Film: how media misrepresent women
"Miss Representation," a documentary about how the media portrays women in a manner that leads to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence, was shown at the Performing Arts Center at Menlo-Atherton High School on May 3.
The key point of the film, directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, is that a common media message is that women's value lies in youth, beauty and sexuality, and not in a capacity for leadership.
The film is a mix of interviews with celebrities, activists, politicians, and psychologists, along with news clips, statistics, and images of how women are represented. Interspersed is Ms. Newsom's personal battle with how the media affected her life and how she wants a better world for her young daughter.
The program, part of M-A High's Parent Education Series, was organized by journalism teacher Betsy Snow and students Anna de Benedictis and Helmi Henkin. The film was introduced by the students and Charlene Margot, chair of the M-A Parent Education Series, and Dr. Deval Shah, a child and adolescent psychiatrist.
After watching and reviewing the film for MArk, M-A's magazine, student organizers de Benedictis and Henkin said they wanted to share the film with students to spread awareness. Ms. Margot learned about their project and helped organize a showing during school hours but agreed that another screening should take place for parents.
"If more people become aware of the messages the media is subconsciously sending, then they will be less inclined to believe those messages, and the media will eventually be forced to change their depiction of women to match what the people think," Ms. Henkin said.
Dr. Shah addressed the critical role of the family in shaping children's perceptions. "It is your influence," Dr. Shah said to the parents, "not the media, that will guide your kids to know the truth of beauty, that is our inner beauty, and that is what will guide us to live a happy and satisfying life."
About the author: Rebecca Alger is a student journalist at Gunn High School in Palo Alto.