Miss Representation Reflection Paper
The Miss Representation documentary taught me more about the issues on women in media as well as the challenges they face within themselves and from males. As a student trying to get into the PR/entertainment industry I felt like this film helped provide an understanding to how women are viewed and how the media plays a large role. “Content shapes us and it impacts us.” (Newsom, 2011) Because media is considered the messenger, the content within it teaches many people about what it has to offer and some take in those views as reality. Through advertisements, television, and social media platforms, women with unattainable ideals of beauty are shown to women / young girls who can be considered vulnerable. What you can see creates this mindset of “what you believe, you can do,” and it is important for women to understand that the women they see in ads aren’t “real” most of the time.
One step I would take, to change the way media portrays women and girls, would be to educate others on how they are portrayed and the challenges they face. I think it is hard to choose just one way that can change the media’s portrayal since they (males) have been doing it for years, it sells, and it’s something they are used to. “Male journalists make up 63% of bylines in print, Internet and wire news media.” (Women’s Media Center, 2014) Having some diverse females in higher positions can help portray women in a better light since they can provide some perspective to the table. Educating those who are younger, whether through a documentary like this, or through other ways, such a social media messages or events where women talk about their experiences because of media, can help humanize them while also getting the message out to young teens male and female. Although it is hard to completely stop the unrealistic portray of women and girls in the media, I feel like it is important to at least be educated on the facts and to know better than what the media might be trying to sell or tell you.
Although I agree with the documentary’s message, like issues on empowering other women, how those 40 or older aren’t represented properly, and how boys/men learn the behavior of being dominant, I felt like it lacked other representation of women. There were a few Asians, African-Americans, Indians, and some Hispanics that were interviewed, but for the most part they were white females. It is important to include how the media views women, but I wanted to see how it portrayed women of color especially. Being a female minority in media is an important aspect not only needed for representation, but for giving that sense of “belonging.” Understanding that there is someone on the screen or on an advertisement that a young female can relate to makes them feel included in a society filled with a European standard of beauty. “As a result, the internalization of racialized beauty standards can perpetuate into a lifelong, intergenerational culture of self-hatred.” (Hunter, 1998) I felt like the way the documentary was framed did not mean to leave out those of color, but just focused on western women more. They did not get into on the representation of ethnicities, minorities, those of color and the different or similar struggles they faced when being placed in the media.
I feel that many different theories can be applied to the documentary. The medium theory, hegemonic concept, and culture industry all had interesting points that I could have applied to the documentary but the one I felt that related the most was the direct effects model. This theory focuses on how the media can influence the public in specific ways like consumer behavior, persuasion, and strategically placed ads and campaigns. Although the theory has been disproved, media still has the power to influence. Applying this theory to the documentary we see learn that males at a young age, learn the behavior of being dominant, masculine, and the media only helps to perpetuate that attitude through its content. Since kids don’t have a source of mediation, the content they view is more likely to stick with them without questioning it. “The developmental stage of a child plays a role in the effect of commercials. Young children do not understand the concept of a sales pitch. They tend to believe what they are told and may even assume that they are deprived if they do not have advertised products.” (Paediatrics & Child Health, 2003) From the documentary, we see that women in power are not represented as much as men are. “In John Boehner’s first four weeks as Speaker of the House, he was on the cover of five national weekly magazines. Nancy Pelosi’s four years as Speaker of the House, she has been on the cover of zero national weekly magazines.” (Newsom, 2011) In this example we see that the media places the male on the cover faster than a woman, this leads to people viewing the concept of power and government as male oriented rather than female. The direct-effects model is also applied since the documentary showed how the media strategizes beauty into female consumption, through fashion ads and power into males with commercials.
Society is progressing and their voices have been heard. I feel that businesses and companies can breakdown gender stereotypes in their workplace by having a day where everyone can learn about the stereotypes, gender roles, how the other gender is affected, and by integrating an area where women can feel safe rather than belittled or sexualized. The entertainment workplace is dominated by men, but there are women out there making strides and it is important to work and fight hard to get those roles. Gender stereotypes is a problem that can be fixed in the workplace, with the proper training, resources, and understanding we can then implement what one has learned into the work or content they are producing. Advertising can be a difficult area to target, but if the workplace starts to become informed on these issue, it won’t mean anything if the ads they produce still give in to the gender stereotypes. Hopefully we will progress into a society that is changing, teaching the younger generation to not fall for the beauty standards seen in the media, teaching boys it is okay to not fit into the standards of masculinity, and overall promoting a level of understanding among one another.