Monday, March 19, 2012

Miss Representation Documentary- 2 hours of observation

On February 27th I went to go see the film Miss Representation by Jennifer Siebel Newsom about how women are represented in media. Pretty overdone right? Well... Newsom had a refreshing approach to the topic. As a pregnant woman, she was scared for her daughter's future, afraid that she would struggle with the same self-image issues Newsom did when she was younger. Shown at Blaine Elementary School, parents and teachers are trying to create awareness about issues through their "Blaine Film Festival".

The film showed a lot of the basic ads you see when talking about this subject such as women in bikinis or Britney Spears scantily clad. However, it also talked about women in politics and how they either have to be seen as the "ball-buster" or the sexy one. The main example Newsom used was the comparison between Hillary Clinton (the crazy bitch) or Sarah Palin (the hot stupid one). Whether it is in politics, TV, or news, it seems as if women are being classified which leaves the younger generation to believe that they have to be a certain way to succeed. The most surprising part of the film for me was the radio hosts and news anchors that were shown making overtly sexist comments. Just think of the recent uprising when Rush Limbaugh called someone a "bitch". The worst part of that scandal was that it was nothing new. I had watched that happen multiple times during the film.

What links the film to Doing Democracy is how this film was talked about in the context of a school. The film explicitly said that parents and teachers have to start having a conversation about what they see in the media. After the film, the school hosted a discussion panel with Rachel Durchslag the Executive Director of CAASE, Kate Webster the Director of Violence Prevention at the Thousand Waves Martial Arts Center and Jennifer Loudon the Director of Behavioral Health from Chicago Public Schools. These influential women talked about how to have those conversations with your students or children. Jennifer Loudon suggested casually asking your child what they think is wrong with the way that person is shown on TV? Or, how does it make you feel to see a woman on a magazine cover like that? The movie and the panelists stressed not only to talk to your girls about this, but to reach out to the boys because males contribute heavily to gender stereotyping.

This film was important in making me realize the way I often accept the representation of women. I have called other women bitches, I don't stop my male friends when they sexualize or put down successful women. With my growing awareness, hopefully I can make others aware of how women are represented through media and in our everyday lives.

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For more on the Blaine Film Festival visit:

1 comment:

  1. I always find discussions about media representations fascinatingly complex. It seems that often the conversation is rather one-sided and heavily "politically correct". I think, as I have said in class, that all representations are dangerous...we cannot create a representation of woman or man; boy or girl; black or Asian; etc. that won't in some way fail and create "mis-representation". For instance, by saying a woman scantily clad is "bad" on one hand makes it possible for young girls to see themselves as more than a "sexy object". However, it also negates the woman who is scantily clad - demonizing her to some extent as part of the problem when the photo-gig may have been important to her being able to pay rent. So, I would be interested in how these individuals propose talking about the complexity of representation and how perhaps all representations are simultaneously "mis-representations".

    On another there a difference between joking about such topics and making serious comments about such topics. For instance, I will use the word "bitch" or "fag" in particular contexts but not others. I will "joke" about such things with some but not others. What is the complexity with the "joke" in these regards? Bill Maher had a piece in the NYTimes that I think starts to grapple with the role of humor: