On Friday I went to a viewing of the documentary, Miss Representation. Many of the quotes that were splashed across the screen were ones I already knew and repeated even. Still, it did not make them any less impactful to see. I was aware of much of the content that the film explored, but sometimes it is nice to be reminded. I walked away from the documentary re-energized about women’s issues.
The Film, “…uncovers a glaring reality we live with every day but fail to see…the film exposes how mainstream media contribute to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America…the collective message that our young women and men overwhelmingly receive is that a woman’s value and power lie in her youth, beauty, and sexuality, and not in her capacity as a leader …”
Miss Representation contends that “You can’t be what you can’t see.” Meaning, if women only see themselves represented as objects of desire for entertainment value in the media, than women will not be able to gain parity in this country. I agree and disagree with this angle.
More women would see themselves as capable and deserving of respect and political power if more capable, respectable women of power were shown on T.V. On the other hand, we all start somewhere. There are intelligent women who are able to be the first, without seeing other women before them, like the famous female astronaut Sally Ride.
However, when Sally Ride went into space in 1983, teenagers were not consumed by a media where women are consistently objectified and made to look like cat-fighting, ass-shaking morons.
The Miss Representation website states, “In one week American teenagers spend 31 hours watching TV, 17 hours listening to music, 3 hours watching movies, 4 hours reading magazines, 10 hours online. That’s 10 hours and 45 minutes of media consumption a day.” That means negative images and content is being seen over and over by young women and men. How do we expect boys and men to respect girls and women when the all consuming media does not?
The website provides an interesting graphic that reminds us that women do have power, including in the United States. Still, the severe imbalance of Women in power in the U.S versus in other countries is baffling. 33 countries have had women presidents. Currently, there are 20 female leaders in power. They represent countries such as Liberia, Kosovo and Germany.
The film, running about 90 minutes, was engaging and interesting. The writer and director, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, developed a curriculum with educators for students in grades k-12 that is available through the site. The website is packed with information and resources, including book suggestions, clips and a dinner conversation guide to help young girls and boys talk to their families about the issues.
Though I have seen films like Miss Representation before, everything they say in it is important. The statistics below are a stark and truthful look into women, girls, the media and political power in the United States. I would recommend seeing the film or hosting a screening, if for no other reason than to be reminded of the inadequacies girls and women face everyday in the United States. If you are not angry, you are not paying attention.
- Women hold only 3% of clout positions in the mainstream media (telecommunications, entertainment, publishing and advertising).
- The United States is 90th in the world in terms of women in national legislatures.
- Women hold 17% of the seats in the House of Representatives (the equivalent body in Rwanda is 56.3% female).
- Women are merely 3% of Fortune 500 CEOs.
- About 25% of girls will experience teen dating violence.
- The number of cosmetic surgical procedures performed on youth 18 or younger more than tripled from 1997 to 2007.
- Among youth 18 and younger, liposuction nearly quadrupled between 1997 and 2007 and breast augmentations increased nearly six-fold in the same 10-year period.
- 65% of American women and girls report disordered eating behaviors.