Miss Representation

When Jennifer Siebel Newsom realised that she was pregnant with a baby girl it triggered a crisis of conscience, specifically relating to how she could bring up a psychologically healthy and emotionally well adjusted girl in today’s world. This proved to be the starting point for Newsom’s documentary Miss Representation which explores the American media’s portrayal of women.

Broadcasters Katie Couric and Rachel Maddow, comedian Margaret Cho, feminist writer Gloria Steinem, politician Condoleezza Rice, actresses Jane Fonda and Geena Davis (who is doing amazing work on Gender in Media with the Geena Davis Institute) and journalist Lisa Ling are just some of the women who have taken part in the documentary. Their interviews tell the story which is interspersed with relevant statistics that are often terrifying, such as the fact that American women spend more on beauty products, diet aids and salon services than they do on their own education.

Although the documentary is focussed on the American media it is still very relevant to women in other countries, especially because American media and cultural attitudes are so pervasive around the world. We watch American television shows, we follow American news media and American celebrities are known throughout the world.

The montage of footage in Miss Representation showing how the media criticise and degrade women in positions of political power is thoroughly horrifying. American women have a very long way to go before they will considered equal to men and even though I think in Europe things are marginally better, the fight for equality is ongoing here too.

As long as women continue to battle for male attention on reality TV shows, as long as TV producers commission shows like Toddlers and Tiaras, as long as women partake in programmes like “Girls Gone Wild”, as long as women in the public eye are pressured to be thin and have plastic surgery, then we will never be equal. This is a documentary that needs to be seen by every teenage girl so that they can understand how they are being manipulated and how they are valuable for a whole lot more than just the way they look. (And if you’re looking for a similar take on the advertising industry make sure you watch this hour long talk by Jean Kilbourne – thought provoking stuff.)

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2 thoughts on “Miss Representation

  1. Eimear

    I usually love your blog but I’m a little surprised at your latest entry. While I whole-heartedly agree with you about the sentiment of the film and am shocked at the fact that American women spend more on cosmetics than their education I can’t help but feel that your focus on consumerism and the latest “must haves” in the form of jewellery and accessories sort of contributes to this commodification of modern life…

    I look forward to reading about films, your thoughts etc. but am getting weary of reading about the latest piece of jewellery that you’ve found…

    Good luck & thanks again for all your hard work with this blog.

  2. Hi Eimear,

    Thanks for the comment which made me think over the last couple of days. (I never get comments like that so honestly, thank you!)

    I reckon commodification of modern life and feminism are two separate issues, but I can see your point: this focus on fashion/trends can contribute towards the prevailing attitude that women are valuable only for they way they look.

    However fashion and style are only covered on one day out of five on this blog and that’s not because I’m trying to push my opinions on others, but actually because I’m interested in fashion as an art form and a means of expression rather than having the “must have” latest item.

    In actual fact I can’t afford 95% of the things I cover in the fashion and style posts and I’m writing about them not in an acquisitive way but as something that I think is beautiful or interesting.

    Weirdly the majority of my hits on the blog come from the fashion posts and I think it’s heartening to know that there are people like you who actually read the rest of my posts regarding pop culture! It makes me very happy indeed!

    Many of my readers are men who choose to ignore the Tuesday posts as they’re not relevant to them. Maybe you could follow their lead and disregard Tuesdays and tune in for the rest of the week?

    Thanks a million again for the comment. Something which makes me think and inspires a debate is always a good thing.

    Alex.

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