Jean Kilbourne is internationally recognized for her groundbreaking work on the image of women in advertising and for her critical studies of alcohol and tobacco advertising.

In the late 1960s, Jean began her exploration of the connection between advertising and several public health issues, including violence against women, eating disorders, and addiction, and launched a movement to promote media literacy as a way to prevent these problems. A radical and original idea at the time, this approach is now mainstream and an integral part of most prevention programs. According to Susan Faludi, “Jean Kilbourne’s work is pioneering and crucial to the dialogue of one of the most underexplored, yet most powerful, realms of American culture -advertising. We owe her a great debt.” Mary Pipher has called Kilbourne “our best, most compassionate teacher.”

Her films, lectures and television appearances have been seen by millions of people throughout the world. Kilbourne was named by The New York Times Magazine as one of the three most popular speakers on college campuses. She is the creator of the renowned Killing Us Softly: Advertising’s Image of Women film series and the author of the award-winning book Can’t Buy My Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel and So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids (with Diane E. Levin).




Honors & Awards

Special Recognition Award

Academy for Eating Disorders, 2002
“Your ongoing dedication to heightening awareness of potentially pernicious effects of the media and the path that you have forged has helped move individuals forward, while also paving the way for others who might wish to do the same.” Learn more...

Media Hero Trading Card

One of twenty-one journalists, media activists, and educators in the “Media Heroes” deck, Reclaim the Media, 2008
"Jean Kilbourne pioneered the critical study of images of women in advertising and the use of media literacy for public health and prevention. Her work examines how a media landscape saturated with visions of idealized female beauty produces illusions of personal inadequacy, sexual objectification of women and girls, and violence against women. In 1969 she began lecturing on these topics, and has never stopped, travelling widely and inspiring many educators to follow her example of unflinching critique." Learn more...

Common Sense Media Award

Common Sense Media, 2011
“Your work as a feminist author and filmmaker has brought unprecedented attention to the power of media (especially advertising), its connection to public health, and the urgency of teaching media literacy into the public discourse. You are a pioneer in the field and we are truly inspired!” Learn more...

Marty Mann Founder’s Award

National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, 1998
“This award is presented to an individual in the field of alcoholism and other drug addictions whose life work strongly reflects the energy, dedication and focus exemplified by NCA’s founder, Marty Mann. The award also recognizes at least ten years of exceptional contributions to public and professional education about alcoholism and other drug problems as treatable and preventable conditions and as major public health concerns.” Learn more...

Senior Scholar (Honorary Position)

Wellesley Centers for Women, 2008-Present

National Honorary Board

Healthy MEdia Commission for Positive Images of Women and Girls

A commission of 50 leaders from the media industry, creative community, academia, and youth-serving nonprofits.

Amplifier Award

“The LAMP is proud to honor the vision of our 2012 honoree. Jean has worked tirelessly for decades to teach the principles and values of media literacy.”

The Women in Public Service Project Institute

“For upholding the highest standards of public service, for sharing the torch of leadership and learning with a new generation of extraordinary women leaders from around the world and for celebrating the power of women to make a positive difference in the world.”

Pioneer Mentor

The New Agenda, 2011

Profiles in Living Award

Ida M. Johnston Alumni Award

Boston University, School of Education, 2009
“For outstanding achievement and service to her profession, community, and alma mater.”

Barbara Boggs Sigmund Award

Womanspace, 2008
“Jean Kilbourne’s leadership, personal commitment to excellence, and trailblazing success exemplify Barbara Sigmund’s passion, creativity and inspiration. She has produced a body of work that is pioneering in its ability to shine a light on the socio-political issues that exist in our world via the advertising industry. Her work has been instrumental in training the staff and volunteers who assist the survivors of violence with whom we work at Womanspace.”

Woman of Distinction Award

Miss Hall’s School, 2007
“Through your films, books, and lectures, you have done groundbreaking work in bringing attention to the adverse effect advertising and the media have on women and young people. Your courage to take a public stand on this issue and your commitment over many years to raising awareness inspire us as educators of girls to deepen their understanding of the negative influences that surround them. In speaking with conviction while creating alliances and hope, you are an exemplary role model for girls as well as for adults.”

Media Activist National Award

“Speaker, author, and media critic Jean Kilbourne has spent the past two decades pioneering and practicing her unique style of media analysis for audiences all over the world. Her rare combination of humor, wisdom, and integrity, as well as her courageous willingness to challenge some of the world’s most powerful for-profit corporate industries – alcohol, tobacco, and fashion/beauty –. . . makes her an inspiring example for media educators around the world.”

Profile in book: Feminists Who Changed America 1963-1975


Myra Sadker Equity Award

Dr. Myra Sadker pioneered research documenting gender bias in America’s schools.

Hilda Crosby Standish Leadership Award

Planned Parenthood of Connecticut, 2005
“The Hilda Crosby Standish Leadership Award is given in honor of the family-planning pioneer who passed away at the age of 102 in June 2005. A role model for generations of women, Dr. Standish is credited with teaching thousands of parents and educators how to talk to children about sexuality in an era where that subject was neither discussed at home nor taught in school. . . . Planned Parenthood of Connecticut presents this annual award to an individual or group who shares the courage and passion for social change that Dr. Standish embodied.”

Keys to the City, Kansas City

Mayor Kay Barnes, 2004
“Whereas, Jean Kilbourne has been perhaps the most dynamic and committed voice among those who understand and decry media images that objectify women while promoting unhealthy behaviors, tyrannical ideals of beauty and appearance and the exploitation of consumers by the alcohol and tobacco industries. Kilbourne was the first to address such issues, and she continues to present her ideas with a certain charm and humor that serve to make her superior in the communication of profoundly important ideas.”

Honorary Doctorate

Westfield State College, 2004
“Advocate for the exploited, advisor to lawmakers, you seek out the dangerous truths encrypted in our culture’s glossy myths. Through research informed by a deep sense of justice, your insights lead us from consumerism to consciousness.”

Governor’s Commission on Sexual and Domestic Violence

Massachusetts, 2003-2005

Lifetime Television’s Times Square Project Award

PCAR (Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape) / NSVRC (National Sexual Violence Resource Center), 2003

Association for Women in Psychology

WIN (Women’s Image Now) Award

AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists), 1995
“No one in the world has done more to improve the image of women in advertising than Jean Kilbourne.”

Leadership in Action Award

Women’s Action Alliance, 1995
“The Leadership in Action Award was created to recognize women who are outstanding in their professions and who are role models for women and girls. . . . Through your advocacy for women in the areas of substance abuse prevention and media literacy, you exemplify the characteristics of a dedicated Leader in Action.”

Non-Smokers’ Rights Association, Canada, Award of Merit

National Advisory Council on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse

Annual Award

Stop Teenage Addiction to Tobacco (STAT), 1991

Special Commendation

“For outstanding efforts in addressing the issue of alcohol and other drug abuse in a manner wholly consistent with our industry’s goals for a drug-free America.”

Lecturer of the Year Award

EFA Grant

Grant for a study of gender stereotypes in television commercials
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