Nothing has ever pinpointed the exact inner feelings and thoughts I have as a woman as well as Jean Kilbourne’s “The More You Subtract, The More You Add”: Cutting Girls Down to Size in Advertising.” How do I have confidence but not too much confidence? How do I act sexy and virginal at the same time? Why are sweet, nice, and kind only feminine qualities?
Kilbourne explains how the thoughts I have about how I’m supposed to act were implemented into mind starting at a very young age. Many of these gender roles, which are a social construct, are partly due to advertising. While advertising is not a direct cause of our behavior, there is no doubt that they have an influence on our mind. There are countless examples of ads where all that is represented for the woman is her body, while the man is represented for his intelligence and strength. Ads show both women and men what their bodies should look like. Women must be thin, tall, light-skinned, and look all around “feminine,” while men must have muscles, height, and look powerful. How did this become the mythical norm? Women are also often in submissive positions, or covering their mouth as if they’re not supposed to have a voice. As if they’re supposed to “just sit there and look pretty.” “At the same time there is relentless pressure on women to be small, there is also pressure on us to succeed, to achieve, to “have it all.” We can be successful as long as we stay “feminine” (Kilbourne).
My class group and I made a presentation about this topic and one of the most challenging questions we asked was, “What is the best way we can combat these negative images? How would you educate yourself, and others, on media literacy?” Well, as many of us are journalism and advertising students, a few answers mentioned were to maintain ethics in our work, to not let negative images get published. Others suggested that classes such as the one we are in, race and gender in the media, should be taught beginning at a much younger age. It’s true, classes like this aren’t offered until college, yet we are influenced by advertising and social constructions even at infant age. We must rethink the way we view the media. Now that I have a better understanding of the influence the media can have on our self- image, I can better combat these messages for myself and for others-and to think for myself.