Women’s Center program examines body image, advertising connection

The Women’s Center at GW’s Mount Vernon campus hosted a discussion about body image Wednesday night, inspired by the National Organization of Women’s “Love Your Body Day.”

Coordinated by University graduate students in charge of the center, Janice Cori and Ruthie Vishlitzky, the event was intended as part celebration and part informative seminar. For the handful of students who attended, the meeting commenced with the viewing of a brief film. “Still Killing Us Softly” is a documentary on the effects on women of negative images in advertising, narrated by Harvard University Professor Jean Kilbourne.

The movie touched on society’s view of women today. It focused on various advertising media like television, newspapers, magazines and the Internet, and the problems women encounter with each one.

Kilbourne criticized the advertising industry for its portrayal of women, but conceded that advertisements do not directly incite violent or negative behavior toward women. Still, she maintained the derogatory portrayal of women creates an environment in which such behavior is acceptable.

She presented how, in some advertising, women are portrayed as sexual objects. In ads for pantyhose, for example, a woman’s leg is all that is shown. In an ad for lipstick, it is only her lips. In this way, she is objectified and dehumanized, the professor argued. She asked, how can an object feel any pain? This is the subconscious rationale that has culminated from years of male chauvinist advertising, according to Kilbourne.

After the film, Cori and Vishlitzky spurred discussion of the ideas presented in the video. Topics varied from reiteration of the key concepts Kilbourne laid out, to degradation of women in cyberspace, to the negative effects of unhealthy campus food on women in college.

The Women’s Center is in the process of planning many other events, including speakers on eating disorders, Cori said.

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