‘You can’t be what you see,’ women in media


I’ve watched a lot of great movies in my time. Disney movies shaped my life when I was little, though, don’t get me wrong, I just watched “Mulan” and “Hercules” the other night and I think I might have enjoyed them a little more than I did when I was 6.

In my women’s studies class, we watched the film “Miss Representation,” a documentary about how mainstream media contribute to the underrepresentation of women in so many different parts of life.

After the movie was over, it took me a few minutes to collect my thoughts. Coming from somebody who always has something to say about everything, this movie had me stumped – that’s how powerful it was.

Ever since I started college, I’ve been more apt and keen to notice certain things that our society is biased about, specifically women, so the fact that women are underrepresented in the media is not news to me.

The way the film was put together is where the real power comes from. The film interviews men and women from all over the spectrum – politicians, journalists, entertainers, activists and scholars, like Katie Couric, Margaret Cho, Condoleezza Rice, Rachel Maddow and Geena Davis talk about the biases that they see and the problems that society faces because of it.

To put it plainly like Margaret Cho, “The media treat women like shit,” and I couldn’t agree more. The images we see every day of women in the media are oversexualized and often times way more subject to criticism and scrutiny than images of men.

The slogan of the film is, “you can’t be what you can’t see.” In relation to the portrayal of women in media, the consequences of the truth behind that statement are scary but realistic.

For me, the entire movie was an eye-opening experience, but the parts that stuck out to me the most were how the media portray women in power and how even women journalists are scrutinized.

The movie showed images of headlines and stories that mock, objectify and even attack women in political office, specifically Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton. Media all too often comment on their looks rather than their substance and it made me irrationally angry to see that.

Women in television often face the pressure to dress provocatively, maintain a certain appearance and are essentially used as objects, rather than taken seriously as journalists. It seems like the more power women gain, the more backlash they receive.

I felt so many emotions after this movie, but mostly I felt inspired. I want my own children to grow up in a world that values women as more than just objects to be looked at. There’s clearly a problem here that needs to be addressed and we’ve got a long way to go, but I’m certain we’ll get there – eventually.


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