Two Ways a Woman Can Get Hurt by Jean Kilbourne

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For the longest time now, advertising has played a huge role in how we identify ourselves in the United States with the American culture, and how others identify themselves with all the cultures of the rest of the world as well. It guides us in making everyday decisions, such as what items we definitely need to invest our money on, how to dress in-vogue, and what mindset we should have to prosper the most. Although advertising does help make life easier for most, at the same time it has negative affects on the people of society as well. Advertisement discreetly manipulates the beliefs, morals, and values of our culture, and it does so in a way that most of the time we don’t even realize it’s happened. In order to reach our main goal of prospering as a nation, we need to become more aware of the damage that has already been caused by this advertising and prevent it from negatively affecting us even further.

Kilbourne’s major claim in “Two Ways a Woman Can Get Hurt” is that advertising has reached a point where bodies are portrayed as objects thereby normalizing attitudes that lead to sexual aggression. Right away the readers are able to trust and respect the word of the author because of the italicized introduction included prior to her actual argument. We learn that for the majority of Kilbourne’s career she trained and educated others in advertising, and right now is a professor at Wellesley College. “She has produced award-winning documentaries on images of women in ads (Killing Us Softly, Slim Hopes) and tobacco advertising (Pack of Lies)” (417). She was also part of the National Advisory Council on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and as of today she works with the Massachusetts Governor’s Commission on Sexual and Domestic Abuse. With all this experience in the field of advertising and abuse, it becomes almost impossible to question Kilbourne’s credibility and therefore serving as the piece’s ethical appeal.

Being herself a woman, she attempts to plea emotionally to every other woman out there that she sees has been corrupted and dishonored by the continuous publication of ads pertaining to sex in one way or the other. “Sex in advertising is pornographic because it dehumanizes and objectifies people, especially women, and because it fetishizes products, imbues them with an erotic charge – which dooms us to disappointment since products never can fulfill our sexual desires or meet our emotional needs” (417). Her appeal to pathos not only generates an emotional response but rather allows them to identify with her point of view as well. “Alcohol’s role has different meaning for men and women, however. If a man is drunk when he commits a rape, he is considered less responsible. If a woman is drunk (or has had a drink or two or simply met the man in a bar), she is considered more responsible” (423). Kilbourne emphasizes the irony of society considering sexual aggression, referring to an ad that bluntly implies that men should never trust a woman’s “no”; how absurd it is that for men, rape is practically encouraged, while a woman’s beauty, something beyond control, is something women are held accountable for (424).

Kilbourne logically argues her case through reasoning. She structures this piece by including a series of rhetorical questions that in a way force the reader to be open-minded and flexible taking into account such a controversial topic, and then proceeds to answer these questions supporting her claims with actual published ads. She clearly and thoroughly examined how violence and the publicity given to sexually charged advertisement corrupts people’s mindset of themselves and others around them, particularly for women and girls. “It is hard for girls not to learn self-hatred in an environment in which there is such widespread and open contempt for women and girls” (438). Because in a way we have become per say “numb” to these images of violence and degrading of women, we don’t realize that we...
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