Miss Representation

One central theme of the film is that the media always focuses on women’s physical features. This teaches the viewers that women’s looks are the most important part of their lives. This is shown in television where female actresses are forced to lose weight or get work done to fit a certain type of beauty while their male counterparts don’t have to. For female politicians, the media spends a lot of time on their looks instead of their qualifications. For example, during the 2008 elections, the media was always commenting on how attractive Sarah Palin is and how scary Hilary Clinton looks.

Another central theme is how the limited and narrow representation of women in the media is preventing women from achieving a lot of things in real life. The film explains that very few films and television shows have female main characters and complex female characters. When young girls see women in the media restraint to a few careers and lifestyles, they’ll believe that women can’t achieve anything else and won’t strive for their goals. One statistics explains that around 1st grade an equal number of boys and girls wanted to be the president of the US, but by the 3rd grade, the number of girls who want to be president drops drastically.

An interesting point made by the film and in the discussion is that these strict gender roles not only hurt women, but also men. Men are taught they need to conform to a hyper masculine culture where they have to be better than women and can’t show their emotions. While it might seem that men benefit more from the current cultural restraints, it is terrible for both men and women that they can’t live as individuals, but instead as gender stereotypes.

Another point made by the film and the discussion is that since the media treats women so badly, how do we put up with this? When we see something offensive, the obvious reflex is to be mad and never look at the offensive material again. However, as Hooks discusses in “Oppositional Gaze”, it is important for audiences to analyze the material and develop an oppositional gaze instead of just ignoring it. Some oppositional gazes provided by the film include greater media regulation and electing women representatives. What are some oppositional gazes that you guys can suggest to promote greater gender equality?

Newsom. Miss Representation. Sausalito, Calif.: Ro*co Films Educational, 2011.

Hooks, Bell. “Chapter 7/The Oppositional Gaze: Black Female Spectators.” Black Looks: Race and Representation. By Bell Hooks. Boston, MA: South End, 1992. 115-31. Print.

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