National Women’s Hall of Fame inductee and internationally renowned media scholar and feminist activist Jean Kilbourne appeared at Smith College on September 19, 2019 for a celebration of the 40th anniversary of Killing Us Softly, her pioneering documentary film series about media representations of women.
The event, Killing Us Softly: Then and Now, paid tribute to the impact the film has had on millions of viewers in all fifty states and more than 56 countries around the globe.
The event featured a panel of feminist scholars and filmmakers who have been inspired by Jean Kilbourne’s work.
In addition to Kilbourne, other featured guests included award-winning filmmakers Elena Rossini (The Illusionists) and Byron Hurt (Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats & Rhymes, Soul Food Junkies, and I Am a Man), Feminist Press Executive Director Jamia Wilson, Women in Media & News Founding Director Jennifer Pozner, acclaimed gender violence prevention educator Jackson Katz, and MEF Executive Director Sut Jhally. The event included video tributes, clips from all four versions of Killing Us Softly, and a panel discussion about how Kilbourne’s work has informed current media and gender activism.
The later editions of Kilbourne’s film were produced by the nonprofit Media Education Foundation (MEF). MEF released Killing Us Softly 3 in 2000 and Killing Us Softly 4 in 2010 and has since distributed these titles to more than 11,000 colleges, universities, churches, prisons, nonprofits, and other educational institutions. “Jean Kilbourne’s work has introduced hundreds of thousands of college students to important discussions about media education and representations of women,” says Sut Jhally, MEF’s Executive Director and a professor of Communication at UMass. “Her films have also played a critical role in supporting the work of the Media Education Foundation and helping us advance our mission.”
The panel discussion was facilitated by renowned author and feminist cultural critic Susan J. Douglas, the Catherine Neafie Kellogg Professor of Communication Studies at The University of Michigan and the author of numerous books including Enlightened Sexism, The Mommy Myth, and Where the Girls Are.
The event was co-sponsored by the Media Education Foundation, the Program for the Study for Women and Gender at Smith College, and Safe Passage.