“Miss Representation” Discussion
Ok, so like many of you out there I get on my Netflix sprees, where I scroll through the many selections trying to find some mind numbing pleasure that will somehow allow my mind even the slightest escape from life’s stresses. Instead what kept haunting me was something far greater. A documentary entitled “Miss Representation.” I had seen this in passing several times and then one day recently one of my favorite inspirations (actress, writer, and director) Kimberly McCullough tweeted about it!
And it was once again back on my radar. So I set myself up for greatness and I watched it, being impacted and knowing I would want to blog about this, I ferociously typed notes into my cell phone not wanting to miss any key points when discussing such a powerful piece.
The documentary starts off with a bit of a narrative from the director and you get a sense of her story and why she felt driven to create this documentary. It becomes clear that her aim is to create a better world for her daughter’s growing generation. And throughout this powerful journey we see many powerful, independent, positively influential woman in media share their opinions and their insights. It’s an array of TV personalities, actresses, women in politics, news anchors, activists, the list is endless. But what makes this even more human is the fact that there are opinions of young high school students (both girls and boys) who are at the root of this generation’s media tyranny. When you see these children who are entering young adulthood, noticing how media distorts the image of women and makes us into something that is more so thought of as objects rather than human beings, you start to realize that something needs to be done about this. And this documentary takes a stand against just that.
There were so many things said and discussed about how media views woman. This idea that woman are not to be images of empowerment but just to serve as an aspect of beauty, or an accessory to a man an his success. And if that image isn’t just perfect as the media portrays model in magazines, and on billboard ads, and in commercials, then they are just simply unworthy. Which is a total crock of shit! Sorry but this is a subject that just fires me up, so I make no apologies for my bold language or opinion!
As a young woman who hopes to one day be part of the tv and film industry, I don’t ever want any young girl or woman, or young boys to be made to feel like they aren’t good enough or that because of how they look they aren’t to be made to feel valued and special. Everything I write and film, I want to have a positive and meaningful impact. And I think because of this documentary I have opened my eyes a lot more, to the possibility of change for a better future for this and further generations to come.
Speaking of media being a devilish impact on today’s youth, I witnessed a few horrifying images in this film. Granted let it be known, these were included to make a point! But they showed images of a young girl (probably no older then 7 years old) being spray tanned for a beauty competition! Probably from a show resembling that of “toddlers in tiaras.” Like, what? See right off the bat you are teaching girls, babies in fact, that how they look as they are, is just not good enough.
Speaking of this idea of not being good enough and being compared to media models…understand this… that even models are photo-shopped and fabricated to fit an even higher standard of beauty, in fact an unattainable one.
Media tyranny extends as far as the news…in fact especially news. The way women news anchors and women in politics are degraded and their intellectual abilities are made out to be far less important. Instead their physical appearance is made the front and center topic. And why is this? Katie Couric was the first major women anchor, and her appearance was continuously scrutinized. Instead of discussing her ability to do her job and do it well, what she wore and her legs became the major topic. And this is NEWS? If that’s what we call news, then we need to redefine the word, immediately. Other news anchors were showcased in cleavage bearing shirts, showing us that true women of journalism were being degraded for what can only be deemed as a cheap rating boost. When what the woman giving the news is wearing becomes more important and more talked about then the billions of people starving in the world there is a problem with media! Scrutiny of women in news and in media in general are solely based on their physical appearances and their personal relationships outside the workplace. When people weren’t talking about Katie Couric showing too much sexy leg, they were talking about her dating a younger guy. When instead they should be focusing on her intellectual ability to deliver a powerful news story. Katie explained how she found it difficult trying to conform to both being pleasingly appearing to viewers, but remain professional. And because she even has to worry about this just goes to show how the media sends mixed messages to women, telling them that they have to be everything in order for their opinion to even be considered.
Tv talk show host Rachel Maddow, joked about her lack of appeal to some people, how she refuses to conform to the media’s ideal image and how she doesn’t wish to dumb herself down to that level. She said instead that rather then doll herself up she’d rather you “focus on what I’m saying, not how I look,” and focus on how she’s been doing her show this way for years and won’t be changing, that once you get over that fact, then maybe you’ll listen. I personally adored that. I think so many of us worry about looking a certain way, to in some way appease the views of men, but when it comes to voicing our opinions and sticking up for our rights, we either get hushed by men, or we get intimidated and slink back.
One woman running for office even went onto explain how she was asked “well if you are elected who will take care of your children?” She later said “if I were a man no one would be asking me this question.” And why is that? Because a women’s only place is to be a child bearer, to take care of the house hold responsibilities and to tend to her husband. Give me a freakin’ break. A woman, who is strong and determined both as a mother, and or a career woman, should be thought of as sexy. That’s what sexy should really be thought of as. A man should want the women in his life to achieve greatness, and not beat them down because of it. So what if that intimidates you, get over it, men have been holding their power and status over women since the dawn of time. And it is only right and natural for women to want to break free from those chains and make a name for themselves. Because they deserve to and because it is their right not only as women but as humans.
Both Sarah Palin, and Hillary Clinton were degraded and misrepresented during their times running for office. The documentary showcased how Senator Hillary Clinton was once headlined as Mrs. Clinton resulting in an attempt to demean her own personal accomplishments in politics and letting her be known solely as the former president’s wife. She was portrayed as a bitch because of her strong determined persona. While Sarah Palin tried to take a different route and remain a mother and likeable woman of the people, and got clobbered on as well. She was pornafied and looked at for her appearance. As you can see both ways failed and the public refused to embrace either strategy. When things like that happen, it’s no wonder, women at times feel they can’t speak their minds, because it’s almost as if no matter what we do, what we say, what we wear, who we are, is just not good enough. Because well we are just not men. It’s as simple as that.
They say women are too emotional, which causes them to be irrational and base their decisions off that irrationality, and that it isn’t appropriate in politics and media. Well maybe it’s that emotion that gives us humility that this world needs. Being a compassionate person should only enable you to be a better, more invested leader. A leader who wishes the best for the people they lead. Another problem of media is focused on men. This idea that men need not be emotional creatures. I think when young boys are subject to that notion; it makes them case themselves in a hard shell, an exterior that enables them to be incapable of true rational communication with women. And understanding emotion should never make you less of a man. And maybe if fathers and other male role models spent more time promoting that, then seeing how many half naked super models they can cram into commercial breaks during football season…maybe then the future men of this generation won’t be so susceptible to the degrading and scrutiny of women.
This idea that men dominate politics and leadership roles, go to show that maybe that’s the major problem with media, or rather one of the many major problems. Throughout the documentary they showed statistics of women in all fields. And statistics show that the women’s perspective in media is seriously low. In order for media to change and to stop damaging the minds of young girls everywhere, (and young boys as well) there needs to be a greater women input. There should be more women in politics, more women directors, and writers, and more women in news, and advertising and more women in media in general. And men should want to lobby for that, and want to create that greater more humanized approach. After all we are all human, and female or male, it shouldn’t matter.
The film and tv industries alone are male dominated, and so when you see these movies and tv shows revolving around a male protagonist and his conquest, its generally written and directed by a man. This entire point made in the documentary definitely made me think. The women featured went on to describe when a woman seems to be a protagonist, or a bad ass chick in a film, it’s often times, that she is wearing a scantily designed leather body suit or revealing outfit of some kind, that really isn’t detrimental to her role and ways of saving people. One of the women described this as “the fighting fuck toy,” this woman serves for the eyes of the male viewer. They serve as sex objects and body props. Or then there is the bitchy boss storyline that falls into the pattern of a woman who has given up having a family for the sake of achieving success and throughout the film there’s a man or others vowing to knock her down a peg, because of this. The documentary also goes onto explain how there are seldom dynamic female roles offered. Women need to tell their stories. Women have voices of their own, and although it’s been relentlessly stifled and cast aside for years, I think it’s about time that shit changes! The documentary goes on to explain that women need not be sexualized to feel empowered and that women have come a long way from the days where their appearance was considered the only power they had. However, although we’ve come a long way, we still have a long ways to go.
Another woman featured was director Catherine Hardwick. Best known for directing “Thirteen” and the first installment of the “Twilight” series. She brought up the valid point that she wasn’t asked to direct any further twilight films, and when she asked why she was told “it’d be better directed by a man.” She also made another valid point that if a man could go on to direct sex and the city, why couldn’t she continue directing the twilight films. It’s the media beasts’ way of saying we just don’t want a woman director. The documentary quoted the phrase I’ve heard a good amount of times when taking my writing and screenwriting classes, “write what you know,” and as I said before, women need to write their own stories and tell our sides of things, and how we see the world. Because sure call us more emotional, more irrational, well that’s what is going to get to a person, it’s going to have an impact on other people, and hopefully many other women and girls. And hopefully it will give them the incentive to strive for more, and to support each other, support other women. The documentary goes on to say that if women don’t stick up for other women, no one else will.
There was a quote displayed that said
“You can’t be what you can’t see”
So it’s difficult for young girls to grow up to have that drive in them to strive for greatness, to strive for becoming both a powerful and intelligent woman, rather then just focusing on how they look to others. Young girls can’t be that if they don’t see it happening before them. Because of the poor role models the media presents for all the world to see and to idolize, “young girls and woman are brought up to be fundamentally insecure.” They need to be surrounded by positive influences. And if they aren’t they need to strive to be those who do the inspiring, there is a first person to lobby for each and every cause.
These dehumanizing and stereotypical assumptions placed upon women, are just overbearing and it has a sickening impact on many young girls and women today. In the form of eating disorders and other disorders. And as a young woman myself, I can completely understand why, and I understand the pressure put upon us all. And it just isn’t fair. In fact a few years ago I wrote an article for my college newspaper, discussing media’s violent affect on body image, and know that I’ve seen this documentary I realize this issue is still continuous an still prominent. But what I don’t understand, is this toxic waste that men plant upon women. Men need to understand something. A woman brought you into this world. No matter how it was done, no matter which woman carried you, you came from a woman. A woman gave you life. You would not be here; you would not be even half as successful or powerful if she had not done so. You would not even exist. Understand that. And understand that she did not carry you for 9 months, dealing with physical transformation, and morning sickness for you to turn into an ignorant misogynistic asshole. I’m not putting this upon all men, in fact several men were part of this documentary and had a lot of great insight, so it was refreshing to see that they understand there is a severe issue of sexism plagued upon women in today’s society and the fact that they spoke out on it, was a foot in the right direction. Because not all men degrade women, but for the better part of the population that does, yes I’m talking to you….get your shit together and understand that your perspective isn’t the only perspective that matters.
It’s such a shame because the media and especially the internet, with its growing convenience, can be such a helpful tool; it can be such a source of information. And yet we use it to tear each other down. Katie Couric said something that I really loved she said “Media can be a change; it just has to do with who’s piloting the plane?” And I think that’s such a brilliant metaphor, because as long as these media corporations are driven by men and their perspectives, women will continue to be deemed as less powerful and less influential and so I say to you never let someone devalue you as a human being. You have every right to what ever you want in life, whether it’s to be a stay at home mom, or a career woman, or both! You are beautiful for who you are, and these media images that make you think otherwise are all products of mass media, distorting women to make you think you need to buy their product. You like makeup, you like fashion, good for you! To each her own. But just know that without it, you are just as beautiful, and if you do dress up, make sure it is for you, and not for the benefit or the viewing pleasure of anyone else. And I know that in this world we all gossip and we all talk, every girl has slut shammed at least one other girl in their lifetime. But just realize that we are all in this together. Maybe you don’t agree with that girl posting those racy pictures on facebook or instagram, or maybe you don’t agree with the girl who keeps to herself and chooses to remain conservative, no matter what the case, understand it is her prerogative. Say your piece if need be and move on. The less we insult and degrade each other as women, the more of a united front we will be. And we can tear down this media beast run by men, because times are changing and women are becoming aware of their own voices and it’s time to join this movement! And be a part of history. It’s an amazing thing to be a woman, there are so many layers to that word and it is our job as women to unfold each and every one and discover who we are and what we can do. So fight for what you believe and never let a man tell you can’t do something. And if he does just kick him in the balls… just kidding…well maybe 😉
To watch the full documentary…
You can find it on Netflix…
and shout out to Kimberly McCullough for tweeting about it! Gave me the incentive to watch it!