“Miss Representation,” a documentary produced by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, advances the idea that women are from a young –and increasingly younger– age being bombarded with images of other women in the media who are in positions of either dubious power or complete powerlessness. The end result of this is that the only images which young girls aspiring to be successful leaders in the future have of “successful” grown women are those of women who are valued for their appearance and who play roles in which they are submissive to men. “You can’t be what you can’t see” flashes onto the screen just before the documentary reveals that we have as a nation collectively selected from merely 6% of the U.S. population’s demographic makeup to fill the seat of President over the country’s history –the most obvious limiting category being gender as all presidents have been male, as have the vast majority of governors and Congresspeople. At this rate, Newsom claims, women will achieve parity in the halls of Congress in no less than a staggering fifty years.
The documentary goes further by explaining that following the Reagan-era media deregulation, the six main corporations who produce the near-entirety of the media consumed by Americans today have been consistently headed by boards made up mostly of men. This begs the question of how it will be possible for this country’s media giants to produce content in the future which promotes the principles of social justice, equity, power- and privilege-consciousness at the core of the demonized feminist movement. Women in the media are twice as likely to be portrayed as emotional than men, and most female characters on television and in film are in their thirties or younger which implies that because older women are invisible on television they are just as unimportant and irrelevant in the real world –which any sensible person would say is not a reflection of reality. How is this ever going to change, however, when media moguls like the CEO of Disney argue that they have ‘no obligation to make history or create art?’
Dr. “Litty” Paxton made a very interesting point following the conclusion of the screening when she argued that the goal of the feminist movement should not be to blindly support placing women in positions of power irrespective of their views, but that it should instead be focused on getting people who believe in social equity and the tenets of the movement in power regardless of their genders. A male audience member brought up that it was his experience as an undergraduate in college which opened his eyes to the state of inequity in this country’s capitalist system, and I implore readers to self-reflect as I have done and to be honest with themselves about what they do on a daily basis to combat these forces, and to determine how much more they can do while at Penn.