OPINION | Documentary represents real women and ads’ flaws

Advertising attacks women with constant images that demean, objectify and subordinate them.

That’s the premise of “Miss Representation,” a documentary showing this week on campus.

I hope to see a packed house and not just with women.

According to the organization’s website, “the film…exposes how American youth are being sold the concept that women and girls’ value lies in their youth, beauty and sexuality.”

Some people, including some of my classmates, believe that the feminist revolution is over, that women are now equal in society.

Counter arguments may suggest that women do not have to listen to these ads, that advertising does not affect people or that men are portrayed unrealistically, too.

But according to Jean Kilbourne, a feminist activist who appears in the documentary, only 5 percent of women have the body type used in almost all advertising.

The first point is only true in a fantasy world where advertisements aren’t everywhere.

And on the sidebar of every Facebook or YouTube page, targeted ads clamor for attention.

According to the documentary, the average American woman spends 10.4 hours a week consuming media.

Billboards, television commercials, magazines, radio ads and a dozen other forms of advertising intrude on all of our lives

Most of the time, they do not even register with our conscious minds.

But almost all of us buy and eat almost exclusively brand-name food.

Another simple test: observe what Butler University students, faculty and staff wear.

I recognize the vast majority of the labels and logos without even thinking about it.

Studies done by sociologists and marketing companies alike show that the second point is perfectly ludicrous.

Of course advertising works.

Finally, some people argue that men are portrayed unfairly as well.

I offer no argument.

Men in media are portrayed as ridiculous stereotypes of body builders, who shrug off explosions and wrestle sharks on their vacations.

But the stereotypes have completely different implications.

Men in advertising are often shown to be physically and socially dominant.

Women, more often than not, are put on display, beckoning the viewer and taking up as little space as possible.

So yes, the stereotypes cut both ways.

But a stereotypically influenced man feels angst over how unfulfilling it is to be a lonely alpha male—or just exalts in his superiority.

The woman who has been victimized by stereotypes instead looks at herself in the mirror and finds herself lacking.

“Miss Representation” attempts to reveal a very simple truth of advertising in relation to women:

In order to sell anything, one must address a need in the consumer. Where there is not a need, one must be made apparent.

Watch the next cosmetic commercial that comes on. And I mean actually watch and listen to it. Chances are the incredibly bubbly narrator will announce how their formula will banish all fears of age, pores, eye color, etc.

In other words, the ads pre-suppose that women are worried about these things. And while one ad is simply noise, 10.4 hours a week of bombardment takes a toll on everyone.

Perhaps after reading this, you will feel, like many Americans do, that I am exaggerating or ignoring free will.

I have good news: The documentary will be playing Thursday night, and I’ll be there, along with several members of the community who are certainly more knowledgeable than I am.

The film will show at Butler on Nov. 17, at 7 p.m. in the Pharmacy Building Room 150.

Bring concerns and arguments, and enjoy the show.


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