I finally got around to watching a documentary I’ve been wanting to see for a long time.
The documentary: Miss Representation.
It’s a look at the appalling way women are portrayed in the media, but not an altogether surprising one. See the trailer by clicking here.
What is surprising is how we have become so numb to this distorted portrayal of women in greater society because we’re constantly being bombarded with those images and messages. And they are becoming increasingly more prevalent in television ads, hip-hop videos, magazines for teens and women, and “news” programs.
I’ve been considering this film for days and can’t shake the revelations.
Caroline Heldman, PhD and associate professor of political science at Occidental College, says that at 7 years old, an equal number of boys and girls say they want to be President of the United States. When asked the same question at age 15, a massive gap emerges, as fewer girls are interested in the position.
Throughout the film, staggering statistics are flashed on the screen. For instance: Women make up 51 percent of the American population, but only 17 percent of Congress.
It’s no wonder when you look back at some of the headlines or taglines the media has used in the recent past to label women politicians. The film shows clips of newspapers, labeling Hillary Clinton, “the bitch” and Sarah Palin, “the ditz.”
Scantily-clad anchors deliver headlines (and I use this term loosely) looking like pageant queens. And instead of questioning a Vice-Presidential hopeful on policy and government, she’s asked first and foremost if she’s had a boob job.
Maybe I missed it, but I don’t ever recall Harry Reid or Mitch McConnell being grilled on the size of their anatomy.
High school girls are interviewed throughout the film and many of them have poignant things to say. They talk about the lack of appreciation for women intellectuals, how what we see and hear as women is “all about the body, not about the brain.”
Marie Wilson, Founding President of former The White House Project, says, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” She and other powerful women agree that women need to be writing their own stories and “piloting the plane,” so to speak, to represent women in a more honest light.
Strong women role models are consistently put down for their physical attributes or their stereotypical female behavior.
In fact, one high-level female politician was ridiculed for crying in public on a single occasion. Meanwhile, a male member of the U.S. Congress is caught on tape numerous times and even has a reputation for weeping at the drop of a hat. His emotional outbursts are portrayed as a charming.
If a woman does display a level of no-nonsense that is uncharacteristic of the greater female population, our male-driven media does everything it can to belittle her or to make her seem unreasonable.
A man would be commended for his decisiveness, for being a risk taker, for being tough, or for being tenacious.
A woman is “bossy,” a “pit bull,” or as one publication called Condoleezza Rice, a “dominatrix.” (She happened to be WEARING a simple black trench coat and knee-high black leather boots in the photo.)
If the media is so derogatory about the most powerful women in America, how is any woman supposed to be taken seriously?
While watching this documentary, I was secretly thankful for not having to raise girls in this environment. But the film made an excellent point about the future of media.
Young boys today take their cues from men. Grown men. Grown men, who run newspapers, news stations, news conglomerates, publishing companies, and production studios.
If their role models are still representing a woman in a way that degrades her body or downplays her intellect, how will our young boys get the message?
The definition of feminism is “to advocate for women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.” Yet, media members regularly demonize the term as if it’s an atrocious request for a woman to ask for the same respect men receive in the media, and to not be judged for her bodies or what she’s wearing.
If you think this is a non-issue or one that is being blown out of proportion, read this quote from media mogul and former Southern Baptist Minister, Pat Robertson, who tends to get his fair share of media exposure to “educate” the masses:
“Feminism is a socialist, anti-family, political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.”
If you don’t see the problem, I can’t help you.
Amy Grace is married with two children. You can read her every Friday on momaha.
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