I think that this Reebok commercial is representative of both the objectification of women described by Kilbourne and the cult of slenderness analyzed by Bordo.
During the whole ad, the woman remains faceless. Her body is “dismembered” and the focus is only on her breasts, butt, and legs. The 20-second-long boobs shot is a clear example of our society’s obsession with breasts mentioned in “Killing us softly 4”. The girl doesn’t even speak, it’s her breasts that do the talking.
In their dialogue the butt becomes a “she”, so we can easily assume that the breasts represent two women that are jealous of another girl for getting all the attention, because apparently women’s self-esteem relies exclusively on men admiring their looks and on winning the beauty competition that inherently exists among all women (the concept of internalized heterosexual male gaze comes back again, along with a common gender stereotype). The commercial takes the idea a step further: making other women jealous is not enough, now specific body parts are engaged in a new contest to be the most “tight”, “round”, and “pretty”. The “slender body” is therefore presented as the ideal that women should aspire to. The commercial is both about body parts becoming women and women being reduced to body parts.
The target audience is made of heterosexual men (who are assumed to be attracted by the ad because of the objectification of the woman’s body), but also of the women who will have to buy the product. We are supposed to believe that if the sneakers can make even those “perfect” breasts be overshadowed, then they can really help us fight our battle against the “unsolid, excess flesh” (Bordo). The ad targets women’s insecurities and implies that the only thing women can be acknowledged for is their bodies.
Jean Kilbourne, Killing Us Softly 4
Susan Bordo, Reading the Slender Body
John Berger, Ways of Seeing