From early childhood, the media bombards children in our society with sexist and damaging images and messages. These images can have dire consequences, particularly on the ways in which women and girls see themselves as leaders and how others perceive them as potential leaders. “Miss Representation” is a film that sheds light on the injustices of these portrayals of women by the male-dominated media. The Women’s Resource Center (WRC) is committed to social justice regarding gender equity in our society, a large part of which is influenced by the media. In screening this film, the WRC has created dialogue about these otherwise ignored issues. For many college students this film is not only eye-opening, but also reflects the lack of conversation surrounding women in leadership and in powerful positions. In addition to the influential issue of sexism in the media and in our general society, this video briefly touches on the intersection of race and class within gendered politics.
Feedback from different students and organizations the WRC has facilitated “Miss Representation” discussions with have pointed out the lack of attention given to these intersections. Some of these concerns include how the film acknowledges but does not fully discuss the lack of women of color in leadership positions. The film should examine the cyclical nature of oppression, in that because there are no women of color in leadership, there are no role models for young girls of color. Thus, the continuous barrier prevents women of color from reaching their leadership potentials.
In addition to the intersection of race and gender in leadership, the film examines the effects of capitalism and hierarchical social structures on women. For example, since the media is predominantly male-dominated, it portrays a predominantly male-centered point of view. Considering that women make up over half of the population, this is not particularly democratic, especially when such an industry profits so much from exploiting women’s sexuality.
Even in reputable media sources, women who have overcome all other barriers and reached a position of leadership in our country are ridiculed and diminished for choices so insignificant as their choice of wardrobe. Not even our most powerful women can escape this objectification and bitch-ification. Hillary Clinton is a catty ice-queen. Sarah Palin is a bimbo. Nancy Pelosi has undergone too much plastic surgery to be able to make any public policy decisions. Sonia Sotomayor, according to Rush Limbaugh, should be given a vacuum cleaner to clean up after herself. These sexist comments are just some of the messages we are subjected to and hear in our everyday consumption of the media. These messages result in plummeting self-esteem issues and work to discourage women and girls to be able to see themselves as strong, intelligent, and capable leaders.
“Miss Representation” has sparked a torrent of discussion that has extended far beyond the two-hour confines of the film, and to the many corners of the CU-Boulder community. Look for future screenings of the film, or contact the WRC if you would like to host a private screening and discussion for your campus or community group.