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Killing Us Softly (Video)

Found in: health & PE; language arts & literature; social studies; 6-8; 9-12

Since 1979, author and lecturer Jean Kilbourne has analyzed the depiction of women in print and television advertising to reveal gender stereotypes. In Killing Us Softly (now in its fourth edition), she again asks us to reflect on the relationship between advertising and issues of popular culture and its relationship to sexism, eating disorders, and gender violence. Two editions (2000 and 2010) of Killing Us Softly are available on The 2010 version (45:44) uses recent ads that will be more familiar to today’s high school students, though comparing the two presentations might provide an opportunity to assess whether, as Kilbourne suggests, the problem has gotten worse. Scroll to choose series 3 or 4. An abbreviated version is available as a TEDx lecture: The Naked Truth Advertising's Image Of Women: Jean Kilbourne (15:50). Some of Kilbourne’s analysis is frank, but ads are not subtle and their suggestiveness is not lost on young adults. We've compiled additional resources to complement this study:


  • Killing Us Softly 4: Study Guide ( PDF, 212 KB, 14 pgs.) provides pre-viewing questions for discussion and writing, and outline of key points, post-viewing questions, ten assignments, and a plan for a semester-long project. The study guide includes links to a folder of JPEG images used in Killing Us Softly 4 as well as for additional assignments and handouts for Version 3.
  • Rank's Intensify/Downplay Schema ( PDF, 258 KB, 3 pgs.) is a simple and effective tool for analyzing any form of persuasion. For other models, see Overall Persuasion Methods.
  • About-Face is a website specifically designed to give women and girls tools to understand and resist negative media messages. About-Face has learning resources and features such as a gallery of offenders. A recent inmate is an App that “trims” 15 pounds from selfies.
  • Media Literacy: Gender links to About-Face and three other useful websites.


  • Body Image: Sample Lessons is a collection of five lessons for grades 6-12 dealing with media, ads, and the images of men and women.


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