Jean Kilborne Ed. D is internationally recognized for her groundbreaking work on the image of women in advertising and for her critical studies of alcohol and tobacco advertising. In the late 1960s she began her exploration of the connection between advertising and several public health issues, including violence against women, eating disorders, and addiction, and launched a movement to promote media literacy as a way to prevent these problems. A radical and original idea at the time, this approach is now mainstream and an integral part of most prevention programs. According to Susan Faludi, “Jean Kilbourneʼs work is pioneering and crucial to the dialogue of one of the most underexplored, yet most powerful, realms of American culture – advertising. We owe her a great debt.” Mary Pipher has called Kilbourne “our best, most compassionate teacher.”
Her short documentary films Killing us Softly looks at how advertising traffics in distorted and destructive ideals of femininity. Her work embodies every thing that I, and My Body My Image represents. Her work brings to light the images, messages and stereotypes that are present in advertising and marketing that inform and effect us all by creating and reinforce unrealistic, and unhealthy, perceptions of beauty, perfection, and sexuality. By exposing this information, and bringing it to our attention her work forces us to take notice and take stock of where our concepts of beauty, femininity and sexuality come from and how it is developed. It forces not only the advertising companies and brands to take responsibility but demands that we are consumers also take accountability for supporting it, but more importantly by giving us the information it empowers us, to be informed enough to make a choice! These are some of the reasons thy Jean Kilbourne is our first Body Hero of the week for 2012.