featuring
a woman alone on a beach, smiling happily in her
sweater. Because of the pervasiveness of this kind
of advertising message, we learn from childhood
that it is far safer to make a commitment to a product
than to a person, that it is far easier to be loyal
to a brand than to a relationship. -J.K.
cigarette and alcohol advertisers are busy trying to
sell their products as the new revolution, Kilbourne
has her own revolutionary idea to sell: act against
ads. "Break through the denial, the complacency, and
act against whatever bad feelings ads inspire," she
says. "The most important thing we can do is teach media
literacy in our schools. Most other nations do. A truly
critical audience would be less easily manipulated."
We also need to look at advertising-related problems
as public health issues, Kilbourne argues. "We now know
that alcohol and tobacco are public health issues. We
need to see that eating disorders and obsession with
thinness and violence against women are as well. And
we need to recognize the role of advertising in this."
As for what each person can do to fight back against
ads? "Anything. Start a mother-daughter group and lobby
for the schools to teach media literacy. Lobby for campaign
finance reform. Run for office. Support the feminist
groups that exist now, the battered women's centers
and the rape crisis centers. Every single thing that
people do in that regard is important. What will bring
about change is a critical mass of people who are seeing
Simon is the author of Mad House: Growing Up in the
Shadow of Mentally Ill Siblings (Penguin, 1997)
and is working on a book about women and their fathers.
advertisement critiques here and on the previous pages
are adapted from Can't
Buy My Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Think
and Feel by Jean Kilbourne
(Simon & Schuster, 2000). For information, go to www.jeankilbourne.com.
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