Review: Miss Representation

Let's start with a simple question. Do you believe sexism exists in America?

Some women don't. More men don't. I've heard a lot of men snort with laughter and roll their eyes when women talk about sexism and bias against women.

I wish all these people would watch the 2011 award-winning documentary Miss Representation, written, directed, and produced by Jennifer Siebel Newsom and available on Netflix and Amazon Prime.

What It's About

"Miss Representation explores how mainstream media contribute to the under-representation of women in influential positions by circulating limited and often disparaging portrayals of women."

The message is told via film clips and interviews with women who use their celebrity to raise awareness of this issue. Women like Katie Couric, Condoleeza Rice, Gloria Steinem and others discuss sexism in American society.

Quick Example

Need an example of disparaging portrayals of women? You probably know Amal Ramzi Alamuddin, a noted human rights lawyer. Or, perhaps you know her better as Mrs. George Clooney.

In January, Amal Alamuddin appeared before the European Court of Human Rights in a case against a Turkish politician who denied the 1915 Armenian genocide. As she prepared to enter the courtroom, a man thrust a microphone in her face and asked, "Who are you wearing?"

Now, this patently ridiculous question was made even more ridiculous by the seriousness of the case at hand and by the fact that she wore traditional European judicial garments--the long black robe and white lace stock.

At no point did this interviewer, who somehow strayed from a red carpet somewhere, ask any of the men appearing before the court who they were wearing.

Incidents like this trivialize a woman's contribution. The underlying message is: "A woman's importance is based on how she looks, how she dresses, etc."

Riveting Documentary

The film gives stunning statistics about the minefield females--pre-adolescent to adulthood--must navigate. First sexual experience for a high percentage of girls is now under age 14. Eating disorders start by age 10 and skyrockets by age 18. The number of girls who injure themselves through cutting and other behaviors is growing.

The media and its messages? Women matter only in looks. Women can't get along with each other. Women are only important for sex. Women are dumb. Women are only interested in expensive toys. Women put out to get what they want.

What's The Message?

Some of the film clips are striking because the message, when everything else is stripped away, is so blatant. Example, no female politician in a media message is ever given the same treatment as a man. On news talk shows, the white male talking heads, often belittle women for their clothing, hairstyle, or their attractiveness. You don't see these same men talking about a comparable male politician's facial wrinkles or fashion sense.

The examples given by the documentary are specific and frequent because there's so much material available to be used.

Women: More Than The Sum of Their Anatomical Parts

Women deserve better. Girls deserve better examples. Yet, what's all the talk been about on the morning shows recently, on the news, on the so-called entertainment magazines? 50 Shades of Gray. Is that the message we want to be sending to women and impressionable teens--boys and girls? That a naive, sexually-impressionable girl who can be manipulated emotionally to agree to anything in the name of love is the way to be a woman?

Don't bother telling me the movie is for adults, that children won't be seeing it. If you think that, please tell me what universe you inhabit? In this one, technologically savvy kids can find a way to view anything they want.

When 50 Shades was making such an initial splash, I saw a YouTube book review of it. Written by a 15-year-old girl who pronounced it, "The most romantic book she'd ever read."


I'm worried about the message teen girls internalize from the book/movie, but I'm also worried about the message boys take away from the movie. Too many girls are passive and eager to please. They're not strong enough to say no to peer pressure. What happens to them if they find themselves with a boy who thinks 50 Shades is the way it's meant to be?

But this isn't meant as a review of that book and/or movie. This is about a documentary you must see and to watch with your children and with the men in your life. The message needs to change, and, like a lot of things in life, it's up to women who care to change it.

Call to Action

A call-to-action campaign grew out of the film, including a Twitter campaign to call out offensive media, interactive campaigns, strategic partnerships and education initiatives to challenge what's happening and change it.

This is the Facebook page of the Representation Project, a "movement using film and media content to expose injustices created by gender stereotypes and to shift people’s consciousness towards change." Visit the Facebook page and "take the pledge."

Miss Representation Credits

Directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom. Produced by Jennifer Siebel Newsom and Julie Costanzo. Written by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, Jessica Congdon, Claire Dietrich, Jenny Raskin

Music by Eric Holland. Cinematography by Svetlana Cvetko, John Behrens, Ben Wolf, Norman Bonney, Nathan Levine-Heaney, Brad Seals, Boryana Alexandrova, Nicole Hirsch-Whitaker

Edited by Jessica Congdon Production Company.

What Message Are Your Kids Internalizing?

Engage your kids in a discussion. Ask the difficult questions and find out what they think about the women and men they see on movies, TV shows, and commercials. Are they getting the message that women are multi-faceted individuals who can do anything they want in life? The message they internalize affects the way they dress, talk, act, and treat others.

Takeaway Truth

Please watch Miss Representation. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

No comments:

Post a Comment