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Miss Representation – Women & Social Media

March 8, 2012

Tonight I went to a showing of Miss Representation on an invite from a friend. I went with very little knowledge of the movie and probably a few too many misconceptions of what I would see.  To put it mildly, I am not an activist. I am proud of who I am, where I’ve come from, and how far I have gotten, but I do not see myself as an activist because of the connotations (for me) of the word.

To me, an activist often goes too far in the opposite direction of whatever it is they are actively fighting against. I do not advocate for women’s rights to the extent that they over-shadow men’s rights and turn society in the opposite direction. I support equal rights. I do not see myself as anyone’s role model or a leader.  I truly appreciated the fact that the film was less about activism and more about what we can do to improve the situation. It advocates for social change from all of us so that women are not marginalized nor do their voices go unheard.  It provides insight into the world of social media that today is so instrumental in shaping everyone’s lives.

A woman’s worth, measured by her beauty, is the message continually emphasized in magazines, movies, tv shows and advertisements. This objectifies women to men and boys and under-represents women’s capabilities to women. A large problem is that the women who could be role models are struck down by this very same media. Character traits that are highly valued in men – drive/ambition, aggression and decisiveness – are mocked or reviled in women.  And while women are under-represented in leadership positions as a whole, women of colour are even rarer.

The running theme throughout Miss Representation is that girls need role models, that they need to see people who they can relate to in positions of leadership.  We need to support strong role models that show that it is not a woman’s shape or physicality that determines who she is, but her intellect. The current construct is that women should either be at home taking care of the home/family, are unrealistic sexual objects that exist to serve the male ego or are bitches that don’t deserve their positions in life.

The film also provides horrifying figures on the violence perpetrated against girls and women, as well as depression rates and other mental disorders such as bulimia/anorexia and their influence on suicide rates. We as a society need to reach farther, push for education and refuse to accept that over half the world is unworthy of representation – that half the world has nothing to contribute. Men and women have to accept the responsibility to provide very real role models, to show young people that women can be leaders, no matter what they look like.

We need to instill respect for both men and women at a very young age. Any woman, in any position, may be a role model for others, even if she does not realize it. You may not feel that you are a leader of anyone or anything. But somewhere out there, some child may be watching you, seeing who you are and what you do.  Think about the message you want her to receive.

*With much thanks to Sarah for her editing efforts.

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