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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

ELMS: Media business sadly still a man’s world

A few weeks ago, I watched the film “Miss Representation” in my communications class, Race and Gender in Mass Media. The title of the 2011 Sundance documentary accurately reflects the issues the film brings to light: how mainstream media contributes to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in the United States and the ways in which these women are perceived.

I am both a woman and someone pursuing a career in journalism, which is part of the mass media, so I considered myself to be fairly well-versed in the issues surrounding “Miss Representation” before I even walked into the screening. Ninety minutes later, I was left surprised and, truthfully, a little shaken up.

Sure, I know men hold more positions of power than women in the media, and it is no secret that women are constantly shown as skinny, blemish-free, sexualized characters. All this is frustrating, but I was shocked by the statistics illustrated in the film.

I learned that women hold only 3 percent of clout positions in telecommunications, entertainment, publishing and advertising in the United States and comprise only 16 percent of all writers, directors, producers, cinematographers and editors. As a woman working to make a career out of writing, editing and publishing, these numbers are more than a little disconcerting.

“Miss Representation” writer, director and producer Jennifer Siebel Newsom includes interviews with a slew of politicians, journalists, entertainers, activists, academics and teenagers throughout the film, along with startling clips from mainstream American media outlets.

The viewer is bombarded with music video clips of glistening, half-naked women, print ads of woman portrayed as objects, segments of TV shows like “Toddlers and Tiaras” and headlines like New York Magazine’s “The Bitch and The Ditz” (aka Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin).

These are the representations that men and women are socialized with in our great nation. It’s no wonder women only comprise 17 percent of Congress yet make up 51 percent of the United States population.

I don’t understand how women and minorities can still be so severely under-represented in a country built on the fundamental principle of “liberty and justice for all.”

I often catch myself saying, “It’s 2012, people,” like that is supposed to mean something significant. For me, it used to mean that it isn’t the 1930s anymore, and it should be second nature in such a progressive and intelligent society as ours that women are equal to men and should be portrayed and thought of as such.

Alas, 2012 is nowhere near what I would call progressive. I am not making light of the significant strides we have made as a society, but I am saying we are moving too slow.

Just last night, Empowerment Marquette and Marquette Student Government hosted a free screening of “Miss Representation,” followed by a discussion about the way in which the media portrays women, as part of Feminism Week. If you missed it, I highly recommend you take an hour and a half out of your day and watch it with your full attention. 

Whether you are male or female, I guarantee you’ll learn something from it, and that something will likely be an ugly truth most Americans don’t want to admit: that this under-representation and misrepresentation of women in our society is a fact, not a matter of perspective.

As discouraging as that may sound, “Miss Representation” also gives everyone — male or female, media professional or not — a much-needed push to change not only the way we portray women in positions of power and influence, but the way we think about them as human beings.

Katie Couric, former CBS Evening News anchor, said it best: “The media can be an instrument of change: It can maintain the status quo and reflect the views of the society, or it can hopefully awaken people and change minds. I think it depends on who’s piloting the plane.”

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