Thursday, April 11, 2013

Miss Representation: A Moving Film

This is a different kind of post.  It's not an interview, but it's something I think my readers will appreciate.  The other night, I was lucky enough to attend a screening of the moving documentary, Miss Representation.  Here's part of the description from their website:

In a society where media is the most persuasive force shaping cultural norms, 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. While women have made great strides in leadership over the past few decades, the United States is still 90th in the world for women in national legislatures, women hold only 3% of clout positions in mainstream media, and 65% of women and girls have disordered eating behaviors.

Stories from teenage girls and provocative interviews with politicians, journalists, entertainers, activists and academics, like Condoleezza Rice, Nancy Pelosi, Katie Couric, Rachel Maddow, Margaret Cho, Rosario Dawson and Gloria Steinem build momentum as Miss Representation accumulates startling facts and statistics that will leave the audience shaken and armed with a new perspective.

If you can find a screening near you, I highly recommend going.  The statistics and commentary were so thought provoking.  I went in with a somewhat defensive mindset, thinking to myself, "Look - women have been valued for their looks throughout history.  How can we expect to change human nature?  Men's appearances matter too (albeit admittedly less.)  Let's grow a thicker skin and just stick it out.  Women can succeed if they just try hard enough."  
But after watching the film, I was swayed by just how pervasive the conscious or subconscious war on women is - and I'm not talking about what's been in the media recently regarding healthcare choices and coverage etc.  Women are depicted in all forms of media as beings whose worth and accomplishment are inseparable from their appearances.  
One memorable montage showed a cavalcade of female newscasters and pundits - people who are supposed to be delivering intelligent information and analysis - in progressively skimpier outfits more appropriate for a 21 year old to wear to a bar.  And let's not forget the 2008 election when Hilary (let's start with the lack of respect displayed even by just calling her by her first name, something we'd never do to a male politician) vs. Sarah Palin was shorthanded by countless media outlets into "bitch vs. slut."
The difference between past generations and this one is that the media presence now is so insidious and inescapable.  As an adult who grew up without a cell phone until after college graduation, I have the capacity to enjoy screen-free time and I recall school days and nights without screen presence or even any interaction with my peers while I was doing homework isolated in my room.  I feel it's important to raise our kids with this same ability to disconnect periodically, but I understand it's not the reality for most kids and teenagers.  They're going to be surrounded if not with their own tablets, phones, and computers, then by their peers'.  
And the proliferation of catty celebrity tabloids with daily or even hourly updates on female celebrities' appearances is mind-boggling.  I may have fun reading a shared paper copy of a celebrity weekly once or twice a week at the gym or nail salon, but kids don't have the brain development to tune this stuff out.  Their filters aren't advanced enough to fight what the media's conveying through every surface they see throughout the day - TV, websites, even supposed "News" channels.  When even female supreme court judicial candidates, politicians and newscasters are judged by their appearances before their intellect, think about that message.
All of this contributes not only to a lack of self esteem and role models for girls, but to the dangerous perception by males of all ages that females deserve less in every way - less respect, less money, and less value.  We've created a monster and thoughtful discourse and action are needed to counteract it.  Seeing the film is a first step in raising awareness.  
Aside from accomplishing as much as possible in the workplace, women can vote with our wallets by not supporting media networks and advertisers who use male-targeted advertising or programming that belittles women.  That's challenging, and many times it's unavoidable.  Try to support women-helmed movies and companies.  The more vocal people are - both men and women - about their feelings on these issues, the more change we might see.
P.S. - If you see an offensive or demeaning ad depicting women, you can use the Twitter hashtag #NotBuyingIt.  Here's a compilation of some #NotBuyingIt items other members have posted.

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