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Documentary screening highlights sexism in media and goverment

By Darragh McNicholl
On March 14, 2014

  • “Miss Representation” was screened in the Phillip Austin Building last night. The documentary film highlighted the disproportionate number of women in government and the alarming number of women with self image issues. SANTIAGO PELAEZ/The Daily Campus

Last night, UConn Now, UConn's chapter of The National Organization for Women, screened "Miss Representation," a powerful documentary that points out the staggeringly disproportionate number of women represented in American media and government.
The film's motto, "You can't be what you can't see," stems from how difficult it is for young girls to imagine themselves grown up and making a difference, when they are given no real female role models. Women are relatively invisible in the media: often overlooked, left out or displayed as unimportant, unless they are perceived as attractive. "Miss Representation" makes the argument that this lack of visible representation affects our societies' view of women, and that these representations are not improving.
Loaded with statistics to back the points it makes, "Miss Representation" builds upon the idea that women are completely underrepresented. "Women make up 51 percent of the US population...however women comprise only 20 percent of congress." This statistic speaks volumes about the presence of women in government, as does the fact that "35 women have served as US governors compared to 2,319 men." The message is clear; the US is disproportionately male-governed.
The media often ignores influential and successful women in positions of power within business or government. When these women are discussed, their looks or relation to their femininity is what is focused on. The film brings up many examples of the degrading media discussions centered around female politicians, even within presidential elections. Female newscasters are portrayed similarly, and movie stars and models, even worse.
The message the media consistently gives girls and boys, according to "Miss Representation," is that a woman's sole value comes from her looks, and that a woman's successes will never eclipse the discussion of her appearance in the media. Images of overtly sexualized women are everywhere, present in all films, even ones for children. In fact, the film denotes that female Disney characters are often just as scantily clad as women in 'R'-rated films. It also stated that "Between 1937 and 2005, there were only 13 female protagonists in animated films...all of them except one had the aspiration of finding romance." These messages about the importance of attractiveness and "finding a man" are imbued into girls at younger ages each generation.
"53 percent of 13-year-old girls are unhappy with their bodies. That number increases to 78 percent by age 17." This statistic is shocking, but is only a lead up to the next: "65 percent of U.S. women and girls report disordered eating behaviors."
"Miss Representation" is not the first film to bring up these statistics, nor is it the first to relate these issues to the sexualized depiction of women in the media, but it is just as powerful as the films that came before it.

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