Jean Kilbourne, Ed.D. is internationally recognized for her pioneering work on the image of women in advertising and her critical studies of alcohol and tobacco advertising. She is the author of the award-winning book Can’t Buy My Love:How Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel and co-author of So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids. She is interviewed on today's Five Questions by her daughter, Claudia Kilbourne Lux, an activist for women's sexual health.

 

1. You began your work by speaking and making films about images and the world of the media. How did you find the experience of translating your lectures into Can’t Buy My Love? Was it difficult or did the process come easily to you?

 

The process was really difficult, on many different levels. The first hurdle was getting publishers to accept the risk of using advertisements without permission. I just did it in my lectures and films because I knew that the Fair Use Doctrine offered some protection (even though it hadn’t been tested in the courts). But publishers were not willing to take the risk. So it took me years to get a book published. I had to wait for the climate to change and for more people to be using images – and by that time a lot of my radical and original ideas had become mainstream.

 

Of course, I could use far fewer images in a book than in a film or lecture. So I had to make my points without the dramatic presentation of a series of images. This was challenging. But it was also good because I had much more time and space to expand my ideas. My films are generally about 30 minutes long and my lectures about 50 minutes. It was luxurious to have a whole book.

 

2. In Can’t Buy My Love you discuss your own relationship with alcohol, and how seductive the drinking culture can be. How much do you feel the advertisements for alcohol contributed to the glamorization of drinking in your personal experience, and how were you able to overcome their power? When did you feel the shift from seeing them as something that made you want to drink to something that made you think critically?

 

Of course, I would never say or imply that alcohol ads made me or anyone else an alcoholic. Alcoholism is a disease and most (but not all) alcoholics have a genetic predisposition. However, most diseases have environmental triggers. The alcohol industry, through the billions spent every year on advertising and its enormous influence on the media and politicians and the popular culture, creates an environment that normalizes and glamorizes high-risk drinking and that minimizes or erases signs of trouble. I grew up at a time when there was very little information about alcoholism (or addiction to cigarettes either) – almost no health information, no warnings, no public policy, no prevention programs. Drinking and smoking both seemed to me to be very adult and sophisticated and glamorous activities.

 

I stopped drinking about a year or so before I started studying alcohol and tobacco ads. I remember thinking, after just a few months, with absolute horror (Absolut Horror!) that the alcohol and tobacco industries understood addiction better than any other group in the country. And they were using this knowledge to hook people and keep them hooked. Understanding this – and the subsequent rage I felt – helped me resist their power.

 

3. Your most recent book, So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and How Parents Can Protect Their Kids, addresses at what an early age girls are adopting mainstream sexualized images of female identity and how damaging this can be to their confidence and sense of self. How do you feel raising a daughter influenced your opinion on this topic?

 

I was concerned about this topic long before I had a daughter. I talked about the sexualization of little girls in the first version of “Killing Us Softly: Advertising’s Image of Women,” which I made in 1979. But certainly having a daughter made the issue much more personal and more devastating. It also gave me a lot of real-life examples to use in my work!


4. What advice would you give to someone else who was experienced in another field of expression, say music or visual art, who then wanted to translate that into writing?

 

First of all, I would encourage them to do it because it is a fascinating and highly educational experience. It’s also a way to reach a wider audience, potentially – although in my case far more people have seen my films than have read my books! It might be helpful to discuss the process with other artists who have or who want to do the same thing. It seems easier these days to explore art in different forms. Such as the poetry in motion series on YouTube.

 

5. Aren’t you so happy I was a girl?! No but seriously, having a daughter must make you think about the next step for feminism, and what’s happening currently. What do you most want to see young women writing about right now? Where should we go from here?

 

I was overjoyed to have a daughter, perhaps especially because it happened so late in life (I was forty-four). You have been the greatest source of joy in my life and a truly wonderful teacher, in many ways. Raising you made me feel closer to my own mother (who died when I was nine). It made me more aware of the enormous power of socialization and stereotypes and the influence they have no matter how careful and conscientious parents are. You were such a happy and confident little girl and it broke my heart to see your self-esteem drop when you hit adolescence. I admire the ways you got through that time without major damage.

 

Watching you and your friends become young women gives me a lot of hope for the future of feminism (and the future in general). I love how open and honest and affectionate you are with each other. I’d like to see young women talking with older women –learning from them and educating them too. Among other things, young women can teach us older women a lot about all the new technology and new ways of communicating. I love the joie de vivre and the sassiness of many young feminists. And we older women can keep our history alive for you and help you realize how much is at stake and how we have to continue to fight for our rights and our freedom.

 

***

Claudia Kilbourne Lux is the director of sexual health for the New York based non-profit Daughters Rising. The organization works with female artisans in Nepal, Thailand and Mexico to create beautiful, ethical and sustainable products while paying above fair trade wages. The proceeds are used to establish educational Girls Clubs within each artisan community, where girls learn how to be healthy and strong young women. Daughters Rising is having a website launch event on February 15th at Gallery MC (549 West 52nd Street, 8th Floor) 7-10pm. Learn more and RSVP to the event on She Writes!

a,palatino;">Jean Kilbourne, Ed.D. is internationally recognized for her pioneering work on the image of women in advertising and her critical studies of alcohol and tobacco advertising. She is the author of the award-winning book Can’t Buy My Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel and co-author of So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids. She is interviewed on today's Five Questions by her daughter, Claudia Kilbourne Lux, an activist for women's sexual health.

 

 

1.  You began your work by speaking and making films about images and the world of the media.  How did you find the experience of translating your lectures into Can’t Buy My Love?  Was it difficult or did the process come easily to you?

 

The process was really difficult, on many different levels.  The first hurdle was getting publishers to accept the risk of using advertisements without permission.  I just did it in my lectures and films because I knew that the Fair Use Doctrine offered some protection (even though it hadn’t been tested in the courts).  But publishers were not willing to take the risk.  So it took me years to get a book published.  I had to wait for the climate to change and for more people to be using images – and by that time a lot of my radical and original ideas had become mainstream.

 

Of course, I could use far fewer images in a book than in a film or lecture.  So I had to make my points without the dramatic presentation of a series of images.  This was challenging.  But it was also good because I had much more time and space to expand my ideas.  My films are generally about 30 minutes long and my lectures about 50 minutes.  It was luxurious to have a whole book.

 

2.   In Can’t Buy My Love you discuss your own relationship with alcohol, and how seductive the drinking culture can be.  How much do you feel the advertisements for alcohol contributed to the glamorization of drinking in your personal experience, and how were you able to overcome their power?  When did you feel the shift from seeing them as something that made you want to drink to something that made you think critically?

 

Of course, I would never say or imply that alcohol ads made me or anyone else an alcoholic.  Alcoholism is a disease and most (but not all) alcoholics have a genetic predisposition.  However, most diseases have environmental triggers.  The alcohol industry, through the billions spent every year on advertising and its enormous influence on the media and politicians and the popular culture, creates an environment that normalizes and glamorizes high-risk drinking and that minimizes or erases signs of trouble.  I grew up at a time when there was very little information about alcoholism (or addiction to cigarettes either) – almost no health information, no warnings, no public policy, no prevention programs.  Drinking and smoking both seemed to me to be very adult and sophisticated and glamorous activities.

 

I stopped drinking about a year or so before I started studying alcohol and tobacco ads.  I remember thinking, after just a few months, with absolute horror (Absolut Horror!) that the alcohol and tobacco industries understood addiction better than any other group in the country.  And they were using this knowledge to hook people and keep them hooked.  Understanding this – and the subsequent rage I felt – helped me resist their power.

 

3.  Your most recent book, So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and How Parents Can Protect Their Kids, addresses at what an early age girls are adopting mainstream sexualized images of female identity and how damaging this can be to their confidence and sense of self.  How do you feel raising a daughter influenced your opinion on this topic?

 

I was concerned about this topic long before I had a daughter.  I talked about the sexualization of little girls in the first version of “Killing Us Softly: Advertising’s Image of Women,” which I made in 1979.  But certainly having a daughter made the issue much more personal and more devastating.   It also gave me a lot of real-life examples to use in my work!


4.  What advice would you give to someone else who was experienced in another field of expression, say music or visual art, who then wanted to translate that into writing?

 

First of all, I would encourage them to do it because it is a fascinating and highly educational experience.  It’s also a way to reach a wider audience, potentially – although in my case far more people have seen my films than have read my books!  It might be helpful to discuss the process with other artists who have or who want to do the same thing.  It seems easier these days to explore art in different forms.  Such as the poetry in motion series on YouTube.

 

5.  Aren’t you so happy I was a girl?! No but seriously, having a daughter must make you think about the next step for feminism, and what’s happening currently.  What do you most want to see young women writing about right now?  Where should we go from here?

 

I was overjoyed to have a daughter, perhaps especially because it happened so late in life (I was forty-four).  You have been the greatest source of joy in my life and a truly wonderful teacher, in many ways.  Raising you made me feel closer to my own mother (who died when I was nine).  It made me more aware of the enormous power of socialization and stereotypes and the influence they have no matter how careful and conscientious parents are.  You were such a happy and confident little girl and it broke my heart to see your self-esteem drop when you hit adolescence.  I admire the ways you got through that time without major damage.

 

Watching you and your friends become young women gives me a lot of hope for the future of feminism (and the future in general).  I love how open and honest and affectionate you are with each other.  I’d like to see young women talking with older women –learning from them and educating them too.  Among other things, young women can teach us older women a lot about all the new technology and new ways of communicating.  I love the joie de vivre and the sassiness of many young feminists.  And we older women can keep our history alive for you and help you realize how much is at stake and how we have to continue to fight for our rights and our freedom. 

 

***

Claudia Kilbourne Lux is the director of sexual health for the New York based non-profit Daughters Rising. The organization works with female artisans in Nepal, Thailand and Mexico to create beautiful, ethical and sustainable products while paying above fair trade wages. The proceeds are used to establish educational Girls Clubs within each artisan community, where girls learn how to be healthy and strong young women. Daughters Rising is having a website launch event on February 15th at Gallery MC (549 West 52nd Street, 8th Floor) 7-10pm. Learn more and RSVP to the event on She Writes!

Views: 587

Tags: #issues we face, 5questions, Jean Kilbourne, activism, addiction, feminist

Comment

You need to be a member of She Writes to add comments!

Join She Writes

Comment by Claudia Kilbourne Lux on February 11, 2011 at 6:51am

Thanks Becky!  I'm so excited to be a part of She Writes!  (Needless to say, I'm also a fan of Ms. Kilbourne's myself!) :)

Comment by Becky Gjendem on February 10, 2011 at 10:38pm

Awesome. I've been a fan of Jean Kilbourne's for some time. Now? I'm a fan of Claudia's. :)

Latest Activity

Fi Phillips replied to the discussion 'What did you blog about today?' in the group Bloggers: Let's Make It Work!
23 minutes ago
Fi Phillips posted a status
"What are you doing for Hallowe'en? http://j.mp/1zmPiqB"
23 minutes ago
Sophfronia Scott posted a blog post

Who's Afraid of Writing?

In honor of Halloween I’m addressing the ghostly presence that haunts all writers: the blank screen/page. I haven’t thought…See More
37 minutes ago
Shannon Vest liked Chrys Fey's discussion 13 Fun Halloween Facts
1 hour ago

Members

Badge

Loading…

© 2014   Created by Kamy Wicoff.

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service