The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) has been airing a documentary by Jennifer Siebel Newsom called "Miss Representation". The title is an interesting play on words. If you get the chance I highly recommend watching the 90 minute documentary that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last year which explores negative and sexual media depictions and how they are shaping our society. If you do not think teenagers, women, and men are affected by the media they view then you perhaps do not see the whole picture.
In a nutshell, looks have become more important than intelligence. Somehow it has become more important to ask a female presidential runner whether she has had breast implants instead of what she would do for our country if elected. Or it attacks women like Hilary Clinton for not wearing make-up or looking old -- these are women of power and the media is attempting to knock them down a notch. The sad thing is as a society we keep licking it up. Men in power are almost never asked humiliating or personal questions about their physicality. Media constantly disrespects our female leaders, especially male media; it degenerates to looks, pms, mood swings -- the footage shown to highlight this is really disturbing.
Miss Representation talks with public figures like Katie Couric, Jane Fonda, Senater Dianne Feinstein, and Margaret Cho who add their views as women in the media as well as share personal experiences during their rise to the top.
Ten Not-So-Fun Facts from Miss Representation
- "53 % of 13 year old girls are unhappy with their bodies"
- "65 of women and girls have an eating disorder"
- "17 % of teens engage in cutting and self injurious behavior"
- "rates of depression have doubled in 10 years"
- "the number of cosmetic surgical procedures performed on youth under the age of 19 more than tripled from 1997-2007"
- "only 16% of protagonists in films are female."
- "women hold only 3% of clout positions in telecommunications, entertainment, publishing and advertising."
- "1 in 4 girls experience teen dating violence."
- "1 in 4 women are abused by a partner in their life time."
- "15% of rape survivors are under the age of 12"
Even though women have certainly come a long way we are still producing a new generation of women who are less likely to become leaders. There is still a strong gender bias and women are not doing much to help one another.
There is a brief history of the women's movement but do not worry, it is nothing too dry. Women have made tremendous progress in history but media has always put women in their place. During the war women were fired from their jobs to make room for the GIs who were returning home and the television was the major platform to encourage women to want to stay home again. Different forms of media continue to influence girls and women today.
The end game is not about only helping young women but young boys and men too. The documentary closes quickly with eight suggestions for making a difference:
- catch people who say derogatory things about others
- go see movies written and directed by women
- boycott shows that objectify women
- encourage women to become better leaders
- write your own stories about powerful women
- teach others to look at media critically
- ask your school to start a media literacy course
- women need to stop their destructive behavior committed on other women
* Visit the official Miss Representation website.
* Miss Representation is available from Amazon.com.