On the upper west side not far from Columbia University a gathering of women (with some men sprinkled in) appeared at the home of The Last Women’s Magazine editor for a film screening of Miss Representation. It wasn’t important that the 2011 American documentary film written, directed, and produced by Jennifer Siebel Newsom was already seen by the majority of us in attendance. The film, now famous on Netflix was a catalyst for a bigger conversation: The representation of women in American society and more specifically, the misrepresentation of women in the media.
We sat on couches in a cozy room amongst art deco images of colorful women posing with their skeletons visible (that were for sale or winnable by way of raffle tickets). We mingled like this until the lights dimmed, the big screen lit up, and we took our seats.
Use the link to see a clip of the documentary: http://film.missrepresentation.org/
In honor of women’s history month and in greater tribute to the months and years after when women’s issues would continue long after March has come and gone we watched the film that spoke on the day to day subliminal messaging we receive that shapes our perception of an America woman. How does the media tell us she should look? How should she speak? Do the same rules apply to different races of women? Classes? Ages? In what ways does the media skew our idea of women and just how mentally fucked up are we on the issue? The film challenged us, as a very humble representation of 51% of the population to have honest discussions as women on what the film was saying and what our own life experiences told us. Uraidah Hassani, founder of the Women’s Worldwide Initiative led the women into discussion.
Just a few ideas tossed around were women in positions of power. What did we make of the media’s incredible regard for a women who seek to attain positions of power as two things: The Hilary Clinton or her counterpart, the Sarah Palin (otherwise known as the stereotypes of the ball busting bitch or the mentally inadequate sex figure)? We dived into women in most mainstream movies. Particularly the women in movies under the guise as the heroin. The ones who seem to be taking names and no prisoners since the opening scene dressed in… little to nothing, looking…wildly sexed up while saving… the world. I suspect that this is idea of the “fighting fuck toy”, dubbed affectionately by the documentary may be the culprit behind the sub culture of women’s Halloween garb including but not limited to: sexy cop, sexy firefighter, sexy super hero, and/or sexy nurse/doctor.
We came together as women of 2014 who are a part of the generation of the new media to discuss strategy. Below are some initial steps you can take to not allow yourself to become a victim of the media. Moreover, this might be a great place to start counteracting the sexism and harassment that sullies the quality of life of women and girls in urban/suburban/rural communities and in developing countries.
- Media Literacy: This is more necessary now that we live in an age where media images and social media are a constant presence in our lives. Media literacy has become as important as reading literacy. Being able to comprehend knowledge intake and question information is powerful.
- Be the Change You Wish to See: Simple. Change up your life style if you want a change in society. Read up and educate yourself on the matter. Don’t be shy in supporting women intellectuals or women you think would excel in positions of leadership.
- No Respect? No Ratings: Don’t support television programming or movies that promote blatant masochistic or sexist views. Television is sometimes a sensationalized representation of us and our stories. What will we have them say about us?
- Be a Story Teller: Create more stories that tell the lives of women on their own terms. Use the media as an instrument of change.
Link for the Last Women’s Magazine: http://thelastwomensmagazine.com/