Creative Audience film highlights continuing discrimination against women

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The film reminded me of a staggering truth: if my country doesn’t stop the onslaught of female objectification, and can’t fully believe that female empowerment and leadership is a key ingredient in bettering the United States, we will never be as great as we aspire to be.

The documentary film “Miss Representation” was screened in Bentley 207 on March 4 as a Creative Audience event. The 100-plus viewers were exposed to the fact that 51 percent of America’s population is often represented in a way that portrays them as something less than human.

At its core, “Miss Representation” is a film about democracy. It is a call to men and women to realize that within a democratic society, female voice and leadership must be on par with that of males. The film battles the injustice of female objectification by showing the media culprit who introduces the acceptance of objectification and inequality to women and men from their toddler years.

Viewers watch montages of video clips, music videos, Hollywood films, video game play, television episodes, all of which cast females as sexual objects.

The amount of skin and objectification that hits the viewer’s eyes in a matter of minutes is effective in showing how ridiculous this media phenomenon is.

The film balances the clips with facts. According to the film, American teenagers spend more than 10 hours a week sucking in media between the internet, television, music and magazines.

The third force in the film is the voices that speak upon the issues. A male voice says, “People learn more from media than any other single source of information.” Another voice tells how media are a controlling force in our nation: “If you think about media and technology, they’re delivering content that is shaping our society. They’re shaping our politics, they’re shaping our national discourse, and most of all they’re shaping our children’s brains and lives and emotions.”

“Miss Representation” traces these lessons learned at a young age and shows how they are seemingly inescapable in adulthood, even among the most successful women. “So no matter what else a women does, no matter what else her achievements, her value still depends on how they look,” says the film. Jennifer Pozner, CEO of Women in Media and News, speaks about this: “The fact that media are so derogatory towards the most powerful women in the country, then what does it say about media’s ability to take any woman in America seriously?”

These statements are paired with dozens of news articles that apply headlines like “The ‘Bitch’ and the ‘Ditz’” to Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin, and “Condi Rice, dominatrix” to the former secretary of state.

Steady streams of vulgar images are sent at viewers, and alongside such pointed facts and voices, it becomes almost sickening to look at. It didn’t take long for me to feel heavy and ashamed for allowing myself to become numb to my own media consumption.

The film returns to media representation of females in another way, this time by focusing on who are behind the cameras, studios and radio stations.

The film reveals that women own a mere 5.8 percent of all television stations and only 6 percent of radio stations, while holding just 5 percent of leadership positions in telecommunications, entertainment, publishing, and advertising.

“Miss Representation” gives voice to young women who face the struggle of inequality and misrepresentation. Arianna is the first high schooler to speak on camera. “There is no appreciation for women intellectuals . . . its all about the body, not about the brain,” she says.

A young girl named Maria begins to cry about her little sister who has begun cutting herself. “She hacks herself you know,” says Maria. “She cuts herself because she gets teased in school because she doesn’t have the perfect body . . . what can I do so my little sister won’t be hurt by the media? How long is it going to take for somebody to take a stand?”

The film delves deeper into the tragic connection between the pressures on young women and the coping mechanisms of eating disorders and self-harming.

It is estimated that 7 million of the 8 million Americans who have an eating disorder are female.

“Miss Representation” explores the link between violent media, and the violent statistics that exist in the United States. “Turning a human being into a thing is almost always the first step in justifying violence,” says one interviewee. According to the film, 25 percent of women will experience abuse from their partner in their lifetime, many within their teenage years; one in 6 females are survivors of rape or attempted rape, and 15 percent of rape survivors are under the age of 12.

“Not only are girls seen as objects by other people, they learn to see themselves as objects,” says Kilbourne. Caroline Heldman, associate professor of political science at Occidental College furthers this argument. “The American Psychological Association has found in recent years that self-objectification has become a national epidemic, a national problem. The more women and girls self-objectify, the more likely are to be depressed, to have eating disorders, they have lower confidence, they have lower ambition, they have lower cognitive functioning, they have lower GPAs,” says Heldman.

(Still, the slew of sexual-object images play to the viewer).

Heldman tells how our entire nation is suffering. “If we have a whole generation of young people being raised where women’s objectification is just par for the course, is normal, that its okay, then we have a whole generation of women who are less likely to run for office and less likely to vote,” says Heldman.

The film shows that political statistics concerning women in office are astoundingly unrepresentative in the American population. The film states that while 51 percent of the American population is female only 20 percent of Congress is female, and that only 35 women have ever served as governors, compared to 2,319 men.

Doloras Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers Union, and the Doloras Huerta Foundation notes it is impossible for a democratic society to steer a nation in the right direction without women. “If you have any kind of decision making board, and there are not women on that board, they’re going to make the wrong decision, because they don’t have the women’s perspective, the women’s insight, the women’s experience,” says Huerta.

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice speaks about a psychological breakthrough that must happen within the United States for women to be properly represented in America. “Two things have to happen when you talk about women moving to the next rung, or minorities moving to the next rung. First you have to have the candidates . . . but you also have to have a kind of psychological breakthrough. Can an American see a woman or an African American in that position? I think with women, we still have a bit to go,” says Rice.

Gavin Newson, lieutenant governor of California and former mayor of San Fransico, spoke of the opposition that he experienced when appointed women as fire chief and police chief.

“The incredible opposition was coming mostly from women, and those feeling that it was too much, too soon, too fast,” says Newson.

The film offers an idea for how such a psychological breakthrough can occur in the United States. “Miss Representation” focuses on media as a potentially beneficial weapon this time. It can be used to create proper female representation, and create characters that are real-to-life examples of women.

Founding President of The White House Project, Marie Wilson speaks to the benefits that media can have. “Having this opportunity to see women leadership in reality and on the screen and on the television is huge for women . . . the way it gets done to a certain extent, and the way problems get solved often have to do with Hollywood and the films that get made and the documentaries …start where people are,” says Wilson.

The film states that “Commander in Chief” aired for a single season and had a female U.S. President as the protagonist; after the show hit television, 68% of viewers were more likely to accept a woman as President.

Using the media is one of the ways “Miss Representation” calls for change in the objectification and ultimate dis-empowerment of women in America. The film also calls for a rise in media literacy in schools.

The documentary’s website links visitors to their “Get Involved” section. Here, one can sign up for the pledge “to use [their] voice to challenge society’s limiting representations of gender.” The website asks for individuals to begin using hashtag “#notbuyingit” to call out sexism in the media.



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