Friday, June 1, 2012

Miss Representation

There were terrible thunderstorms near my home this evening, so I ended up staying in and watching a documentary. "Miss Representation" is about the media's objectification of women. This documentary features several influential women including Gloria Steinem, Condoleezza Rice, Nancy Pelosi, Geena Davis and many more. There are several disheartening statistics posted through the documentary, including:

-78% of 17-year-old girls are unhappy with their bodies

-The average woman spends between $12,000 and $15,000 a year on beauty products and salon services

-Women spend more on their appearance than on their education

-The average facelift costs $11,429 (enough to pay for five years of community college, two years at a state university, or one year at The University of California)

To say these statistics are depressing is an understatement. Self-objectification has become an epidemic in the United States. When women think of themselves as objects, it distracts them from being leaders and focusing on their strengths. The commentators in "Miss Representation" mentioned some facts about politics that were shocking, which I have listed below:

-Women make up 51% of the U.S. population yet comprise only 17% of Congress

-Only 34 women have ever served as governors compared to 2,319 men

-67 countries in the world have had female presidents or prime ministers, and the U.S. is not one of them

-The U.S. is 90th in the world in terms of women in national legislatures

Women have come a long way, but recently there has been a backlash. This can be partially attributed to the way women are portrayed in the media. Women are more sexualized in the media today than ever before. Reality television portrays women as decorative, useless and stupid. These television shows are a tremendous setback for the women's movement. Some very interesting points on this subject were shared in this documentary:

-Only 16% of protagonists in films are female

-From 1935 - 2005 there were only 13 female protagonists in animated movies, and all except one had the aspiration of finding romance

-Women in their teens, 20's and 30's are 39% of the population, yet they make up 71% of women on television

-Women who are 40 and older are 47% of the population, yet they make up only 26% of women on television

-Women hold only 3% of clout positions in telecommunications, entertainment, publishing and advertising

-Women comprise only 16% of all writers, directors, producers, cinematographers and editors

-The average number of news stories about women and girls is less than 20%

It's a wonder that women have any meaningful roles in television and movies. Geena Davis made an excellent point about how things are run in Hollywood. She said, "All of Hollywood is run on one assumption: that women will watch stories about men, but men won't watch stories about women. All the decisions are made on this concrete fact. That's a horrible assumption that half the population is not interested in the other half." That explains why the majority of protagonist roles are written for men. We need to change these perceptions and no longer accept that men are the only interesting characters in films.

Watching this documentary was certainly a wakeup call. It was startling to realize how skewed the media is right now. At the end of “Miss Representation,” the writer and director, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, made an excellent point that we need to live our own vision of what a woman can be. I agree! We need to reject the media's version of reality and accept that we are not defined by what we see on television. Each woman gets to define herself!

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