By Katherine Ayers
Thursday, February 21, 2013
Mainstream media’s stereotypes of women, the lack of female representation in politics and the boardroom, and what America can do about it were the topics of discussion during a film screening and panel discussion at East Carolina University on Tuesday.
Sponsored by the School of Communication, the 90-minute “Miss Representation” documentary focused on the media’s representation of women and girls as sex objects, mostly to be used for men’s pleasure. According to the film, only 16 percent of women in Hollywood movies are cast as the protagonist. Even then, they are shown in relation to men, incapable of being able to function on their own.
The film also explored how those representations carry over into society.
Although women comprise 51 percent of the U.S. population, they hold only 18.1 percent of seats in Congress, according to the Center for American Women in Politics, up from 17 percent before the last election. Women comprise 7 percent of directors and 13 percent of film writers in the top 250 grossing films. In the boardroom, women represent just 3 percent of the Fortune 500 CEOs, according to the film’s website.
To combat the negative influences of television and film, panelist Amanda Klein, coordinator of ECU’s interdisciplinary film studies minor within the English department, said people need to gain “media literacy.”
“We need to learn to read it,” she said. “We need to know who makes images, why they’re making them and for what purpose.”
Klein said women need to stop asking permission.
“We need to take positions of power,” she said. “Stop sitting back because, of course, we have the right to take our place.”
In response to an audience question about how to take the message beyond ECU’s campus, Todd Fraley with the School of Communication said women need to write their own stories and distribute them.
“There’s an audience for these types of stories,” he said.
Although the film focused specifically on women in the media, Fraley reminded students the subject easily could have been people of color; gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people; or a host of other marginalized groups.
A female student asked how to be empowered without seeming too assertive or overly aggressive.
“Don’t worry about it,” Christine Avenarious with the anthropology department said. “You may be surprised that people like when you speak your mind.”
The film made no apologies about coming from a feminist point of view, but during the discussion a female ECU student asked whether feminism still was relevant. She said she felt the feminism of the 1960s and ’70s had become something of a “joke” to people in her generation.
Fraley challenged her to change that perception.
“Redefine what feminism means to your generation,” he said. “More people than you realize are looking for social justice and equality.
“It’s not an easy process,” he said. “But when you start the conversation, there are a lot more people interested in those things than you realize.”
For more information about the film, visit www.missrepresentation.org.
Contact Katherine Ayers at firstname.lastname@example.org and 252-329-9567. Follow her on Twitter @KatieAyersGDR.
via The Daily Reflector.