‘Miss Representation’ first screened at Sundance Film Festival in 2011 and has aired on Oprah Winfrey Network as well as in over 35 countries across the globe. The film examines the negative consequences that come from women being misrepresented by the media and how this leads to them being under represented in positions of power (think politics, media, the corporate world and film). Other negative effects caused by the media portraying women based solely on their appearance and sex appeal include anxiety and depression, eating and body image disorders, self harm and in the worst cases suicide.
I first saw ‘Miss Representation’ in Sydney last May when I stumbled across a screening quite by accident one night. Having a fairly strong interest in social justice issues and equity (particularly gender), viewing the documentary had a significant impact on me, both from a personal and professional perspective. Suddenly, so many things that I was aware of playing out in the lives of my students and clients (I am a teacher and counsellor) made immediate sense and I was for the first time ever able to understand where some of their maladaptive and harmful behaviours (some which were causing them great angst) were coming from. Perhaps of most significance were the realisations I had on a personal level about what the content of the film meant for me and to what extent it explained my own behaviours and life choices, many which I could remember making from a very young age through to quite recent times.
My initial plans upon returning to Adelaide were to screen the documentary as a professional development session for teachers (I now also work as an education consultant, specialising in supporting school based staff to manage the emotional demands of working in education). Screening ‘Miss Representation’ ties in directly with the work that I do as Director of Equilibrium Counselling, Training, Consulting. It aligns with my philosophy that raising awareness about issues that are relevant to young people will lead to those professionals who work with young people having an increased understanding of these issues and how to best manage them.
The screening of this documentary did precisely that, with a many audience members feeding back to me that they simply had no idea about how complex the issue regarding the media’s misprepresentation of women was and how inextricably linked it had become to working with young people. As the film suggests, it has become so normalised we aren’t even aware that it is happening and are largely unable to contemplate the potential harm that results from young people being able to access increasingly graphic material via electronic media. This blog review by primary teacher @jlamshed here will give you an idea of the impact seeing the film made on audiences.
As it turns out the opportunity to present this film to a much larger audience than teachers alone arose, and I ran an extremely successful season of five ‘Miss Representation’ screenings at Adelaide Fringe Festival in March. In addition to having no experience whatsoever in either marketing or the arts, the most amazing thing was I had the cinema close to capacity for the screenings despite being up against over 930 other acts and presenting in the smallest category (film).
The film’s maker Jennifer Siebel Newson has been strategic in her use media of media to combat this issue and with the support of a number of prominent American women (think Jane Fonda, Condaleezza Rice, Geena Davis plus many more) does an excellent job challenging the limited portrayal of women in mainstream media and explaining the negative repercussions of under representing women in positions of power and influence to all people in our society.
Although entirely based in the US, there are a number of prevailing themes in the documentary that Australian audiences will easily relate to (think electronic media, body image, photoshopping, inequality and sexism). The exploration of these issues creates a strong argument for increasing the potential for women to attain a greater profile in positions of power so that they can be involved in decision making processes and act as mentors and role models to younger generations in our society.
At the culmination of each screening I organised Q&A panels featuring journalists, politicians, academics, educators and mental health practitioners to discuss the content of the film and how it applied to the Australian context. I also facilitated discussion between the panels and audiences about how we can best take the issues raised in the film to create some long-standing change to the status quo regarding the media’s representation of women and girls in Australia today.
I’ve been engaged by AISNSW to run a Teacher Wellbeing session with their staff next week and am delighted to be presenting a one off screening of ‘Miss Representation’ when I am there. This session is a slightly different format to most of the screenings I screened at Adelaide Fringe. I have designed it as a Professional Development session and have engaged Melinda Tankard Reist (Canberra based author, blogger, advocate for women and girls and journalist) to present to audiences about how the content of the film relates to working with young people in the Australian context.
Following Melinda’s presentation and to close this session will be a Q&A panel consisting of some very special guests to give their perspective on the content of the film and take questions from the audience.
In addition to almost selling out screenings at the Adelaide shows, the most satisfying part of the ‘Miss Representation’ at Adelaide Fringe season was being able to give part proceeds to the Eating Disorders Association of SA who I learnt during preparation for the Fringe season had no funds for an office space or to pay their 2 lovely co-ordinators. I am in the process of finalising a Sydney based organisation that works with women and girls to again support with part proceeds from this event.
Tickets to this screening of ‘Miss Representation’ are selling fast – you can get yours here. I hope to meet you at this screening and guarantee it will change the way you perceive the world from that point onwards.
RIP IT UP MAGAZINE REVIEW
MARCH 6, 2013
Mercury Cinema, Mon Mar 4
Miss Representation is a powerful and moving documentary that will have you clenching your fists by the opening scene. Grinding bodies, bikini clad models, pointless celebrities and a surgeon rearranging someone’s face stand as proof that it’s “all about the body, not about the brain”.
Starring Jane Fonda, Geena Davis and former US Secretary Of State Condoleezza Rice, the documentary draws on how movies never cast women as protagonists and that American women spend more money on beauty than education. That infamous Ralph Lauren airbrushing scandal, where a models waist was digitally resized in half, is also explored as well as how we’re more interested in Sarah Palin’s legs than the words coming out her mouth.
The incredibly inspiring and eye-opening documentary is not your typical bra waving declaration, but simply a stand on the sexploitation of women and how watching re-runs of Jersey Shore won’t lead to the election of a female President.
Final Word: Inspiring.