Miss Representation in the UK

On Monday we held a screening of Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s Miss representation with KPMG’s Network Of Women (KNOW) and the International Women’s Forum (IWF), followed by discussion about the media context in the UK.

Miss Representation explores women’s under-representation in positions of power and influence and challenges the limited and often disparaging portrayals of women in media in the US. It brings together some of America’s most influential thought leaders in politics, news, entertainment, and academia, including Condoleezza Rice, Katie Couric, Geena Davis, Lisa Ling, Marissa Mayer, Cory Booker, Jean Kilbourne, and Jackson Katz, to give viewers an inside look at the media’s messaging. As one of the most persuasive and pervasive forces of communication in our culture, mainstream media is educating yet another generation that a woman’s primary value lies in her youth, beauty and sexuality—not in her capacity as a leader. You can watch the trailer of the film here:

Newest Miss Representation Trailer (2011 Sundance Film Festival Official Selection) from Miss Representation on Vimeo.

In the discussion after the film, members of the audience reflected on how some of the statistics had shocked them, particularly regarding those relating to the film industry and how few women directors, writers and protagonists there are in mainstream cinema. For example, women accounted for 9% of directors working on the top 250 films in 2012, an increase in 4 percentage points from 2011 but even with the percentage of women directors working in 1998. One member reported that she was “shocked it was only made in 2010 as not much has changed since I was a child in the 1960s”, and another said that what depressed her most was that “not much has changed”.

Nonetheless there was a positive atmosphere in the room. Members noted how impressive and articulate were the young women in the film and others listed recent feminist victories to show how change is possible and happening. For example, the Everyday Sexism Project was named as an inspiring example of women making change happen themselves by showing solidarity, the ‘Facebook Rape campaign’ (#FBrape) was named as a recent victory of women’s online activism, and UK Feminista and the Lose the Lads’ Mags campaign was mentioned as one way in which individuals can take action to challenge the misrepresentation of women in the media.

Other issues discussed included the ‘pinkification’ of girls toys, the damage caused by letting casual sexism and sexist jokes go unchallenged, and the issues of how profiteering, the structure of capitalist economies, and deregulation of the advertising and media industries are all crucial parts of the problem.

Several guests stressed how important it is to remember that boys and men have to be partners in challenging the misrepresentation of women in the media and that parents and others can support their children to be leaders for gender equality amongst their peers.

There were also comments about the power we each hold to be role models for our children and all those around us in our communities by challenging sexist representations of women and supporting children to increase their critical analysis of the media by talking to them about the images they consume.

There are links to find or host a screening of Miss Representation here http://www.missrepresentation.org/the-film/

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