Ms. Magazine
-Just the Facts
-Word: Bi
-Women to Watch
Diary 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 affect us.

Hooked on Advertising
Cultural critic Jean Kilbourne takes on ads offers new insight into the not-so-obvious messages lurking behind the luster. By Clea Simon

Consuming Passions
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

Book Reviews
On the Ms. bookshelf
Saturday's Child by Robin Morgan
The Crimson Edge: Older Women Writing (Volume Two) by Sondra Zeidenstein
Gun Women by Mary Zeiss Stange and Carol K. Oyster

Her Way by Paula Kamen
Feminism is for Everybody by bell hooks
Black, White and Jewish by Rebecca Walker
Prodigal 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
- Clippings

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


Is 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.

JUMP TO PAGE: 1 2 3 4

The woman at the podium is smiling, her voice a little breathless, as if she were just a tad nervous about her reception. The image projected behind her, a larger-than-life Revlon ad, is of a woman who is neither breathless nor smiling, but instead presents a lacquered, doll-like blankness."We are surrounded by such images of ideal beauty," says Jean Kilbourne, reminding the audience—as she has in more than a thousand college lecture halls around the country—that we are all being judged against this porcelain perfection. And that when we are compared to such a standard, "failure is inevitable."

We all eventually "have the bad taste, the poor judgment, to grow older," she says in a low and friendly voice that gains confidence the longer she talks. Kilbourne pauses as her audience murmurs with the familiar laughter of recognition. The connection has been made. They see what she sees: how the ideal is unattainable, and more importantly, how it is being used against us.

For Kilbourne, that message has become a mission. As one of the preeminent scholars on the effects of advertising, Kilbourne has shown, through lectures, films, and a book, how marketing has perfected the science of seducing us. How its glossy allure can leave us feeling somewhat less than human. In the ideal presented by advertising, "our face becomes a mask," she says to the assembled students, as she clicks through slides of cosmetics ads, all featuring flawless faces. "And our body becomes a thing." Listening to her speak, one could almost think that Kilbourne is discovering these truths for the first time. Her indignation seems so fresh and immediate that you'd never imagine she's been lecturing with unflagging passion on this topic for more than 20 years. Her voice is calm, even a little sad now that she's flashing picture after picture of women with impossibly smooth, overwhelmingly Caucasian features onto the screen. "And turning a human being into a thing," she continues, "is often the first step toward justifying violence." The next series of ads begins by showing women as props, intended to make cars or apartments more attractive; it then shifts to tight shots of butts and thighs, and finally mere parts. Dismembered limbs. Meat.

Later, sitting in the kitchen of the Victorian house she shares with her 13-year-old daughter near Boston, Kilbourne is still eager to talk about her ideas. Yes, she lives this stuff. Yes, she says, there are many ads that we all recognize as sexist, the silly ones that use our bodies to advertise beer or boats, or her own personal bête noire, cigarettes. And many of us are also aware of the subliminal messages of the cosmetics industry: that we must, in the words of William Butler Yeats, "labour to be beautiful," even if that means sacrificing our health to fad diets and our money to the producers of paints and powders. Although women today are as media savvy as we've ever been, we are exposed to something like three thousand ads each day, she estimates. And so, despite our intelligence and despite our growing cynicism, the message—that we are not good enough as we are and need certain products&3151;seeps through. Add the fact that the advertising industry has gotten smarter since Kilbourne began lecturing full-time in 1977, and it's easy to see the problem. We're inundated with products to buy—and the notion that we haven't really experienced our lives unless we've bought something—whether it's a soda to watch the sunset with or a soap to make a day at work more "invigorating." CONTINUE>>

JUMP TO PAGE: 1 2 3 4