This paper will examine Jean Kilbourne’s YouTube videos “Killing Us Softly" and "Still Killing Us Softly", discussing their innate messages on the portrayal of gender roles in advertising. Advertising reaffirms stereotypical gender roles.
According to Kilbourne (271), contemporary advertising focuses mainly on selling sex, and sex, in advertising, is pornographic. This is because it not only objectifies but also dehumanizes the subjects in the advert, particularly women. Advertising objectifies women and certain men, portraying them as easy, innocent, passive, needy and submissive persons. This underpins the typecast that women are second-rate to men or are less human than their male counterparts. In addition, advertisements continually portray women as sex objects to increase sales. This use of women as sex objects emanates from the mindset that, regardless of their age or social status, women are primarily nymphets, seductive and sexually instable (Kilbourne 281). This portrayal of women as objects only serves to fuel violence against women. The message portrayed by advertisements appeals to male customers, as well as female customers, who begin to believe that the ideal woman should look, act and feel the way a man wants. Ironically, the ideal woman portrayed in advertisements such as Axe and beer commercials as sexy yet innocent, beautiful and perfect and thin yet well nourished, does not exist in reality. When male and female characters appear on an advertisement, the females are portrayed as easy, passive and needy. However, when only female characters appear, they are portrayed as passive, innocent and aggressive at the same time.
On the other hand, advertising portrays men as powerful and highly dominant characters that are assertive, tough and experienced. This further reaffirms the traditional role of men within society. In essence, advertising also subtly encourages male violence by portraying the