'Miss Representation' | March 8, 2013 | Pleasanton Weekly | PleasantonWeekly.com |


Pleasanton Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - March 8, 2013

'Miss Representation'

Film explores sexist portrayals in the media

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

Check out your TV, most magazines and what's showing at the movies. They are delivering a strong message, according to the film "Miss Representation," that a woman's value and power lie in her youth, beauty and sexuality.

This is worth a conversation, say Amador Valley High teachers Julie Boe and Diane Farthing, who next week are showing the film. The documentary, written, directed and produced by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, and has aired on the Oprah Winfrey Network.

"The movie is pretty strong about how women are sensationalized and minimized," Farthing said. "That's how it is -- but what can we do to change it?"

Women hold only 3% of upper management positions in the mainstream media, plus 65% of women and girls have disordered eating behaviors, the film notes.

"Everyone is welcome," Farthing said. "It's not a boy-bashing night."

Males, too, are victims of unrealistic expectations fostered by the media, she added.

"It would be great to have parents and sons and daughters watch it together so they can talk about it afterward," she said.

Boe, 43, explained that she is a liberal person, not into censorship, but as her 7-year-old daughter gets older, she is finding herself more protective.

"What I remember going through as a woman, my child is going through at 7. She's already asking, 'Are my legs too fat?'" Boe said.

The film's motto is "You can't be what you can't see," and it includes stories from teenage girls as well as interviews with successful women including Nancy Pelosi, Gloria Steinem, Condoleezza Rice, Rachel Maddow and Katie Couric. Its message is that young women need and want positive role models, but the media provides just the opposite.

Boe saw "Miss Representation" at a church in Oakland when a friend invited her.

"I immediately flashed back to my life as a teenager," she said. "I thought how difficult it was to grow up to be a secure confident woman."

The discrimination is insidious, she said. Girls looking at magazines know they would never fit those images. When teens see scantily clothed girls dancing in videos on MTV they think that's what they have to do to get male attention.

The movie also talks about the Family Viewing Hour established by the Federal Communications Commission in 1975, which made networks show family-friendly shows from 8-9 p.m. Although the courts ruled the next year that the FCC was overstepping its boundaries, some stations continued to follow the rules.

"It stopped in the '90s," recalled Boe. "Now violence and sex is everywhere. I'm not against watching it or showing it but I am against a 7-year-old having it always in her house. These images are being instilled."

Farthing, who runs the Health and Bioscience Academy, agreed that students are overly concerned about their weight and their bodies.

"The Healthy Kids survey is done in grade 5, 7, 9 and 11, and its data definitely shows that we have a large number of students dieting," Farthing said. "It's not just girls, it's boys as well. Boys feel lot of pressure, too. They want to be bigger, stronger."

Farthing and Boe wrote a grant to fund the film, which will be shown at 7 p.m., Tuesday, March 12, in the school's multipurpose room. Requested donation is $5, to benefit the Academy Program at Amador; the Culinary Academy will be selling food.

The event will be followed by a discussion led by the school's counseling department.

"Parents can ask questions about how this affects our girls and our boys, and how much our boys are being sold short -- they think they understand girls and women, and are given a totally different person," Boe said.


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