Assistant News Editor
“You can’t be what you can’t see” is the motto of a documentary entitled “Miss Representation,” a film that examines the way in which mainstream media contributes to the under-representation of women in a variety of spheres.
On Monday, Dec. 3, the department of sociology and anthropology and the gender studies program hosted a screening of the film, which was written, directed and produced by actress Jennifer Siebel Newsom.
“Miss Representation” focuses on the way in which women are portrayed in movies, television and music.
Actress Jane Fonda says in the documentary, “The hyper-sexualization that occurs in Hollywood is toxic; there’s no question that it affects all of us, including young girls who are seeking an identity.”
The film also focuses on the effects on women who are put under pressure by media and culture to be a certain weight, dress a certain style, act a certain way and take on certain gender-based roles.
The documentary primarily features primarily women in leadership positions and includes interviews with Condoleezza Rice, Margaret Cho, Gloria Steinem, Katie Couric and Geena Davis.
In addition to leaders in the political and media worlds, the documentary includes interviews with men and women in the non-profit, education and film worlds, as well as young men and women in high school.
When asked to describe “Miss Representation,” Amy Reynolds, a sociology professor and current coordinator of the gender studies certificate, said, “‘Miss Representation’ presents the sad realities about how women are portrayed in media — not just in film and magazines but also the ways that political and public figures are depicted and described in the media.”
Reynolds further explained, “The film also discusses the implications of this misrepresentation, arguing that media is part of the reason for the lack of representation of women in leadership positions in our society. The film does a good job at communicating the negative implications for society of not having women in leadership.”
“I was expecting more of a concentration on women’s empowerment in our culture and our country in general and less of a concentration on media’s influence on that,” said senior Riley Balikian, who attended the screening. “I think that ‘Miss Representation’ does a good job in showing that these issues are also larger than our personal struggles. They deal with what we are allowing ourselves to be exposed to through laws and regulations at the national level.”
In addition to discussing and detailing the role of women in media and politics, the documentary also focuses on men in America and the way that media influences their view of women.
Featured in the film were male leaders such as filmmaker and author Jackson Katz, Newark mayor Cory Booker and screenwriter Paul Haggis.
In addition, “Miss Representation” includes interviews with young adults such as Kirk, a high school student, who said, “If guys don’t show this masculine side, then they’re criticized for it and they’re looked upon as less of a man.”
Calvin, another high school student, said, “I definitely am not one to conform to the ‘we need to be hyper-masculine and we need to be misogynistic’ stereotypes. It really puts a lot of pressure on me when I have relatives who have grown up with this phenomenon, who attempt to put me on that path when I’m not ready for it.”
When asked if she has noticed any of the themes of “Miss Representation” present on the Wheaton College campus, Reynolds replied, “Yes, I think many of these problems do exist on the Wheaton campus. Many female students feel a lot of pressure to conform to certain ideals of beauty and often feel defined by others based on their appearance.”
When asked about whether he would recommend “Miss Representation” to the student body, Balikian said, “I think the importance of this documentary is in helping us recognize that there is a problem in the way women are portrayed, and therefore in the development of our image of who women are. I think it can help people view the media that we are fed with a critical eye, rather than allowing our sexuality to be bought and sold on television or the Internet.”
Photo Courtesy: missrepresentation.org
Printed in the December 7, 2012, issue of The Wheaton Record. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.