Greeting from Net Roots.
I had the opportunity to take in a screening of a documentary at Netroots today.
The film was called Miss Representation by Jennifer Siebel Newsome. It is described as thus:
A documentary film that explores women's under-representation in positions of power and influence in America and challenges the limited portrayal of women in the mainstream.
Thoughts, impressions after the fold.
First of all, I'm on page here. I don't write much about this, but was quoted in a recent diary regarding Senator Gillibrand's goal of recruiting more women into politics, that "50 female Senators and 218 House Reps would be an experiment in Democracy I'd like to see us try."
Why not? The men aren't doing so hot with their super-duper majority.
Anyway, Newson's film makes an overwhelming case for how much it sucks to be a woman and trying to find a decent representation of an empowered woman, whose primary goal in life does not revolve around pursuing and pleasing a man.
When the topic turned to deconstructing language, particularly as it related to media discussions of women, I really felt an affinity as a gay man. Newsome shares a collection of conservative quotes from the 1970s about how the "feminist agenda" was destroying America. One could have run a "find" and "replace" substituting "homosexual" for "feminist" and seen nothing amiss. One suspects some of these folks actually did just that (especially the Pat Robertson example). Feminists and gays, we're just both so awful!
A frequent rhetorical tactic of degrading gay men is to feminize them. But it isn't only about associating them with women, it's about associating them with the sterotypical qualties that would also be offensive to women: "hysterical," "overly-emotional," "erratic."
And usually these observations come as a response to someone objecting to the status quo. Because it's isn't conceivable these people are merely offering measured critique on an injustice. Oh no. They are clearly pitching a "hissy fit" (usually over no big deal).
The film is stuffed to the gills with a lot of truly horrifying and dismaying data, like women are:
- 3% of clout positions in the mainstream media
- 3% of Fortune 500 CEOs
- 7% of mainstream film producers
- 16% of film protagonists
- 17% of Congress
Blech. A strong woman I admire very much, Wanda Sykes said recently,
"We can do better."It's such a simple statement. And so universally adaptable.
There are copious pop-culture clips demonstrating how the media machine works repeatedly reinforcing messages that women's value exists only in their appearance. And how men's role is to treat women as playthings and objects. Though we'd like to think we're invulnerable to these subliminal messaging, the film makes a case that we and our children do incorporate them.
And why does the machine do this? Surprise! men make all the decisions.
It's an entirely a-list cast of women who offer commentary between the clips and infographics. The producer's rolodex is impressive, included are Nancy Pelosi, Jane Fonda, Katie Couric, Rachel Maddow. One person interviewed is Condi Rice. Whatever her credibility problems on WMDs, I do respect her authority to discuss what it's like to be the only women in the room in a male dominated field. And I found myself liking her very much. (I always kind of did. I could have been a fan, had she not been so horribly wrong so much of the time.)
There was some exploration about how we can go about doing better. The producers entertained questions afterward. Present was Krystal Ball, (it's so hard not to make a joke here) a young woman who took a run for Congress at midterms, who discussed her experience. They have set up some social networking and resource gathering at missrepresentation.org. (I should plug my own junior Senator Kirsten Gillibrand's effort to encourage women to be more involved here: Off The Sidelines.
The film was shown at Sundance and is expected to have both a theatrical run and be shown on Oprah Winfrey's OWN network. Definitely a recommend.
I found it frustrating to watch obviously, but very informative. I'm also always like to see these sorts of issues discussed; the big elephants in the room. Why is 83% of Congress men? And what makes that so unquestionably OK?
I found it very entertaining, informative. And it does end on a nice up note. Condi Rice describes her admiration for Sally Ride, the first woman astronaut. And points out, if you want to do something, it's a bit of a cop out to say, "I don't see any examples of people like me doing that." Someone's gotta first. If you dream it, why not you?
I didn't have a penis, I'd probably be feeling pretty fired up to crash the gate.
Maybe some Kossacks will feel the same. From what I've seen, Daily Kos is some pretty fertile ground to recruit some strong, smart—female—leaders. It's time. If this is what feminism 2.0 look like, I approve. (Oops, not that you need me to. Sorry.)