Put the message in the box, Put the box into the car, Drive the car around the world, Until you get heard
I love that song. Whenever I hear it I want to sing the chorus loudly. And there is no better time than now, when the election is around the corner and there are many messages fighting to be heard – wrestling for our attention.
In the midst of election mania I was lucky enough to be invited by a friend to see a screening of a documentary this week.
The film, Miss Representation, made by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, exposes how mainstream media offers young girls an extremely narrow, often over-sexualized view of who they ‘should’ be in the world. Jennifer believes this limited portrayal has contributed to the lack of women seeking positions of leadership and power, and sabotages the developing self-esteem of many young girls, bombarded constantly by a barrage of distorted images and messages.
I couldn’t agree more.
I felt extremely emotional watching the film, which is intelligently narrated and edited and includes fascinating interviews with women who have held influential positions, like Condoleeza Rice and Nancy Pelosi, as well as teenagers on the frontline.
The film is relevant to me because I am raising a 12-year-old daughter who is lodged firmly in the demographic much of this advertising and programming is aimed at. But I am also raising a 14-year-old boy, who is vulnerable because his responses and ideas of women are potentially being shaped by this insidious onslaught.
Let’s face it – this film is relevant to everyone.
Magazines are plastered with pictures of young girls draped in women’s clothing, often sickly thin and posed provocatively. Girls and women are still frequently depicted in advertising, mainstream films, TV, and music videos as sexual objects whose primary purpose is to attract men. Overweight girls and women are continually mocked and reduced to caricatures.
Reality TV pits women against one another encouraging ‘cat fights’ and ‘bitch bashing’. And entertainment shows and magazines exert excessive amounts of time and energy into picking apart celebrity’s bodies and fashion sense – including women in politics – the small minority of females who actually do hold leadership positions in government.
This documentary is a bright red flag. A piercing siren. A disturbing alarm. And one that should be heard by everyone. I commend Jennifer for challenging the system and asking us to pay attention. She really is putting the message in the box and driving the car around the world.
I am concerned that girls are being dislocated from their sexuality as an instinctual sense of self, and relocating their sexual identity solely in how they are perceived by men. This has massive consequences for both genders, and is being fuelled by many media avenues. The results are widespread and devastating contributing to bullying, depression, under achieving, eating disorders, addiction – the list goes on.
There are people responsible for making these decisions based on revenue rather than ethics. We do need to take a stand. This could be a boldly brazen soapbox – let’s step up – join forces – gather momentum!
Miss Representation has not had a cinematic release, but you can contact Jennifer and arrange for a screening. She also runs educational programs for middle and high schools. Recently she has spearheaded a campaign on Twitter #notbuyingit, targeting companies who are using sexualized images of women/girls to sell products. Spirit Halloween is one of the companies she outed for promoting seductive costumes for ‘tween’ girls, suggesting that wearing the tiny ensembles will make them more attractive to boys.
It’s human nature isn’t it? When the time is right, boys and girls will get crushes on either gender. Trying to accelerate the process by dressing girls up as little seductresses is the scariest Halloween story yet.
Get involved: http://www.missrepresentation.org
Today I’m asking you to take a few minutes to visit the Miss Representation website, watch the trailer and notice how you feel.
Write down your response. Whether you are male or female, gay or straight, I want to hear how you are impacted by some of the issues raised in the film.
What’s your take? Were you affected by these issues growing up? How have times changed? Are you a parent watching your children affected now? Are you a teenager becoming aware of the impact?
Write about it. Crystalize your thoughts. Rant or reflect. Join me in this important dialogue…