To put my last blog post into a bigger perspective, women have been misrepresented in the media since it existed. No other documentary explains this truth better than “Miss Representation,” directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom. I highly recommend this documentary to anyone wanting to learn more about race and gender in the media.
Actresses are often put into a “box”, playing one type of role that doesn’t include any complexity. I learned from this documentary that in the early days of film, women played versatile roles and more intricate characters. Now, in many mainstream movies we see women playing generally one, stereotypical role. Often she is playing a role meant for male satisfaction. She may be the sexy, strong, bad ass chick. Or she’s the feisty boss who gave up having a family to dedicate herself to her career. Perhaps she is an independent, savvy woman who is solely looking for a man to complete her in a “chick flick.” We see these roles played repeatedly.
The more unrealistic images we see in our media, the more our society is going to hold each other to unrealistic standards. For example, we see the same body types in advertisements all the time. Women feel like they need to look like models, while men judge real women based on the women they see in advertisements. The same can be true in the reversed sense.
The documentary features Katie Couric and her opinions about being a female broadcaster. Women have pressure to look young and beautiful to stay on air while men don’t have to carry any attractiveness, nor have concern about their weight or age. She jokes about how she can’t tell whether some female broadcasters are delivering news or are cocktail waitresses. Our society continues to downplay women to their bodies instead of their success. There achievements are overlooked while nothing other than their appearance receives commentary. Hilary Clinton and Sarah Palin are clear examples of this treatment.
Documentaries like these make me wonder how many people in our society truly see the misrepresentation of women in media or if they just consume these generalizations and stereotypes. Since gender construction is taught so early on, I believe the truth of the media needs to be taught early on.