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“Miss Representation” screened at Cape Cod Lounge

Over 100 students and faculty swarmed into the University of Massachusetts Cape Cod Lounge on Wednesday to attend a free screening and discussion of the film “Miss Representation.” The documentary reviews the negative way that women are portrayed in the media – as sex objects, hangers-on to men or cat-fighting with other females – with little representation of them as complex human beings. While at first this notion may seem untrue or at least exaggerated, the film succeeds at convincing viewers of the media’s negative effects on women in America.

The documentary begins by listing facts about media consumption by kids and teens. Though the idea that children spend over 10 hours per day on average with various media is perhaps not as shocking as it is intended to be, the effects this exposure has on our culture revealed by the film are quite jarring.

The backstory follows the film’s writer and director Jennifer Siebel Newsom, an actress known for her work in television’s “Mad Men.” Newsom is due to give birth to a daughter, which leaves her wondering how her daughter will fit into a culture so infiltrated by media that does not generally represent women in an empowering way. Newsom talks about her struggle for perfection, one consequence of which was a battle with anorexia. As an actress, she also struggles with finding roles in which she can play a well-rounded character.

Thus begins the journey into the portrayal of women in media. Women, as the film reveals, are much less likely to be in protagonist roles. And when they are, it generally occurs in “chick flicks” where the woman’s life still revolves around a man.

It has come to the point where women self-objectify because they believe that the only way to gain power is through looks and sexual encounters. The film argues that not only does the objectification of women affect females, but that men lose out as well. Because of the guise that males must display, they are “emotionally constipated.”

The film also illustrates how women are degraded when they want to enter politics – their looks are focused on more fiercely than their leadership abilities, as seen in the cases of both Nancy Pelosi and Sarah Palin. Due to this, women in general face lower political efficacy.

Throughout the film, notable women speak their opinions on their representation in the media. The list includes Katie Couric, Condoleezza Rice, Jean Kilbourne, Geena Davis, Lisa Ling and many more.

The audience at the Cape Cod Lounge reacted openly to the film: shaking heads, laughing heartily, gasping and stopping for a round of applause at Rachel Maddow’s shout out to Holyoke, Massachusetts.

The end of the documentary offers possible solutions to change the harmful portrayal of women in media. They ask viewers to boycott media that objectifies women, as well as educate others to be “media-literate,” or be able to separate what is a real representation from what is simply meant to gain more capital.

After the film ended, those who stayed for the discussion broke into two large groups. With the aid of facilitators, people discussed the triggers that the film contained, what they disliked about the film and broader feminist issues.

The biggest problem that viewers faced was the lack of non-normative gendered representation as well as not enough multi-racial people encompassed in the movie. However, most people agreed that the film effectively laid the grounds for educating America on the effects of media and the role it plays in sexism, despite some of its downfalls.

The facilitators announced that they plan to show the film again in the future and they were thrilled at the turnout. For more information on “Miss Representation” and suggestions on how to make a difference, visit www.missrepresentation.org.

This film was sponsored by the Everywoman’s Center, Center for Education Policy and Advocacy, MotherWoman, UMass Center for Health Promotion, Women of Color Leadership Network, Woman Gender and Sexuality Studies Department, the Stonewall Center and VOX: Students for Choice. Upon entering the lounge, VOX gave away condoms and sexual health swag while people mulled to their seats. People’s Market provided refreshments.

Acacia DiCiaccio can be reached at adiciacc@student.umass.edu.

 

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