LSU concluded its 2010 Women’s History Month program with a lecture by Jean Kilbourne and the presentation of the Esprit de Femme Awards. Pictured (from left to right): Katrice Albert, vice provost of the LSU Office of Equity, Diversity and Community Outreach; Esprit de Femme Award recipient Becki Kondkar; Kilbourne, internationally recognized expert on the image of women; Esprit de Femme Award recipient Irma Thomas; and Catherine Hopkins, director of the LSU Women’s Center.

LSU Concludes Women’s History Month with Celebrated Speaker and Awards Presentation

“To not be influenced by advertising would be to live outside the culture. No human being lives outside of culture. We are all influenced by advertising to some degree.”

The average American is bombarded with more than 3,000 advertisements each day, from television and radio commercials to billboards, magazines and on the Internet. And while most people believe that they are not affected by advertising, the quote above by Sut Jhally, professor of communication at the University of Massachusetts, demonstrates how advertisements can and do shape attitudes and affect the way people see themselves and others.

On Monday, March 29, LSU and the Women's Center concluded its Women's History Month program with the lecture, "The Naked Truth: Advertising's Image of Women," by keynote speaker Jean Kilbourne, internationally recognized expert on the image of women in advertising and the media. Following Kilbourne's presentation, the Women's Center celebrated the accomplishments of two special women. The 2010 LSU Women's Center Esprit de Femme Awards were presented to Grammy award-winning blues singer Irma Thomas and Tulane law professor Becki Kondkar, deputy director of the Domestic Violence Clinic.

Once named one of the three most popular speakers on college campuses by The New York Times Magazine, Kilbourne has been recognized for her pioneering work on the image of women in advertising, exposing how images used in advertising can have negative consequences on society, and her critical studies of alcohol and tobacco advertising. Many of her original ideas are now part of mainstream thinking, including the connection among the objectification of women and violence and how tobacco advertising exploited women with themes of liberation and weight control.


Jean Kilbourne (center) and Becki Kondkar (left) met with members of the audience at a reception following the Women’s History Month program.

"I've been doing this for 40 years," said Kilbourne. "I was totally alone when I started and everything I said was completely radical. People thought I was crazy. And now, my radical ideas are mainstream, and I'm not alone anymore. People are beginning to address these issues and take them seriously so it's no time to give up."

The award-winning documentary film series, "Killing Us Softly: Advertising’s Image of Women," which is based on Kilbourne's lectures, is among the most popular educational films of all time. In addition, she has been interviewed by major media outlets across the country including Time magazine, Newsweek magazine, The New York Times, the Today Show, 20/20 and the Oprah Winfrey Show.

Kilbourne's lecture, "The Naked Truth," focused on how the images that are used in advertising, from clothing to cars to food, can affect a society's values. By using advertisements that are viewed daily in mainstream society, she explained how gender representation can negatively shape views on beauty, self worth, sexuality and normalcy; that women, and more increasingly men, are pressured to strive for a perfection that is unattainable; that women must use their sexuality to succeed; and that women should be seen as objects or possessions, leaving entire generations of women with feelings of inadequacy and self loathing.

"I think these issues are so much a part of college students' lives," said Kilbourne. "With the eating disorders, the pressure, the violence, the rape, there is so much going on. What I'm trying to do is show the cultural environment that contributes to these problems so that people will become more aware of it."

The LSU Women's Center Esprit de Femme Award is the annual acknowledgement of a person who has made exceptional efforts towards the advancement of women; who strives to enrich the lives of women in the hope that others will follow their example; and who makes exceptional efforts to assuage the struggles of women in the community, state and culture.

"To have an event like this where women are being honored is terrific," said Kilbourne. "To have a flourishing Women's Center at LSU is also a wonderful thing and is good for women."

The 2010 recipients of the Esprit de Femme Award were Thomas and Kondkar. Thomas, the Soul Queen of New Orleans, won the 2007 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album for "After the Rain." Also in 2007, she was honored for her contributions to Louisiana music with induction into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame.

A graduate of Delgado Community College, Thomas has been an advocate for and supporter of the Delgado Community College Women in Search of Excellence, or W.I.S.E., program since its inception and often speaks to Delgado women about the importance of an education. She is involved in a number of organizations to better the lives of women including Grace House, an addictions recovery center for women.

Kondkar has spent her entire professional career working to end violence against women. A nationally recognized expert in domestic violence law, particularly in highly contested custody cases between batterers and their victims, she facilitates training sessions across the country to educate lawyers, judges and police officers about the complexities of domestic violence. Kondkar has helped countless women escape violent relationships, gain custody of their children from batterers and obtain economic independence.

LSU celebrates Women's History Month every March to honor and celebrate women from all walks of life. As LSU celebrates its sesquicentennial this year, the university endeavors to raise the status of women by recognizing their outstanding achievements.

"Women's History Month is a special time for LSU to reflect on the contributions of women to our campus," said Catherine Hopkins, director of the LSU Women's Center. "Since the first female students enrolled at LSU in 1906, women have excelled in all academic areas, including science, technology, engineering and mathematics."

LSU's Women's History Month Celebration is coordinated by the LSU Women's Center. The Women's Center provides support, referral and information to students, faculty and staff on issues and concerns related to women. The Women's Center also promotes the advancement of women's issues and well-being through its services, educational programs and advocacy efforts.

For information about the LSU Women's Center, please contact Hopkins at chopkins@lsu.edu or 225-578-1714, or visit www.lsu.edu/wc. The LSU Women's Center is a reporting unit in the Office of Equity, Diversity & Community Outreach, or EDCO. For more information on the EDCO, visit www.lsu.edu/diversity or e-mail diversity@lsu.edu.

 

Melissa Foley | Editor | Office of Communications & University Relations
March 2010