The University Record, April 23, 1996

Boyd chooses 'Smoke and the F Word' for Golden Apple lecture

Golden Apple Award winner Carol Boyd signs an autograph for her son before presenting her 'last lecture' on April 15.

Photo by Bob Kalmbach



By Jared Blank

Golden Apple Award winner Carol Boyd used her April 15 "final lecture," "Smoke and the 'F' word: Women and Health," to examine the use of women in cigarette advertising since the turn of the century. The associate professor of nursing and of women's studies quickly explained her cryptic title. "The 'F' word," she said, "is feminism."

Boyd said that cigarette advertisements are as bad for women's health as the cigarettes themselves. Not only is nicotine addiction one of the most widespread substance abuse problems on campus, but the images of women in cigarette advertising present a degrading picture of women in general.

Boyd showed a series of cigarette advertisements from throughout the 20th century and offered what she called a "postmodern" reading of the implied messages of the images. The true meanings of the advertisements, she said, are found when the images are analyzed. "The text and the reader indeed interact," she said.

Early advertisements presented cigarettes as a way for women to express their independence. One advertisement included the tag line "Torch of Liberty." Ironic, Boyd said, considering the addictive properties of nicotine.

In many of the ads, she noted, women are shown simply as objects to be viewed. "Women are treated as bodies to be used as pleasure by other people." In turn, women come to view themselves as objects to be viewed by others.

This, Boyd says, leads to constant body monitoring, including eating disorders and a "loss of self." She showed an advertisement for Lucky Strikes from the early 20th century which proclaimed that women should "Reach for a Lucky In stead"instead of eating, Boyd explained. Today's Virginia Slims ads continue to demonstrate the supposed link between thinness and smoking. "We live in a society where beauty is thought to be a potion," she said.

Boyd noted three consequences for women of the objectification demonstrated in the advertisements:

Boyd urged people to fight the standards presented in the advertisements. "We must challenge the images around us," she said. "Deconstruct the dominant discourse like we did tonight."

Students across campus vote on the faculty member they would most like to hear give a "last lecture." The Golden Apple Award winner receives $1,000 and an invitation to present the lecture.

Boyd was introduced by President Emeritus Robben Fleming who noted that he and Boyd first met 25 years ago when, as a student, she was part of a protest that took over the president's office.