Decades after the dawn of feminism, the collective media message remains that a woman’s power and value lies in her youth, beauty and sexuality.
While women have made great strides, the U.S. is still ranks 90th in the world for the number of women in national legislatures. Women hold only 3 percent of the power in mainstream media and 65 percent of women and girls have eating disorders. Women hold 17 percent of the seats in the House of Representatives. The equivalent body in Rwanda is 56.3 percent female. Among youth 18 and younger, liposuctions nearly quadrupled between 1997 and 2007 and breast augmentations increased nearly six-fold in the same 10-year period.
That’s the message of “Missrepresentation,” a Sundance documentary film that exposes this sexism through interviews with Condoleeza Rice, Dianne Feinstein, Geena Davis, Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda, Katie Couric, Lisa Ling, Margaret Cho, Nancy Pelosi, Rachel Maddow and more.
The film challenges viewers to change negative portrayals of women by boycotting sexist Halloween costumes, degrading billboards and exploitative Superbowl commercials.
In a benefit for the Northeast New Mexico Association for the Education of Young Children, the film will screen from 1-4 p.m. Saturday in the Jemez Room of Santa Fe Community College. A panel discussion to brainstorm ways to make a difference follows with representatives from NMAEYC, Girls Inc. of Santa Fe, the League of Women Voters, Santa Fe Community College’s Film, Gender and Media Studies program and local teens.
The Santa Fe-based nonprofit is dedicated to improving early childhood care and education through teaching professional development. The screening will raise funds for scholarships for early childhood teachers in northern New Mexico.
“I was completely blown away” by the film, NMAEYC president Alberto Mares said. “It is in the same line as Michael Moore – very provocative, very edgy. These gender stereotypes start really early.
“When kids are watching these cartoons they see the ‘Smurfette principle’ – one girl with a group of guys. Ask why there is only one girl. And why is she dressed like that to catch the bad guys? I think it has a very profound message.”
Actress and filmmaker Jennifer Siebel Newsom (“Something’s Gotta Give,” “In the Valley of Elah,” “Mad Men”) made the film to expose how the mainstream media contributes to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America. The advent of infotainment and reality TV have only worsened the impact, Newsom said in a statement.
American teenagers spend on average 10 hours and 45 minutes a day consuming media, she added. Children learn from these images and it is becoming increasingly more difficult for parents to monitor and shelter their children from messages that disempower women and girls.