Newest Miss Representation Trailer (2011 Sundance Film Festival Official Selection) from Miss Representation on Vimeo.
By Kat Anderson, special to FogCityJournal.com
November 15, 2011
United Way of the Bay Area unveiled last eve its “start up,” the Women’s Leadership Council, in an event that included a screening of Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s powerful documentary film, “Miss Representation.” The event’s sponsors and partners included PG&E, AT&T, emerge (women leaders for a democratic future), the National Council of Jewish Women and San Francisco Women’s Political Committee.
After watching “Miss Representation,” I realized this glaring reality: In a society where media is the most persuasive force shaping cultural norms, the collective message delivered to young women and men is that a woman’s value and power lie in her youth, beauty, and sexuality, and not in her capacity as a leader.
To illustrate, pretend your girlfriend stars in a well-reviewed movie as a superhero. You are proud of her for landing this role and playing the part of a strong woman leader. Then, you read a review about the movie where the critic salaciously refers to your girlfriend as a “fighting fuck toy,” after describing certain of her body parts in glowing detail. Or, pretend your mother has run for office and become Senator. After she’s served for a while, you begin to notice that most news outlets report that Mrs. Anderson (not Senator) “complained,” while her male counterparts merely “stated” their opposition. You will recall that during their campaigns, Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin were often painted as “bitch” or “ditz,” and there was much discussion about their wardrobes.
“Miss Representation” concludes that as a result of the media’s disparaging treatment of women, women feel dis-empowered and do not put themselves out there for fear of being marginalized, scrutinized and/or attacked. Girls, not seeing enough women role models, simply do not engage themselves. Positions of power remain dominated by men and society suffers because of the missing thought power of women in daily society.
I found some of the film’s statistics quite disturbing. The United States, which has never had a female president, ranks 90th in the world for women in national legislatures, yet, women comprise 51 percent of the population and 67 other countries have had women heads of state; women hold only 3 percent of clout positions in mainstream media; 65 percent of women and girls have eating disorders; there are only 3 countries that do not have paid family leave, and the US is one of them (the other two are third-world entities); and the average amount of news stories about females is less than 20 percent.
Last night’s event concluded with a call to action for women and girls to exercise their true power. Both United Way and Ms. Jennifer Siebel Newsom (through www.MissRepesentation.org) spotlighted the power of women to create change through their focused commitment of time, talent and resources. United Way’s Women’s Leadership Council (WLC) was created a few months ago and is an avenue for women from a wide variety of backgrounds to give back in a profound and transformative way, using their resources and the power of their networks to bear against one of the most pressing issues in our community: Poverty (with the mission to cut poverty in half by 2020). The WLC has over 150 active members and a mailing list of 450 women. Co-chairs of the WLC are Kat Anderson (Plan C board member) and Susan Sutherland (Senior VP of the Federal Reserve Bank).
MissRepresentation’s mission is to empower women and girls to challenge limiting labels created by male-dominated media and to eradicate gender stereotyping. MissRepresentation.org urges us to take “The Pledge,” and then engage in everyday acts to bring an end to gender stereotyping. Most significantly, one should consider sponsoring the screening of the film in your local school(s), particularly public schools that might not have the funding to do so.
(Kat Anderson is a 23-year resident of San Francisco, a board member of Plan C and newly-appointed co-chair of United Way’s Women’s Leadership Council. For more information about this, please contact Kat at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, please visit www.missrepresentation.org, click on the “Education” tab, and consider sponsoring a screening in your area of the film, particularly in a school of your choosing.)