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Thoughts On Kilbourne

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Thoughts on Kilbourne

After reading the quote on the cover of Jeanne Kilbourne’s piece “the more you subtract the more you add, ” I paused, in disbelief. Looking at the poor girl sitting on the cover- I felt perplexed. As I looked into the models eyes the look on her face seemed to convey it all вЂ" “be real like me, even if I’m absent of a mental state.” A curious thing happened next. I felt somewhat fixated. Why am I still so intrigued? Why am I willing to give the time of day to a girl that appears to be psychologically impaired? Just by her looks, that’s how. Just by the way she looks at you, she is telling you that she has this idea. Moreover, it completely occupies her mind; you can see this by her body language she’s onto something and you want it. The girl without a voice is saying something. Something resembling, it’s good, very good; it’s useful, satisfying. This powerful use of imagery is just one of many examples of how young women’s bodies are being used in the mass advertising industry to sell, sell, sell.

For the purpose of this paper, I will center my attention on Kilbourne’s submission that young girls are extremely desirable to advertisers because they are new consumers that are obsessed with their bodies (Kilbourne, 1999). Using Kilbourne’s proposal, I will consider both the media and lack of positive role models as factors in presenting my focused opinion on the psychological challenges young girls face as they interact with images in our media and culture.

Studies show that teen-age girls watch over twenty hours of television a week, see 20,000 television advertisements a year, listen frequently to the radio and CDs, watch hours of music videos, read fashion magazines and newspapers, and play videogames (Lapp, 1997). Even though the statistics are over a decade old, the media both in print and on screen still is a persistent and powerful influence on young teenagers. It not only inspires them but it also has the ability to legitimize what it portrays.

I agree with Kilbourne that the mass media does have the ability to spread false beliefs while creating an artificial sense of self, but I consider the media to be only one part of the problem. I believe strongly that we must take responsibility as parents and role models for these young women and set examples in our society that frame worthiness in ways other than physical characteristics or societal notion of beauty.

Authors Barbara Fredrickson and Tomi-Ann Roberts coined the term, objectification theory, which suggests that our culture socializes girls and women to internalize an observer’s perspective on their own bodies. When young girls and women internalize an observer’s perspective of their own bodies, they live much of their life in the third-person. This is called self-objectification. In other words, females learn to be more concerned with observable body attributes rather than focusing on feelings and internal bodily states. The authors also suggest that appearance monitoring, which is present in self-objectification, can increase shame, appearance anxiety and diminish awareness of internal bodily states. These experiential consequences may contribute to the development of several mental health risks, including eating disorders, unipolar depression, and sexual dysfunction (Roberts & Fredrickson, 1997).

As a culture, we live in the face of “isms” and labels everyday. I can only imagine the pressure these young teenage girls are under to conform to be something different then they are. I’m sure there must be a large number of angry, sad young girls out there. Given the task of establishing their own identity and independence, a monumental task to survive in itself, many young girls feel incredibly vulnerable during puberty and adolescence. They also must endure the confusion of not knowing whether to be true to their own convictions, which might make them social misfits or, live into an ideal that is not who they really are to be socially accepted. Author Ellen Hoodman said it most superbly in her statement “The big success story of our entertainment industry is our ability to export insecurity” (Goodman, 2004).

Just this past week on the ABC nightly news there was a story about a plus size young women named Chloe Marshall winning a beauty pageant. A contradiction in terms, right? All the same, a 17-year-old, 5 foot 10 inch, 176 lb, size 16, young women did win a beauty pageant contest in Britain. I was so happy to hear about this young girl’s accomplishment. I was also interested in what the media would say about her. I started to research her story on the Internet lets just say some awful things were written about her. In the American press from the reputable ABC on line site one headline read, “Miss England pageant winner fat, lazy and a poster girl for ill health” (JAMES, 2004). Can you believe the writer, who also is a woman, could be so cruel just because she does not conform to the catwalk size four-model image? In addition, the over the top hostility from previous beauty pageant winners was



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