Jean Kilbourne’s media literacy talk, ‘Deadly Persuasion’

It’s on our phones, our computers and the Internet. It adorns the walls of department stores, restaurants and malls. It’s advertising.

According to WPP plc, nearly $500 billion was spent on the already gargantuan industry in 2010 alone.

“We don’t critically turn our eyes to advertising very often,” said Claudia Lampman, professor and chair of the psychology department, “(but) it does send very strong messages to us about what is and isn’t acceptable for women and men.”

Helping turn the public’s eye to advertising as a manipulative force is feminist media critic, author and filmmaker Jean Kilbourne.

Kilbourne will give a lecture entitled “Deadly Persuasion: The Advertising of Alcohol and Tobacco” Sep. 17 at the Wendy Williamson Auditorium.

In the 1960s she began researching the connection between large-scale advertising with violence against women, eating disorders and depression.

“She has alerted us to pay attention to advertising’s images of women,” said Lampman.

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Pointing to media literacy as a tool to keep the public critical, Kilbourne has spoken at numerous colleges around the United States. Her work has garnered her numerous awards, including the Woman of the Year award in 1982 from the National Organization for Women.

She first came to prominence with her 1979 documentary “Killing Us Softly: Advertising’s Image of Women.” She has remade the film three times since.

“Her work is instrumental in looking at the effect of media images on not only women … but men as well,” said Kimberly Pace, who is the Women’s Studies department director and an interdisciplinary term assistant professor.

Kilbourne’s more recent work, including her upcoming lecture, focuses on alcohol and tobacco advertising, which she posits is just as, if not more, harmful than other forms of advertising.

“We have all these young, healthy people alive with pleasure,” Kilbourne said in a promotional video for her “Deadly Persuasion” lecture, “which I’m sure beats ‘dead with cancer’ as a slogan.”

Kilbourne’s razor-sharp wit and insight has influenced entire fields of researchers and professors.

“She has shaped my career — not just as a professor, but as a researcher a well,” said Lampman. “She’s definitely one of my heroes.”

Pace also shares Lampman’s point of view.

“The research she has done is critically important to any young person, particularly in the college arena,” Pace said. “She’s a hero … I’m so deeply grateful that we can get her at UAA.”


Jean Kilbourne will present “Deadly Persuasion: The Advertising of Alcohol and Tobacco” at 7 p.m. Sept. 17 at the Wendy Williamson Auditorium. There will be a book signing afterward. This event is free for UAA students and the public.