This is just a small selection from the plethora of popular advertisements circulating throughout the current culture. At first sight you might wonder… Why does everyone have wet hair and look like they’re lathered in baby oil? But that’s just the uncomfortable humor coming out to cover the truth we’re all lying to ourselves about. Jean Kilbourne, ED. D. and specialist in women’s role in advertising, delves into images just like these in her examination of American advertising and its effects on women. She does this in order to confront the public with reality; the immensely influential impact images like these impose on both an individual and societal level. Kilbourne uncovers an undeniable and prominent presence of sexist and misogynistic messages through the presentation of frighteningly thin women in positions of passivity. There is an evident code of femininity being established through these images that works to restrict and undermine women in the real world. These images prompt (or at least should prompt) all of us to think critically about the images we are taking in, and their affect on all levels.
As you could deduce from the information you just read, there is a serious problem accompanied with serious implications that are being generated as a result from this nature of advertising. In fact it is a widespread and recognized issue that these media projections are creating real health problems for women across the nation. It is reported that 80% of women feel insecure about their bodies because of adds just like the ones given above. There have been numerous studies and exploration of the connection between advertising and public health concerns relating to violence against women and eating disorders. But really, the enticement of conditions such as bod dysmorphia, anorexia and bulimia aren’t surprising when we have the standards of photo-shopped moles to use as yardsticks. Everyone, I’m sure, has already seen the overused video where the photo-shop process on a model is time-lapsed, but here is a link if you haven’t. I only include it because it’s overused for a reason- the message it holds is monumental. It redefines the idea of perfection that beauty has somehow become synonymous with. There is a corrupted and unattainable image in the minds of women and girls across the world. We have adopted this idea that to be beautiful we need to embody and emulate the idealized images we see in magazines and movies. But the idea of a an individual with a size 4 waist, perky boobs, thigh gap, lifted butt, perfectly tousled hair, waking up with glowing skin smelling like vanilla and flowers doesn’t exist… It’s not real, and when did that become the standard of beauty anyway?
I would lie to introduce an advertisement that I’m sure everyone is familar with- the Dove Real Beauty Campaign. While this advertisement has taken plenty of criticism for promoting “unhealthy weights” and not being inclusive of “skinny body types” it is a start, and catalyst for positive change. In the first 6 months of this campaign’s launch Dove saw a profit increase of 700%. If it’s not obvious, women want to feel accepted and beautiful. They want to see images making a statement for empowerment they can relate to. A study done with 6,400 women from ages 18-64 captures just how defeated, self-esteem wise, the female population is. “96% of the women in this study would not use the word beautify to describe themselves. Not only that, 78 percent of women said they don’t feel completely confident in their own beauty. More interesting data from the survey: 32 percent of women say their biggest beauty pressure is the one they put on themselves, and seven out of 10 women agree that beauty is more than physical appearance.” These statistics illustrate what an inaccessible concept beauty has grown to become. But again, WHY.
We as women need to understand that we are the ones deciding the types of images to promote. We hold stake in the marketplace- women actually make up 85% of consumor purchases. And a decrease of just 4% in purchases made relating to the beauty product industry in 2014 purchases took that market to an all time low. We have power. Women are the ones being advertised to, if we redefine how we see ourselves we could change labels and cultivate an empowering inclusive and accepting attitude when it comes to defining worth and beauty. It’s simple. The products we support and the ideals we appropriate through the brands we buy will be the most prominent in the popular culture. Yes, the society we live in does have an effect on how we view things, but are we not a part of what comprises that society? The opinions come from our very minds, and our actions are what truly determines what images and ideas are sellable. So if you really want to see change, subscribe to a real idea of authentic, untouched and unequivocal beauty in all its forms.