Kilbourne warns about alcohol, tobacco ads

Marlene Brueggmann

Her subject was serious, but guest lecturer Jean Kilbourne was able to fill Van Meter Auditorium with laughter.

In her presentation, “Deadly Persuasion: Advertising and Addiction,” last Wednesday, Kilbourne spoke about alcohol and tobacco and the image of women in advertising.

Megan Klawitter, a junior from Hendersonville, Tenn., attended the lecture and enjoyed Kilbourne’s style of presenting the subject.

“She was able to use statistics and facts and back it up with humor,” Klawitter said.

Kilbourne said she focuses on advertising because of its prominence in contemporary society.

“Advertising is a very powerful educational source in this country,” Kilbourne said.

The presentation lasted about 40 minutes and was accompanied by slides of popular magazine ads that glorified and encouraged consumption of addictive products.

Kilbourne said many people claim that advertisements don’t influence them, but statistics show otherwise.

Bowling Green junior Shelly Glorioso, a women’s studies student assistant, said many people are unaware of how much they are influenced by advertising.

“It is really interesting to look around the lecture hall and see the expression on people’s faces when she explained her work,” Glorioso said.

Advertisements tell people that smoking and drinking will make them more desirable and interesting, which makes sales soar, Kilbourne said.

And ads can even influence people to ignore the surgeon general’s warning label on the cigarette box. Such advertising tactics are necessary when a product is harmful.

“When you have a product that kills people, you have a problem,” Kilbourne said.

Tobacco companies in particular target children and young adults to replace the portion of their consumers who die from smoking-related diseases, Kilbourne said.

Often an unrealistic feminine image is tied into both alcohol and cigarettes. Kilbourne said that emphasis on physical perfection for women has reached a high point.

Women face an unattainable ideal in magazines. Those ideals could not be further from the truth, because most photos are retouched.

“No one looks like that,” Kilbourne said.

Klawitter saw Kilbourne’s documentary “Killing Us Softly” in her

Introduction to Women’s Studies class and is familiar with the controversial images.

“In my paintings I deal a lot with how women are portrayed in the media,” Klawitter said. “I knew it would be helpful, beneficial to me to go to the lecture.”

Jane Olmsted, director of women’s studies, said Kilbourne’s presentation appealed to students as well as faculty.

“She has a wonderful way of being challenging and doing a rigorous critique of the use of images in our culture,” Olmsted said. “I think it is devastating to see how addiction is encouraged, and she has some concrete ideas to make it better.”

After the presentation, Kilbourne signed books in the lobby.

Copies of her latest book, “Can’t Buy My Love,” were also sold. Before the lecture, the women’s studies program held a roundtable discussion with Kilbourne, faculty and students at the fine arts center.

Reach Marlene Brueggemann at [email protected]