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Home » Jean Kilbourne on The Dangerous Ways Ads See Women (Full Transcript)

Jean Kilbourne on The Dangerous Ways Ads See Women (Full Transcript)

Jean Kilbourne at TEDxLafayetteCollege

Jean Kilbourne, creator of Killing Us Softly: Advertising’s Image of Women, discusses ‘The Dangerous Ways Ads See Women’ at TEDxLafayetteCollege conference. Below is the full transcript and summary of the TEDx Talk.

Listen to the MP3 Audio here:


I started collecting ads and talking about the image of women in advertising in the late 1960s. As far as I know, I was the first person to do this. I tore ads out of magazines, put them on my refrigerator, and gradually, I began to see a pattern in the ads, a kind of statement about what it meant to be a woman in the culture. I put together a slide presentation and began traveling around the country.

In 1979, I made my first film “Killing Us Softly: Advertising’s Image of Women”, which I have remade three times since then.

These were some of the ads in my original collection long time ago. “Feminine odor is everyone’s problem.”

“If your hair isn’t beautiful, the rest hardly matters.”

“Honey, your anti-antiperspirant spray just doesn’t do it.”

“I’d probably never be married now, if I hadn’t lost 49 pounds.” Which, one woman told me, was the best advertisement for fat she had ever seen.

I am going to do a very abbreviated version of this talk, of course, today, but I want to begin with a question that I most often get asked, which is: “How did you get into this? What got you started?” Many factors in my life led to this interest. I became active in the second wave of the women’s movement right away in the late 1960s. I’d worked in media. I spent a year in London working for the British Broadcasting Corporation, and a year in Paris working for a French film company. This sounds much more glamorous than it was — I was a secretary. In those days, options for women were very limited. I was a secretary, I was a waitress, but I did have one other option that I rarely talk about. I was encouraged to enter beauty pageants and to model. This is artfully cropped to make it look as if I won. I was, in fact, the runner up. This was my first ad, and I think the car tells you something about how long ago this was, and this ran in a London newspaper.

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