If you haven’t already watched the trailer to Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s documentary, Miss Representation, you need to. Before you ignore it and cast it off as just another piece of doom-and gloom propaganda, I issue you this challenge: Watch this nine minute clip and catch your tongue before you so vehemently try to tell me we are in any way past sexism.
As I sit here at my computer, I feel like someone just punched me in the stomach; all of my previous notions of womens’ rights and political progress have just been completely shut down, and I’m left with the urge to open my window and yell, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”
There are so many things I want to say about this video. I want to talk about the terrifyingly high number of hours our youth spend watching television and address the many psychological issues that we’re instilling in them on a daily basis; I want to punch the political commentator who talks about a woman’s PMS getting in the way of her role in the Oval Office. (But if I did, would I just be an “emotional female”?); and, above all, I want to change everything.
And that’s why I’m sitting here at my computer feeling frustrated. Immediately after watching this video, the majority of my frustration was aimed at other people: the newscasters questioning whether Sarah Palin’s breasts are real, the photographer who shot the degrading ad of a naked woman being choked into submission, and the designers of the video games promoting violence against female prostitutes. But now, after brewing for a few more minutes, the majority of my frustrations are aimed at myself. Why? Because I haven’t done anything about it. Doesn’t that make me just as bad as everyone else creating all of this?
As a young woman working in the media, I feel like I should have the power to erase these ideas and promote women in politics and spread the healthy idea that women belong in the public eye not because they’re beautiful, scandalous or promiscuous, but because they actually have something to say.
Instead, I feed into it. I poke fun at Sarah Palin, pick up trashy tabloids and laugh at sexist jokes. Why? Because it’s easier that way. After all, die-hard feminists are no fun, right?
Women are constantly being told to ignore the media’s image of beauty. But here’s the thing: By talking about beauty, we’re completely missing the point! All of this talk about airbrushing and plastic surgery and eating disorders are only fostering the ideas that beauty is what matters. Well, it’s not.
Last but not least, I feel excited. We’re in a position to bring about change. One of the film’s most hard-hitting lines is, “You can’t be what you can’t see,” and that’s exactly right. We need more role models to show us the way. That’s my new mission. Are you with me?
Now that you’ve watched the trailer for this documentary, how are you going to create change?