August 13, 2010

Ladies! Grab Your Wallet & Cast Your Ballots!

Filed under: Advertising,Media,Politics — Tags: , , , — Lani @ 3:56 pm

Reposted with permission from

Today, when we go to the market or Target or even the convenience store we are asked 9 times out of 10 if we would like to add a donation to our purchase to save the whales or feed the children or save little Timmy’s music education program. That’s pretty new. (There have been donation boxes for as long as I can remember, but this is still pretty new). It is an easy, near effortless way to make a contribution to an organization that is working to make someone, somewhere’s life a little better while buying our (toxic) laundry detergent or tonight’s (genetically modified) dinner. NGOs have learned how to make it easy on us. Add on a dollar, send a text, etc.

This simple action makes us feel good. But, I’m really not concerned about whether or not you feel good about yourself when you’re buying your (paraben infused) shampoo; I’m concerned about what’s in our shopping carts at the time of said purchases…..

American women hold 60% of the personal wealth in the United States, influence 85% of the purchasing decisions, and are the number 3 market in the world! Bigger than Japan! And even in 2010, American women do more than 90% of the shopping for our families. There are countless studies and market research companies that are trying to understand how to get and keep the “voting” dollars of American women. We all know that fashion magazines are mostly advertisements….you have to flip through 30 ads in a Vogue before you get to the table of contents!

That being said, with the simplest of our daily purchases we are casting a ballot. We are by default acknowledging and approving of the business strategies and practices of the companies that we are buying from. Wal-Mart? Archer Daniels Midland? Monsanto? McDonald’s? Chevron? Or, god-forbid, BP?!

It may not seem very “feminist” to tell women that they have the collective buying power of an entire nation. Is that really a way that we want to have “power?” But, really that is a huge, huge power to wield! We have the power to make or break entire product lines and corporations by utilizing a collective sense of ethical consumerism! I know, I know – it sounds like a lot of work & responsibility. But, to help you out on your own research journey – here are a few websites: Ethical Consumer (U.K. based, but as so many corporations are now global they have some really great information), Treehugger,, and BrandKarma (a new site with great potential).

I hope that the next time you go shopping you will consider the global impact that your seemingly tiny, insignificant decisions are making on other people, in other places, that are probably far less fortunate that we are.

June 29, 2010

Why American Apparel Sucks

Interview: Jennifer Berger on About Face and American Apparel

Originally posted at Feminist Frequency. Cross-posted with permission.

For full post, related articles and transcript, click here.

Aditional links provided by Feminist Fatale:

April 21, 2010

RELEASED: Killing Us Softly 4

It’s no secret that Jean Kilbourne is an influence on my perspective and my work (I cite her here, here, here, here and here). She is a pioneer and an icon to scholars and activists committed to promoting media literacy.

I was first introduced to Kilbourne’s work in 2001 with the 3rd and most recent installment (at the time) of her legendary lecture on images of women in advertising, Killing Us Softly 3. Coupling wit and sass with an eye-opening examination of taken-for-granted themes in advertising, Kilbourne helped me develop a more critical and analytical eye. I was truly changed and continued to show that film every semester for the next 9 years.

After nearly a decade, I can recite every line from her film and am less surprised (but no less outraged by) by the disturbing, and often horrific images created by ad execs and other media makers. But the film is no less relevant or important and, sadly, the images she deconstructs have remained fairly unchanged. Every semester, my new crop of students continue to be shocked awake by her film, the blinder peeled away. Her words and the images she discusses continue to be important and meaningful despite the 4 decades that she has spent discussing this topic.  After all, not much has changed. This is why I am so happy that Kilbourne and the Media Education Foundation have released an updated version, Killing Us Softly 4.

For more on the themes and patterns mentioned in her series of films, read Kilbourne’s book Can’t But My Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel.

Check out Jennifer Pozner‘s 2001 article and interview with Kilbourne, You’re soaking in it, an examination ofadvertising’s increasing encroachment into every niche of mass media impact our culture in general, and women in particular.”

April 16, 2010

Advertised Masculinity

Filed under: Media,Media Gallery — Tags: , , — Melanie @ 4:40 pm

I’m still rummaging through my ad archives and feverishly scanning parts of my massive collection. Lets see how advertisers represent masculinity (circa 2004-2005). NOTE: For more on masculinity, see the work of my hero, Jackson Katz.

1. Sexual. So sexually ravenous and energetic that they need protein-infused energy bars to handle all that action.

2. Hey, men are so horny that they try to get it at work. In the second ad sexual harassment becomes a joke.

3. Violent as depicted in this ad featuring brand names Tommy Hilfiger, Diesel and Puma. Note the open pornographic magazine on the floor. Timely in light of Robert Jensen‘s recently posted interview on pornography, masculinity, racism, misogyny and media literacy.

NOTE: Often, violence/aggression and sexuality are interwoven in the construction of masculinity. Search or click on the categories at left: violence, sexuality, aggression, masculinity for related posts.

4. Stoic, unemotional and/or uninterested in relationships. “Disposable, just like your ex.” Stuff Magazine, 2004.

5. The photo below the disposable razor ad is a picture that accompanied an article in FHM titled “How to Dump Your Ex.”


April 15, 2010

Marc Jacobs is a Mysogynist

Filed under: Media,Media Gallery — Tags: , , , , — Melanie @ 10:06 pm

What other explanation is there for a company that continues to create ad campaigns that depict women as 1. disposable 2. victims, sometimes disposable victims.

If you saw the ad round-up posted recently, you have seen the patterns, image after image reinforcing narrow and limiting themes of women in advertising.  To see the images lined up next to one another takes on a remarkable quality and produces a powerful impact. I know it did for me when I saw all of the ads put together, even after 15 years of conscious and critical analysis.

With that said, I’ve seen scores and scores of ads as a consumer and even more through the lens of a media critic and, unsurprisingly, in that process I have become a bit desensitized. Oh, another super skinny model, another model posed passively, and on it goes. I’ve seen such awful ads that many have become less shocking because there are others that are so much worse.

Marc Jacobs continues to strike me with the blatant devaluing of women and the often brutal or degrading circumstances in which they are depicted. The two below are no expection.

Top: Marc Jacobs ad from the March 2010 issue of Harper’s Bazaar (Kate Moss is on the cover)

Bottom: Marc Jacobs ad from the March 2010 issue of W (Megan Fox on the cover).

They’re both disturbing (and entirely unnecessary to sell whatever they’re trying to sell: the bag? the shoes?) but the bottom is one is what really made me cringe. Do we need to draw on rape scenes of women assaulted in back alleys? It reminds me of the Marc Jacobs ad campaign circa 2005 when shoes were being sold by placing them on models whose feet would be attached to a lifeless body on the ground, legs poking out from behind a bush. Yup, more images of disposabe, victimized women. I’ll be rummaging through my collection of ads to post them if you’re in the least bit skeptical or doubt me.

So, not much has changed in 5 years. In fact, not much has changed in over 30 years. Check out the vintage ad for shoes from 1974 that Ms.Blog posted yesterday. The fact that these images have not changed drastically in several decades solidifies my commitment to remaining vigilant and using my media literacy skills to call out the misogynistic companies that use victimized, brutalized and disposable women as ways to make a profit. Shame on you.

March 18, 2010

Ad round-up: Advertising as mainstream porn

Jean Kilbourne has had it right for years. She said that “advertisements are America’s real pornographer” and ads have made porn mainstream.

We owe her immense gratitude for shifting the lens on advertising and making advertising a subject of inquiry to take seriously. I’ve been influenced, inspired and indebted to her since I saw Killing Us Softly 3: Advertising’s Image of Women in 2001. I mean, I’d been a feminist for nearly a decade at that point, studying the mass media for approximately 6 years and I knew advertisers weren’t exactly the most noble of folks. Advertisers have always been in existence to sell a product by any means necessary.

But to see  ad after ad, reinforcing the same images and themes over and over again was mind blowing. Her film was the final piece of the puzzle. I continued to examine and collect ads in the same way Kilbourne did at the beginning of her inquiry decades before.

Each semester my students collect and deconstruct ads. In my newly created class, Women and Popular Culture (my dream class if you will), Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency created a blog for the students and myself to share our observations, thoughts and create a collective resource base and solidify the community. It is in this incredible virtual space that my students posted 3 ads they chose to deconstruct. Kristin E. caught on to the intensity of these advertising messages after seeing one after the other posted, creating an eerie and pornified collage. She took it upon herself to take many of the images the class had posted and put them together. After all these years, to examine the ads in this way, is still shocking and disturbing.

Take a peek.

NOTE: Edited April 16, 2010 after several people emailed me about the spoof ad in the round-up. I’m glad some people are paying attention and are already familiar with ad spoofs and culture jamming. Can *you* spot the spoof ad? Do you know who created it? Answer below in the comments.




May 20, 2009

Advertisers have sunk to a new low

I’ve been scrutinizing and collecting advertisements for over a decade thanks to the work of Jean Kilbourne and my studies in media literacy.  I’ve seen some terrible ones over the years.

But, this one…Via, this one is one of the most revolting advertisements I have ever seen.

March 31, 2009

Don't stop believing…advertisement's beauty claims through the century

Seth sent this article on a century of manufacturers making outrageous claims to the masses that they can deliver the unrealistic image of beauty coveted in that particular time period. So far, I have yet to see a product or service truly deliver on their promise.  But, we continue to buy these products and services at a fantastic rate.

As the article points out, most people know that the product will not deliver but continue to believe it might. Healthy eating habits, exercise, hydration and geneticsplay the most important role in how we look.  So, why do we continue to believe the hype?

Well, we live in a culture that relies on instant gratification and faith.  Together, instant gratification and faith, mixed with a mediated culture that churns out advertisements containing airbrushed and photoshopped images at a dizzying rate with a remarkable increase year to year and it’s no surprise that people continue to consume these promises despite the overall failure tyo deliver.

We’re trained to be consumers from the time we are toddlers and we are assaulted with glossy images at every turn.  Take a look around and make note of how many spaces and how many times a day you are NOT prone to an advertisement. As this article depicts, this is not necessarily something new.  What has changed, though, is the degree to which we are subject to the messages from advertisers, the value of physical beauty above all else and the unrealistic and unattainable definition of beauty that is being sold.