My name is Emma. This is my feminism.

Miss Representation – 2011

on March 14, 2012

Watching this documentary is actually what made me want to start this blog.  I haven’t written about it yet because I was too intimidated; I didn’t know what to say that would do it justice.  If I could only recommend one documentary, I think this might be it.  It summarizes most of my views on feminism today, and focuses on the portrayal of women in all the media, which is obviously something I think is important to look at.

It mentioned quite a few things that I hadn’t realized before.  For one thing, movies are almost never really about women’s lives.   They are either made for men, by men, and about men, or they are “chick flicks.”  But in fact, chick flicks are also about men.  It would not be a happy ending if the woman ended up with great girl friends, a great job, great family, but no man.  The only thing that matters in a chick flick is getting the man.

The problems are not just how the media constructs fictional women though.  This film also looks at the way strong women politicians like Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin are talked about in the media.  “What is she wearing?”  “Did she get a boob job?”  “She’s hot.”  “She’s nagging and complaining.”  “She’s looking old.”  And on and on.  Why are these things important?  These women are trying to run your country, but you care more about their appearances than what they stand for?  If you can’t take these women seriously, how can any woman feel that she can take a stand and be taken seriously?

Media gives girls and women the message that the way we look is the most important thing about us.  We get this message constantly from everywhere we look.  Going on YouTube to watch the trailer for Miss Representation I had to see an ad about foundation.  We get this message so much that we don’t even question it.  We have completely embraced it, and have become the ones oppressing ourselves in many ways.  We do it to other women all the time.  If you want to hurt a woman’s feelings, quick, call her fat.  Because that would be the worst thing ever.  But we do it to ourselves even more.  We are so critical of the way we look because we have been fooled into thinking that it really matters. 

When I really think about that for a minute, it just makes me want to cry.  We are so much more than how we look.  But we have so completely internalized this message that I don’t think most women can actually, truly accept that.  How we look does not matter.  If I’m overweight, or have pimples, or have a big nose, or – God forbid – pores, I can still be amazing.  But we can’t just focus on being amazing, because looking amazing takes too much of our time and money. 

My sister pointed out, as we watched this documentary, that the women in it were very attractive.  They don’t look like the ‘ideal woman’ idolized by the media, but they speak so intelligently and their passion is so clear that it is really a pleasure to get to watch and listen to them speak.  After she pointed that out, I realized how true it was and is with other women in my life.  I enjoy watching women who I have a lot of respect for, and who I think are impressive as people.  I could totally see that type of true beauty replacing what we think of now as ‘beautiful’ women. 

What I love most about Miss Representation is that it is hopeful.  It offers solutions to many of the overwhelming problems that it brings up; things that all of us can do.  Teach media literacy and critical thinking.  Help girls and women tell their own stories.  Let children make films so that they know that the media is a construction, not a truth.  Support women who are doing great things rather than women who look great.  Stop criticizing your own body.  Support movies by and about strong women.  Speak up when you hear people saying demeaning things about women. 

I think the most important thing to do is to interrogate your own thoughts and feelings about women.  We are raised in a very sexist society, and recognizing that some of that has rubbed off on you does not make you a bad person.  It just gives you a place to start. 

“May we all make empowering other women and girls a priority.”



3 responses to “Miss Representation – 2011

  1. […] who is leading a group of men and women independently is a step in the right direction for sure.  Miss Representation points out that ‘you can’t be what you can’t see.’  We have to show strong […]

  2. […] are no resources or jobs for them, they have very little hope for any kind of profitable future (‘you can’t be what you can’t see’), and that being a man means demanding respect, not being afraid of anything, and being aggressive […]

  3. […] media tells us.  It gives us back a little power.  It reminds me of something one of the women in Miss Representation said about letting her daughter make her own movies, and how it taught her that TV and movies are […]

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