Thursday, November 29, 2012

Taking Back Our Power: Miss Representation

  Miss Representation is a documentary on the media's influence in shaping the role of women in current society. More specifically in the United States. Since the Philippine media has huge influence from the West, it wasn't a surprise how the struggle of women with media resonates here in my homeland.

  The documentary doesn't primarily aim at feminists- it explores, analyzes, and scrutinizes media and technology in objectifying, hypersexualizing, and undermining powerful women. There were a lot of interesting points on the matter though I shall only mention just a few:

*Media is derogatory to powerful women
   In this documentary, they examined the media's treatment of women in politics such as Sarah Palin or Hillary Clinton.

   For some reason, media highlights the "negative" aspects of women and label them as: "bitch", "ditz", "PMS", "nagging", etc.(Take note it's men who often make these comments). It's as if our ability to express our emotions  and our physiology undermines our ability to make sound decisions, maintain careers, create policies or run for public office.

   The media is particularly unforgiving to women who strive to make a difference, especially women of intellect who don't conform to the unattainable idea of beauty. Some years ago, I came across this article about Michelle Obama delivering a speech and the writer was like- and I'm paraphrasing here- "ohmahglob is that dress appropriate for our country's First Lady to wear?"
Wow, never mind what cause Michelle is passionate about because those toned arms speak for themselves.

Or in the Philippines' case, we have people bashing on Miriam Santiago despite her impressive accomplishments in her political career and the fact that she seems to be one of the few in the senate who knows everything about the Constitution. Fans have even dubbed her as a walking law book among the sea of law scratch papers. Yet do we see other people like her being constantly represented in the media? Hellz nah. People are too busy criticizing her looks or that her voice is annoying blah blah blah yada yada.

Can you imagine, if people can't take powerful or influential women seriously, how do they look at the ordinary, everyday woman?

Which brings me to another interesting point in the documentary.

*High self-objectification results in less political advocacy.

   Women's unhealthy investment in physical beauty at the cost of investing in more important things like education, health, social advocacies, etc.. It completely disempowers them. The idea that their voice matters has been trivialized into superficial matters like Am I beautiful enough? Am I attractive enough in other people's eyes? Will guys think I'm hot? How can I make myself look 10 years younger?

 We are constantly setting ourselves up for misery with our notion of the unattainable idea of beauty dictated to us through television, magazines, billboards, and advertisements. Somehow, our worth has been dumbed down to getting that perfect hair, the trendy clothes, or being a size 0.

 Look, there's nothing wrong with wanting to look good. I love fashion and make-up as much as the next girl but I don't like the fact that the media is so fucking obsessed, uberfinicky, and hypercritical about how we should look. It's as if the occasional belly bulge is a death sentence. Stepping out without make-up is deemed a tragedy. In this country, it's all about being ultra fair-skinned. Wait, it doesn't stop there. We have to be fair skinned with a certain pink-ish white glow. In this tropical climate anyway.

We need more women like Jada Pinkett-Smith who refuses to let her daughter's beauty to be defined by anyone else's terms.

We need youth like Malala Yousafzai who took a brave stand against the Taliban community (for those who don't know, the Taliban is a fundamentalist Muslim militant movement with mysoginistic-inclined rules and decrees) even at the expense of her own life.

Have you ever noticed in interviews in press conferences or junkets, interviewers or reporters always seem to throw trivial questions at women and then the more existential questions go to men?

The fact that majority of the media is ran by men who have these unrealistic expectations and two-dimensional sketches of what women do, what women should look like, and what women should be is disturbing. 

 What's even more disturbing is that the demeaning and objectifying stuff they put out is packaged in such a way that they blame us for it under the guise of "we're only giving out what people want." 

*We need women leaders and women advocates.

  Simply because women's perspectives, experiences, and insights largely helps in making the right decisions. We especially need women in positions of power and leadership because- let's face it- our experiences are different from men. I'm not saying that women are smarter than men. I'm saying it's an advantage in the decision-making field when it comes to policy-making and creating business strategies. Women tend to challenge the status quo more in politics and in the workplace when given the opportunity. Like this woman, Kimi Cojuangco.

And of course, the ever vigilant and witty Sen. Miriam Santiago.


Well, that's all I can discuss regarding Miss Representation. Here's the extended trailer:

All of humanity should watch this.

P.S. I found it a bit odd that Catherine Hardwicke, the director of Twilight, was interviewed in this documentary. Awkwaaard.

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