The worth of a woman that's often diminished by an unfavorable portrayal in the media was the theme of “Miss Representation,” a documentary film by Jennifer Siebel Newson shown at the Mesquite Fine Arts Gallery on Tuesday evening.
Many years have passed since the feminist revolution changed the world but women are still depicted in movies, on television, and in advertising mostly as wives or girlfriends, with the sole ambition of finding love. The sexual objectification of women in the media leads to trivialization and disempowerment of women in our culture and is shown in the film with a close examination of their roles in media, politics, the economy, and the culture at large.
The discussion was hosted by the 2012 Miss Mesquite, Emilee Rappleye in conjunction with Elan Woman Magazine editor Darci Hansen, a pair that handled the subject with grace and a critical look at causes and solutions.
A variety of powerful women such as Katie Couric, Nancy Pelosi, Gloria Steinem, Condoleeza Rice, and a dozen other women, appear in the film to make the point “we are telling young women their worth lies in their youth, their beauty and their sexuality, not in their capacity to lead.” According to Newsom, the gap between women in the media and women is real life is huge and growing.
While it may appear the girls and young women are doing well in this culture, there is a darker side to reality. Today's women have higher rates of eating disorders, depression, low self esteem, and more self-destructive behavior than any other time in history. Today’s teens spend an average of ten hours a day using media and are bombarded with role models like Paris Hilton, Brittany Spears and Kim Kardashian and reality television like Extreme Makeover, Sex and the City, and The Bachlorette.
Well attended by community leaders, aspiring community leaders, business owners, women activists, Miss Nevada Alana Le,e and a handful of men who listened to Rappleye tell the audience they were about to see a powerful and controversial film about how the media shapes our lives. “I did not wear my crown tonight because it does not define me,” said Rappleye. “My platform, during Miss Mesquite, was communication and about finding your own voice.”
With that statement, the opening scene declares “You can't be what you can't see.” The documentary gets its message across using a variety of clips, interviews, and statistics that show women are being depicted as poorly as ever.
Following the film, a panel of respected citizens including a counselor, a retired college professor, the Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce, as well as Rappleye, took questions from the audience under the guidance of moderator Linda Faas. The sexual objectification of women in the media denies them the ability for equality and full participation in our culture was the general consensus. No matter what else a woman does, it comes down to how she looks, one audience member said.
“You have to stand up and stand your ground,” said Rappleye. “You not only have to be sure of your path in the world but you have to mentor other girls and women as well. You have to be there for them,” said Rappleye. She was asked what she would do to help others and she said, “I have talked to the mayor and I hope to form a women's advisory council to work with the City on women's issues. There is nothing like that in Mesquite.”
A perception exists in Clark County that women are arrested far more often than men in domestic dispute cases, said one member of the group. “If that were true and there was an un-proportionate treatment of women, then a woman's advisory group would be something of real value to our community,” said Rappleye.
“Women are not asking to replace men,” said Hansen. “We are just asking for a place at the table.” Statistics such as “Women only make up 17 percent of Congress but are 50 percent of the population” seem to back up her statement.
Newson has also created a website to activate women to realize their potential and to get more women elected to public office in 2012. A statistic from the web site states that the U.S. is 94th in the world for the number of women elected to office. The web site will also strive to educate American teenagers on how gender is portrayed in the media and how to influence positive change in the media. For information on the organization, visit www.missrepresentation.org.
In any event, Rappleye said she will continue to be involved in communication issues as well as mentoring other women.