'Miss Representation' screening provokes gender inequality discussion
The film features former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, among others
December 8, 2011, 12:32 am · Updated December 8, 2011, 10:33 am·
The United States prides itself on the value that all are created equal, but when it comes to gender equality, we may still have a long road ahead of us.
That’s the message that Miss Representation, a movie screened at the Annenberg Public Policy Center on Wednesday night, communicated to the audience. About 100 members of the Penn community watched the movie directed, written and produced by Jennifer Siebel Newsom.
The Penn Women’s Center hosted the event in response to students expressing their interest in the film and to promote a means of education and discussion of current women’s issues. This event was a follow-up to a screening for a smaller audience two weeks earlier in Ware College House.
Several Penn groups co-sponsored the event, including the Undergraduate and Graduate and Professional student assemblies; the Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies department; the Civic House; the Annenberg School; as well as the Vagina Monologues.
Newsom’s film concentrates on the negative effects of the media on young women’s perceptions of themselves, their bodies and their value in society. It describes the bombardment of hypersexualization messages to today’s youth, and the struggles that women face as they try to rise to positions of power and leadership in their communities.
Through varying contributors such as anchorwoman Katie Couric and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the film challenges the media backlash against women and the inequalities women still face compared to their male peers.
By examining the history of media and women’s movements in the U.S., the movie illustrates that as a nation we are behind in the treatment of female citizens and their representation in government. It also demonstrates that our youth are particularly vulnerable to constant violent and sexual objectification.
Miss Representation calls for the empowerment of young women in achieving their potential.
Refreshments were served at the event. After the film, audience members were invited to stay for a discussion hosted by Felicity Paxton, director of the Penn Women’s Center and an Annenberg School lecturer.
The audience discussed which findings shocked and moved them during the film, how they are involved in giving back to their communities and how to end the negative behavior around and towards other women. Before closing, Paxton challenged the viewers to “radically exercise their freedom of speech.”
The film was successful in having an impact on its audience. College senior Melissa Elfont said the film was amazing. “It inspired me to be more active, both on and off campus,” Elfont added.
Tarisse Iriarte, a Graduate School of Education student, feminist and advocate for the National Coalition for 100 Black Women, had heard a lot about the film and wanted to see what its focus would be. “It was a candid way of exemplifying the different social issues as they relate to gender imbalance and inequality in a place like the U.S., where we portray ourselves as a moral compass. We have to be honest about what direction we are going in.”
Paxton was very pleased with the turnout. “It was heartening to hear what members were involved in their communities,” she said. “I was also pleased that there were men in attendance and that they spoke and felt comfortable talking,” she added.
She recommended that students interested in getting involved, but unsure about how to, should begin by taking classes and getting exposure to the issues that intrigue them. “Start in the classroom … don’t feel burdened to take on every issue at once,” she said.
Further discussion will be held about the film and topic this Friday at 3 p.m. in the Women’s Center and Dec. 13 at 3 p.m. in the Civic House for students interested in engaging in an open dialogue.