Appalled and Angry….Miss Representation

Miss representation 2


Last night, I went to a screening of Miss Representation.  Again.  This is the second time I’ve seen it.  I expected to be much less appalled, much less motivated, but I was not.  I was just as appalled, maybe even more than the first time.  I left very depressed.  To my eyes, the world is just so broken in so many ways, and I feel that any small difference I can make is like a teardrop in the Pacific Ocean.  However, I also know that with enough teardrops, we can affect change.

This morning, a friend asked me what I took away from the evening.  In other words, “What Can We Do?”  That’s a huge question, and deserves a bigger answer than I could give on Facebook.

The problem of sexism in the media is so huge, there isn’t one single thing we can do.  We need to do everything, and we need to do it all the time.  But as a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, here are my thoughts:

We need to raise awareness.  Start by seeing the movie.  Then continue the conversation.  Talk to your daughters, talk to your sons.  Watch advertising with your children.  Ask them what scantily clad women with large breasts have to do with selling beer?  Cars?  Toilet bowl cleaner?  Show them how different products are skewed to different demographics.  Ask them to think about why that is.

Take some time and go through so-called fashion magazines with your daughters.  Explain to them why, within 3 minutes of thumbing through one of these magazines, they’re self-esteem drops.  Show them how each advertisment, each article, is designed to make them feel bad about themselves, to show them how they don’t measure up, and that they’re supposed to be feel bad, so they buy a product that promises to bring them closer to the ideal.

Stop buying products made by companies that promote sexism in their advertising.  Women have 80% of the buying power in this country.  In most families, women do 90% of the shopping.  Put your dollars where your principles lie.  I’m not just talking about stores that promote your ideals, but the actual products.  Do some research.  If you don’t like Victoria’s Secret’s message to and about women, then don’t buy anything made or sold by Limited Brands – Victoria’s Secret, Victoria’s Secret PINK, Bath and Body Works, La Senza and Henri Bendel.

Insist that your school district change its curriculum.  Bring the Miss Representation curriculum into the schools.   It includes the feature film as well as customized footage and lessons for the following age groups: University, High School, Middle School, 4th-5th, K-3rd.

But mostly, examine yourself.  Shine the light into every corner of yourself. Look to see how you’ve assimilated the message that you can’t be _________ because you’re a woman.

I had an interesting conversation on the way home from the screening.  I said, “I would love to volunteer and do some mentoring, but what am I actually showing anyone?  I’m middle-aged, not outstandingly successful by society’s standards.  I’m fat and have health problems.  I’m more an example of what not to do, than I am of what to do.”

My husband said, “You drank the Kool-aid.”

I thought about it for a minute, and agreed.  “I drank the Kool-Aid while insisting that I wasn’t drinking it.”

If I, an ardent feminist, a speaker for equal rights regardless of gender, color, religion or sexual orientation, can self-doubt myself into inaction because I don’t measure up to the media’s idea of what I should be, than what chance do younger women, who don’t have the depth of experience that middle-age brings, or the support of role models interjecting a different way to think, have?

As I said, the problem is huge.  The message is insidious.  But there are steps to take, and  ultimately, each step will bring us closer to the goal of equality for all people.

Comments and discussion are welcome here, and on my Facebook page.

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1 comment to Appalled and Angry….Miss Representation

  • Melissa Cavallone

    Sorry, just got around to reading this. I agree with your takeaways. I was talking to another mother at Janine’s school the other day about the curriculum. I feel like we need to start teaching about women at a younger age. Why wait until high school history or college? Focus on women during women’s history month at all grade levels. Talk about what is and isn’t acceptable in a relationship in both middle school (gulp, Janine goes to middle school next year) and in high school. Don’t wait until high school. Heck, you could take that to a friendship level (how to be a good friend) and teach it as early as kindergarten. The challenge is to get the schools to implement such changes. I will be emailing our superintendent. I have a feeling I am quickly going to be labeled one of “those mothers” by him since he is new and I expect to be on a first name basis if I stay on my band wagons.

    Also, as you said, money talks. I don’t watch much tv news like Fox News or CNN, but I guess maybe I should to point out to the networks when talking heads say objectionable things about women. No one would call a male senator a bastard, yet women are so quickly labeled bitches. Just not right. It’s all about respect and love, and we just aren’t doing it. It will take many drops in the bucket, but if we get enough people together…