Miss Representation: What It Is And Why I Think It’s Great

Why Miss Representation is important I recently watched this incredibly eye-opening documentary. I want to say “amazing” or “fantastic” or “brilliant”—but those words don’t quite describe it. Miss Representation is not meant for our entertainment. Instead, it’s meant to make us aware of something that our society has falsely begun to take for granted—and if you’re a woman, it’s actually quite frustrating. You see, Miss Representation is about how women and girls are represented in the media in the good ol’ (boys’) U.S. of A.

Although I’ve naturally always considered myself an equal human being to any male relative, friend or business associate, I don’t consider myself a militant feminist. I’m just me. I’m just as valid as any other member of the human race. But I’ve noticed lately, and so has Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the writer and director of Miss Representation, that we women have really lost some ground since the 70s. It’s been a slow and steady decline, but a stark spotlight is now illuminating the sad state of how we are viewed—and even more upsetting, how we view ourselves. Intrigued? Here’s a portion of the film’s synopsis from the Miss Representation website:

“…the film exposes how mainstream media contribute to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America. The film challenges the media’s limited and often disparaging portrayals of women and girls, which make it difficult for women to achieve leadership positions and for the average woman to feel powerful herself.”

If you see no other movie or documentary this year, see this one. I’m saying this to men and women alike. Men, you should see the world your daughters are coming into, and trust me, you don’t want that for them if you have any integrity. Women, I ask you to watch this, if not for our own sakes, then for our daughters AND sons. The current view of women is a learned viewpoint. Let’s teach them something different.

To Jennifer Siebel Newsom I say: You are amazing, fantastic and brilliant for making this film. Thank you!

Image via Miss Representation

  • Oh wow! I always feel like surely it’s not as bad as it used to be but that video gave me goose pimples! It really made me think. It’s so true that a woman’s body is valued over her brain. I may want to learn so much but sometimes I wish I was thinner most of all. Yikes.

    My 4 year old son last weak came home from preschool and said only boys can climb because they are big and strong. I was like wait a minute…

    I may not have daughters but I want my boys to see everyone as equal. I want them to respect girls as their equal. Everyone should be able to do what they love and are good at naturally. In our house Daddy does all the cooking (he rocks in the kitchen btw) and mummy does all the fixing of things (because lets face it Daddy is downright dangerous when it comes to DIY/mechanical/ technical stuff…) I think I’ve told you this before but my sons have cars and other toys viewed to be boy toys but they also have a baby in a buggy and a play kitchen. I get a few raised eyebrows from visitors for those.

    I think about this a lot. That I don’t want to impose things on them. I just want to guide them while they discover who they are . But I’m fighting a battle with the media I must say.

    • Brenda Chapman

      Keep fighting that battle, please. Your boys will grow up to know how to respect their fellow human beings, no matter their sex, if you do.
      Thanks for weighing in. 🙂

  • Ms. Chapman you will be happy to know that at the free career-building workshops my university offers, over 90% of the attendees are females! For every room full girls that attend workshops about resume-building, self-marketing, or interview prep there is only one man. Like you brought up, though, this still does not change the poor portrayal of women, especially young women, in the media. It’s truly sad that fitting a certain “look” will increase my hiring chances more than developing my skills.

    However, you have personally brought about a big change in entertainment’s image of women through Brave’s Merida. I am studying animation at the Savannah College of Art & Design, and the excitement for Brave is bouncing off the walls throughout the campus. Aspiring female animators, story-board artists, writers, lighters, TDs, etc are just overjoyed about the first female Pixar protagonist!

    A while back I sent a pitch through your website’s contact information about contributing to your blog through the student’s perspective. I’d just like to let you know that I love reading and sharing your posts (especially of your trip to Ireland, as I am 100% Irish and born on St. Patrick’s Day). If you’re ever curious to hear what students are saying about animation, film, women, or more then I am more than willing to be of service.

    Thank you again for sharing so much insight! I will definitely be watching Miss Representation in the near future!

    • Brenda Chapman

      Dear Ms. Crane,
      First – please call me Brenda, I’m a pretty informal person.
      Second, thank you from the bottom of my heart for your flattering and kind response. I have been feeling quite humbled by the responses I have been getting to my lectures and workshops over here in Ireland, and simply grateful that I can be of use and inspiration to so many young women and men.
      Since I’m in Ireland, I haven’t been able to interact with my team to look at all of the contributing blog requests. So please give me/us some time. I move slower than the average young person these days! 🙂
      Thank you for taking the time to respond!

  • I love this organization and what it’s doing, and I can’t wait to see this film! A few days ago, a Twitter friend shared a two part (40 min total) video with me, Killing Us Softly, which was another piece that I couldn’t find an adequate word to describe (amazing-not good enough!). If you have 40 minutes, please watch, if you haven’t seen it already. Jean Kilbourne is truly a pioneer! http://youtu.be/1ujySz-_NFQ

    • Brenda Chapman

      Thanks! I’ll check it out!

  • Thanks for sharing this, Brenda. I’ve been following the film’s push to get seen and am looking forward to seeing it myself. As a fellow not-a-militant-feminist 😉 I am hoping that this presentation of the issues appeals to a wider audience. As the mother of a spunky and sparkly 8 year-old daughter, I hope that that audience takes the movie’s message to heart and is the start of a movement to bring a better balance into how women and girls are portrayed by the media.

    My daughter, mother, and I are all very much looking forward to “Brave” as both a story to enjoy and a bit of firmer footing on which to build a girl’s sense of self.

    • Brenda Chapman

      Thank you. I hope “Brave” lives up to expectations. It’s out of my hands now, but I’m hoping!

  • Celine Lt

    That movie was really inspiring. “You can’t be what you can’t see” indeed.
    I know I got the idea to have a career in animation only after I watched and read interviews of female producers. Role models are important!
    I know you’re not working on Brave anymore, but I hope you will have the opportunity to talk about the movie in the blu-ray extras. That could inspire some girls!
    Anyway the latest trailer was great, thank you for creating a woman-centered movie that doesn’t revolve around romance 🙂 It’s a breath of fresh air.

    • Brenda Chapman

      Yes, the message really resonated with me, as well! I wish it had had a wider release. Hoping that is will last longer and be seen by more as word of mouth continues.
      Thank you for the kind words. I tried! I really did!

  • Kendall

    Caught a screening tonight at NYU’s Fusion Film Festival… The festival is all about women in film and the collaboration between women and men.

    What an incredible doc! So informative and truly inspired me to make a difference!

    And thank YOU for being so passionate about great examples for girls in film. I couldn’t believe the statistics for the percentage of women protagonists in movies today. I’m all the more excited for Brave!

    • Brenda Chapman

      I am so glad you got to see it! And I’m also glad that you’ll be seeing BRAVE… I hope it lives up to what I wanted it to be.

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