Women’s Fund partners with UNO to present screening of ‘Miss Representation’
Published: Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 13:10
In preparation of it’s annual fall Luncheon, the Women’s Fund of Omaha held a special screening of it’s featured film, “Miss Representation,” last Wednesday evening at the UNO Strauss Performing Art Center. The 2011 Sundance documentary focuses on the startling consequences of the objectification of women in American media and explores the culture-wide decline of support for female leadership.
While the unveiling of such outright modern sexism is a bleak realization, the film takes on the issue with intelligence and makes it impossible not to notice the pink elephant in the room.
“Miss Representation” quite literally translates to the misrepresentation of women as being “less- than” in our society and the stigma profusely reinforced in our major media sources, and consequently in our behavior.
The film discusses how the most toxic modern media is what many consider to be guilty pleasures. Bombarded by grown-up cat fights, bridezillas, and hillbilly pageant princesses, the majority of entertainment television revolves around the craziest of the crazy. Viewers might feel an initial sense of amusement, but more often than not watching the chaotic life of a stranger leaves one feeling angry, lonely and a little crazy. When the nausea kicks in from too much of a “good” thing, viewers switch the screen to news stations in search of a little intellectual relief. They’re met, however, with an even louder scream session, hot anchors to look at when the news is boring and headlines debating Michelle Obama’s choice to go sleeveless. In this modern realm of televised reality, we see that women become objects of shame or lust, distorting the cultural expectations of women and ultimately of her own identity.
The unfortunate side-effect of being misrepresented as an object is the common misconception that women are, indeed, objects. When women begin to see themselves as objects, it is a direct reflection of the societal expectation for her to be just an object. This process on self-objectification is encouraged as women gain what feels like “power” from approval of the opposite sex. And thus begins the empty chase of obtaining value based on appearance, which, unlike leadership skills, becomes as accessible a skill as flipping on the T.V. This teenage-girl phenomenon traps developing brains’ in a superficial circle of faulty self-esteem, constantly requiring women to satisfy both societal expectations as well as her own. The danger in this misguided identity development is the high rates of self objectification stemming from low rates of political efficacy, meaning that women become less likely to interact in the political realm and less likely to care.
By acknowledging these cultural patterns, “Miss Representation” emphasizes the need for media literacy in a world of sensationalized entertainment. In order for women to regain their representation in the political realm, there must be a social movement recognizing that the qualities for leadership exist in women and are supported. The stereotypes surrounding percieved female flaws are perpetuated when we objectify human beings, and if we learn to recognize such stereotypes, we can begin eliminating them.
Dr. Tammie Kennedy Ph.D. of UNO’s Women’s and Gender Studies Program best described the issue at large as a public pedagog during a panel discussion that followed after the film. Out of passivity, humans tend to accept information, learn from it and construct reality around it. By learning to understand the tricks and frames of the media and becoming media literate, we stop being told and start being talked to.
The panel discussion also included Joe Jordan, managing editor and investigative/political reporter for the “Nebraska Watchdog,” Hugh Reilly, associate professor for UNO’s School of Communication, Ariel Roblin, president and general manager for KETV and Michelle Zych, executive director for the Women’s Fund of Omaha as moderator of the discussion.