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Category Archives: Miss Representation

You Can’t Be What You Can’t See

We’ve been showing this documentary, Miss Representation, as part of our Women’s History Month program, our theme being Women Enacting Change.  While this movie certainly has it’s problems. like the fact that the majority of the celebrities who speak in it are gorgeous stereotypical women, it’s underlying theme of how we are represented in television, the movies and in the news is significant. View the trailer here http://www.missrepresentation.org/

We hosted a showing of the movie in New Bedford as part of a collaboration with other women’s agencies to a packed house.  Then we showed it to a group of middle school girls for a day long empowerment event with the YWCA and the AAUW.  Lastly we showed the entire movie on campus for anyone on campus or in the community.  The group of about 50 people was made up mostly of community women.  Some of these were mothers who brought their daughters to see the movie.  These young women were riled up by the movie. 

I asked them who in the audience identified as feminists and as some of them raised their hands, one girl said “I do now!”  This is my takeaway.  If one 90 minute film is going to help a middle school or high school girl identify with feminism then I need to show it everywhere.  I showed the movie to an 8th grade class the other day and while we were watching the clip, my college student who was there to help me lead the discussion whispered that she “feels that way too” in reference to women hating their bodies.  I let out a big internal sigh.  This woman already identifies with feminism and gets what the media is doing to us, but still can’t separate the message from the way it feels on the inside.  We need to start younger.

This is my new plan of action:  take this movie to young women. 

Here are just a few disturbing facts from the film.  

  • Women hold only 3% of clout positions in the mainstream media (telecommunications, entertainment, publishing and advertising).
  • Women comprise 7% of directors and 13% of film writers in the top 250 grossing films.
  • The United States is 90th in the world in terms of women in national legislatures.
  • Women hold 17% of the seats in the House of Representatives (the equivalent body in Rwanda is 56.3% female).
  • Women are merely 3% of Fortune 500 CEOs.
  • About 25% of girls will experience teen dating violence.
  • The number of cosmetic surgical procedures performed on youth 18 or younger more than tripled from 1997 to 2007.
  • Among youth 18 and younger, liposuctions nearly quadrupled between 1997 and 2007 and breast augmentations increased nearly six-fold in the same 10-year period.
  • 65% of American women and girls report disordered eating behaviors.

I hope you will support me in my plan to take this movie to young girls in Southcoast Massachusetts and beyond.  With your energy being sent my way, I know we can change the way media controls our lives, one girl (and maybe even one boy?) at a time. 

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If You’re Not a Feminist, Then You’re a Bigot by Gloria Allred

I happened upon the funny video “Sh*t White Feminists Say” and after it finished, saw the Gloria Allred video come up in the feed on the side and clicked on it. She is basically saying that feminism is  about human rights and social justice and if you’re not for those issues, then you are against human rights and social justice, making you a bigot.

I really like her comment dismissing “we’ve come a long way” in that we need to be looking at a vision to where we should be rather than what we have accomplished. But what is amazing to me about this video are the comments below it. My first question is, if you were anti-feminist, why would you even spend time watching a video about feminism? Why is there such vile hatred for someone working for social justice? The descriptors below her include comments like “cunt” and “I don’t think she swallows.”

What does someone’s sexual acts in bed have to do with their politics? Who are these people cruising You Tube and making random comments on these videos? Furthermore, the comments about humanism are also frustrating. If one is to look up the definition of humanism, it is “an approach in study, philosophy, world view or practice that focuses on human values and concerns, attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters.” It is more about being an atheist than being someone for equal rights.

I guess I shouldn’t be so astonished, in this day when a backlash against women seems to be clearer than the one Susan Faludi wrote about in 1992. A new documentary that is sweeping Women’s Studies Programs and Women’s Centers, Miss Representation demonstrates how little women are represented in the news, in the mainstream media, in children’s books and in movies. And when they are represented, they are depicted as female bombshells with no brains, characterized only by their supposed beauty. This film is also promoting DOING something about the lack of women. Their tagline “You can’t be what you can’t see” makes sense.

For this year’s Superbowl their blog promoted a #NotBuyingIt campaign where people could tweet their dislike of commercials that were sexist. The biggest offender so far is GoDaddy. I’m glad something is finally being done about this in a pro-active way, but those few followers of my blog know I’ve been harping on this representation piece for years.

Maybe I’m just starting to become old and jaded a week before my 43rd birthday. Maybe I’m becoming tired of feeling like it’s always three steps forward and two steps back. Maybe working at university means I’m always educating the same group of students year after year who come to me with the same cultural biases and brainwashing. Maybe change isn’t happening fast enough for my lifetime and I don’t want to die wondering if we’ll ever get an ERA.

But I promise to try to keep writing, even though once a week is clearly a challenge for this blogger. And for today, I’m with Gloria Allred.

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Providing weekly critiques of theatre, film, books, politics and pop culture from a feminist perspective.