In our culture, our standards for how women must look and act are important to us. So important that they’ve become damaging to our well-being. Women have no way of escaping being judged on what they wear or how they do their hair. There is no “regular” female, free of standards, unlike a male. Nowadays, media and even language have influenced our ideals for gender conventions, mostly unconsciously.
Pressure on females to fit into these conventions is higher than ever.Media—ads, television, movies, magazines, and celebrities—is something we cannot escape. It surrounds us almost every minute of every day. Involuntarily, the average American sees “3000 ads in a day, and spends 2 years of their life watching television commercials (Kibourne). ” The disadvantages of female conventions have become bigger than ever before, and have come to driving women to extremes. Killing Us Softly 4 by Jean Kilbourne is a remarkably eye-opening documentary about how media affects our values, concepts, and ideals. As I’ve already stated, we cannot run away from advertising.
Most people believe they’re not influenced by ads, but everyone is influenced by ads, whether they like it or not. Media shows us ideals of what we should be, what everyone should strive to be. They do more than try to sell us products. What we also don’t realize is most of the images we’re fed through advertising are an unrealistic ideal. Computer retouching, also known as Photoshop, is more popular than ever in advertising, and the women on ad’s we’re comparing ourselves to, are computer created. Nobody looks like that, but we continue to compare ourselves to them.In doing so, it creates an absurd amount of pressure on women.
Our self-esteem is affected greatly. Advertisements drive women to extremes, such as plastic surgery and eating disorders. Plastic surgery is more popular than ever, and 91% of it is performed on women (Kilbourne). Breast implants are one of the most common plastic surgeries, but when done, most women lose feeling and sensation in their breasts. When we lose feeling, the procedure is less about our pleasure, and more about other people’s satisfaction with a woman’s body.Advertisements show us that aging equals terror. Botox is injected into the face to remove any signs of emotion a woman could have.
Ads also show us that women should be ashamed of what they eat, that most food is a “guilty pleasure. ” Our culture, that’s spreading to different parts of the world, has the capability to make woman everywhere to feel terrible about them selves. When a woman’s self confidence is brought down, they give themselves a “makeover” to try to look more desirable and feel better about themselves.A change of wardrobe, makeup, or hair can help a woman feel a lot better. In doing so, a woman also chooses to “mark” her self and how people see her. This brings me to Deborah Tannens essay: There is No Unmarked Woman. Tannen defines the term “marked” as “the way language alters the base meaning of a word by adding a linguistic particle (Tannen 68).
” Some examples are learn, being the unmarked word, and learnt, being marked and defining a more specific word. Marked words also convey “female” words, as opposed to unmarked words conveying “male. Just as similar, females have to make decisions about clothing and their appearance, whereas males do not; females are marked, males are unmarked. As Tannen states in the title, there is no unmarked woman. A woman has a widespread choice of decisions to make on her appearance so that she makes a statement about herself. The range of decisions for males to choose from is much narrower. Tannen examines that “men can choose styles that are marked, but they don’t have to… (Tannen 68).
” Women can’t even choose a formal title without judgment; “Mrs. ” and “Ms. ” communicate a relationship status.Tannen even goes as far as to state that writing the article on unmarked women may mark her as a feminist, not as a writer. She states “merely mentioning women and men marked me as a feminist for some (Tannen 70). ” Between these two writers, they cover a lot of common ground. A marked woman, also a woman greatly affected by advertisements, succumbs to consumerism.
Feminine qualities are devalued by advertisements; therefore being marked is also devalued. Men are portrayed in advertisements to not have any feminine qualities, thus expressing disapproval for all things feminine.Consequently, men devalue women, and feminine qualities are consistently being devalued. Human qualities are divided into two separate parts and labeled, “masculine” and “feminine. ” An unmarked man conveys being “masculine” while marked women are “feminine” and therefore not taken as seriously as men. Kilbourne states “men basically don’t live in a world in which their bodies are routinely scrutinized, criticized, and judged, whereas woman and girls do (Kilbourne). ” The disadvantages of gender conventions heavily outweigh the benefits.
In fact, I couldn’t find any reasonable benefits.Advertisements put pressure on women to choose to dress in a certain way, or do their hair this way. They put pressure on women to be wanted and beautiful. The idea that there is no marked woman is because we have such a vast variety of choices in how we look. Our ideals are inclined greatly thanks to advertising. Most marked choices that women make are because of ideals that advertisements feed us. These gender conventions will never cease, and they’ll continue to perpetuate.
Why? Well, because advertisers make a profit off of making us feel terrible about ourselves.As I stated before, when we feel our self-esteem is low, we try to “make over” ourselves. The only way to “make over” your self is through buying products. Females try to fit the ideal that’s fed to us. Females do indeed feel a lot of pressure to be desired. After watching Killing Us Softly 4, I understand where this pressure comes from. No one seems to think that advertising really affects us in any way, when you already know it greatly does.
The amounts of decisions we have to make about how we look are overwhelming.I believe that Kilbournes documentary is tremendously relieving because she’s opening people’s eyes to the fact that the media does in fact influence us. Even though Tannen tells us that there’s no escaping these judgments based off our decisions, Kilbourne lifts a weight off our shoulders by telling us that these standards are ridiculously unrealistic. More women than ever have disorders and issues because of the demand to basically look unreal, and I think that we need to start educating our youth about advertising and its harmful effects.During adolescence, we’re greatly influenced by everything around us, and I think it’d be beneficial to show children in middle school documentaries similar to Jean Kilbourne’s series of Killing Us Softly. People need to understand the images ads show us are wrong. Women will always feel pressure to be acceptable to everyone, but the pressures ads are giving women nowadays are misleading.
I believe that the fashion industry, with its ever increasingly thin models, and the advertisement industry, devaluing women and creating mpractical ideals, both have some small, but significant, changes to make. I also believe that people should be educated in advertising as it becomes harder to avoid, to understand the industry the way Kilbourne does. People should be able to have thoughts and ideals of their own.Works Cited Killing Us Softly 4. Dir. Sut Jhally. Media Education Foundation, 2010.
DVD. Tannen, Deborah. “There is No Unmarked Woman. ” ENG 701 Fall 2010 Course Packet. Ed. Alessandro Braidotti. Temple University, 2010.
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