Vitally important documentary
The film is filled with in-depth interviews and interspersed with images from print, television, the internet, rock, rap and hip hop videos.
Women are seen in cat fights, vying for a man, and doing combat while barely dressed. They are portrayed as decorative, stupid, gold diggers, catty, manipulative, vindictive, and not to be trusted especially by other women, according to Jennifer Pozner, Executive Director of Women in Media & News.
“This notion that women are natural enemies vying for the prize of being most beautiful or the love of whoever is so counter to women in real life,” says Pozner.
Girls learn to become objects
“Not only are girls seen as objects by other people, they learn to see themselves as objects,” says Jean Kilbourne, Ed.D. (Killing Us Softly). “Self-objectification has become a national epidemic,” according to Caroline Heldman, Ph.D., an Associate Professor of Political Science at Occidental College.
Depression, eating disorders, lower ambition, and lower cognitive function results from self-objectification, Heldman says. Girls are less likely to run for office or to vote, she adds. Self-mutilation (hacking or cutting) among female teens is cited as a growing problem.
Women as “cartoons”
Digitally altered photos of women create an “extreme and impossible” image of beauty, according to Kilbourne. Girls “end up measuring themselves against an impossible standard.”
Media content powerfully shapes society, say experts. It influences brains, lives and emotions, especially in children. Profit-hungry media outlets are seen as disregarding social responsibility.
Oscar winning director and producer Paul Haggis (Crash), believes women become “cartoons” as male studio chiefs and filmmakers “see the world in a certain way and so we often replicate the world that we grew up in.”
Deregulation lowers standards
“We are a nation of teenage boys,” according to Carol Jenkins, Founding President of the Women’s Media Center. Advertisers target men aged 18 – 34 who are less likely to watch television. Thus hyper-sexualized female images abound in advertising and programming.
Deregulation has enabled a few powerful conglomerates to control the U.S. media. The boards of directors of these conglomerates are overwhelmingly male. In an internal memo, former Disney CEO Michael Eisner wrote, “To make money is our only objective.”
Anything goes in television programming at all hours thanks to relaxation of FCC restrictions on adult content.
Women’s voices needed
Electing more women to public office will allow them to shape public policy with their perspectives, insights and experiences.
“Women make up 51% of the U.S. population yet comprise only 17% of Congress. Female presidents have been elected in 67 countries, but not in the U.S.” The film is filled with such alarming statistics.
“We’re shortchanging voices that are urgently needed in public forums,” says Cory Booker, mayor of Newark, NJ. Devanshi Patel, a student who ran for Youth Governor of California, offers a refreshing perspective. “Leaders are just servants to people,” she told her mother.
Sex confused with strength
Aren’t sexy women strong? Madonna, Angelina Jolie and Emily Browning (Sucker Punch) portray women who exploit their sexuality in order to be empowered, says M. Gigi Durham, Ph.D., author of The Lolita Effect.
Such a heroine is “very much objectified and exists for the male viewer,” says Durham.
The series Commander in Chief, which starred Geena Davis as the first woman president of the United States, was cancelled after one season.
Women heroes sought
Oscar winner Davis says that “only 16% of protagonists in films are female.” Davis, the founder of See Jane, disputes the myth that “things are getting better” for women in film.
The media ignores older women, Miss Representation asserts. “Women in their teens, 20’s and 30’s are 39% of the population, yet are 71% of women on TV. Women 40 and older are 47% of the population, yet are 26% of women on TV.”
Feminist organizer and activist Gloria Steinem explains, “A patriarchal system values women as child bearers. Period.”
Women directors, writers can make difference
“Only 7% of directors and 10% of writers in film are women,” according to Miss Representation. “The average number of news stories about women and girls is less than 20%.”
Strong women trivialized
Strong women are described in news reports according to how they look or how emotional they are. What they say or do is virtually ignored, as seen in media portrayals of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.
Many prominent women detail their experiences here. Powerful images of women in entertainment flash by. These include Oprah Winfrey; Judi Dench; Jada Pinkett Smith; Ellen De Generes; Glenn Close; Sandra Oh; Mariska Hargitay; Julianna Margulies; Tina Fey; Edie Falco; Meryl Streep; Annette Bening; Julianne Moore; Naomi Watts; Gabourey Sidibey; Salma Hayek and Charlize Theron.
Newsom ends Miss Representation with a call to action and a vision of a better world for our daughters and sons. (5 out of 5 stars)
If you like Miss Representation, you might enjoy: The Whistleblower.
Miss Representation 2011 / NR / 1 hour, 25 min
Cast Overview: Corey Booker, Margaret Cho, Katie Couric, Geena Davis, Rosario Dawson, Dianne Feinstein, Jane Fonda, Paul Haggis, Lisa Ling, Rachel Maddow, Nancy Pelosi, Condoleezza Rice, Gloria Steinem, Daphne Zuniga
Director: Jennifer Siebel Newsom