Slim Hopes: Advertising & the Obsession With Thinness

watch video:  Slim Hopes

Jean Kilbourne’s award-winning video offers an in-depth analysis of how female bodies are depicted in advertising images and the devastating effects of those images on women’s health. Addressing the relationship between these images and the obsession of girls and women with dieting and thinness, Slim Hopes offers a new way to think about life-threatening eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, and a well-documented critical perspective on the social impact of advertising.

The average woman in the United States today is 5’4”, 140 pounds. The average model is 5’11”, 117 pounds. 1 In Slim Hopes, Jean Kilbourne explores the nature and implications of this striking disconnect between fantasy and reality.

Given the severity of the gap between cultural ideals of beauty and the actual physical appearance of women in our society, Kilbourne argues that it should not be surprising that eighty percent of American women say they are dissatisfied with how they look and that almost half of American women report being on a diet on any given day.

She explores this sense of women’s alienation from their own bodies by critically examining the restrictive portrayals of the female body in advertising and the relationship of these portrayals to the obsession of girls and women with dieting and thinness. She argues that advertising messages and the media’s incessant focus on celebrities shape what our culture views as desirable, and in the process shows how abnormal thinness comes to be conflated with normative definitions of beauty. The result, she argues, is that a large segment of the female population is left wanting.