‘Miss Representation’ Feminist documentary tells story of female struggle for power in a male-dominated society

Michelle Heiman

“Miss Representation,” a documentary by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, highlights the underrepresentation of women in positions of power and challenges the media’s portrayal of women.

The Counseling Center, Department of Communication Studies, UMKC Friends of the Library, K-Roo Student Media, Career Services, Women’s Foundation of Greater Kansas City, WIN for KC and Girl Scouts of NE Kansas and NW Missouri co-sponsored a screening last Tuesday in the Student Union Theater. It was free and open to the public, but pre-registration was required.

Some notable names within the documentary are Margaret Cho, Katie Couric, Geena Davis, Rosario Dawson, Jane Fonda, Nancy Pelosi, Condoleezza Rice, Gloria Steinem, Daphne Zuniga and Rachel Maddow.

Before the film started, there was a reception outside of the theatre. Along with fruits, drinks and desserts, there were informational tables set up for the Counseling Center, the Women’s Center, Girl Scouts of NE Kansas and NW Missouri and Veronica’s Voice, a group which aims to end commercial sexual exploitation in the U.S.

Brenda Bethman, director of the Women’s Center, provided an introduction for the documentary. She welcomed guests, briefly reviewed the evening’s itinerary, thanked the co-sponsors and encouraged the audience to enjoy the show.

The documentary is about 90 minutes long and highlights meaningful statistics in addition to its interviews. According to the film, because the media (typically digitally enhanced) is so heavy in girls’ lives today, they are measuring themselves against an impossible standard. This causes them to selfobjectify, and high objectification is correlated with low political efficacy. The more women seek power through objectifying themselves, the less power they feel they have to make a difference in society and politically contribute.

The film notes that women in journalism often objectify themselves. It touched on a video clip from the show “Whose line is it anyway?” where contestants were playing a guessing game, deciding if given pictures were cocktail waitresses or newscasters. Katie Couric said she looks back at clips of herself and sometimes criticizes her choice of outfit because it may have been too revealing.

The documentary also highlights that this is not just a female problem. It said that men are “emotionally constipated,” and that men would be less critical of the emotionality of women if they were comfortable expressing emotion themselves.

After the documentary was a facilitated discussion among the audience members.

Regina Meyer, a doctoral intern at the Counseling Center, asked what the general reactions were to the documentary.

The first response, from a male, was “I love how balanced it was. I came here expecting a male bash, but I didn’t feel like that happened at all. It was very holistic.”

A female audience member noted, “Women are encouraged to compete against each other. You don’t get to see the women who are helping other women.”

Liana Silva from the Women’s Center, the other discussion facilitator, said, “Be aware of the images you see. Media literacy is important.”

The facilitators encouraged audience members to continue these conversations with friends and family after they left.

There will be another screening of the documentary at noon on March 7 in Miller Nichols Library. Pre-registration is required.

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