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Film and discussion of women’s body images

You can’t be what you can’t see”
– Marian Wright Edelman, Founder & President Children’s Defense Fund

Two Barbie dollsTidewater Community College students taking part in the screening of the documentary “Miss Representation” came away with a clearer understanding of how the mainstream media contribute to perpetuating limiting stereotypes and labels that undermine the value of women in society.

The TCC Women’s Center is sponsoring screenings of the award-winning, 90-minute film on each campus as part of Women’s History Month. The film will be screened at noon on March 22 in Whitehurst 2057 on the Chesapeake campus. The final screening will be at 11 a.m. March 27 in the Forum of the Portsmouth campus.

Graphic glaring images and clips in the film show a world that values women aesthetically, which in turn limits their role in leadership positions and leads to dangerous side effects. The film calls “self objectification” a national epidemic that lowers women’s political efficacy.

Woman speaks in a discussion group following the film

Jennifer Siebel Newsome is the filmmaker and narrator of the 2011 Sundance documentary that features stories from teenage girls and interviews with politicians, journalists, entertainers, activists and academics including Nancy Pelosi, Condoleezza Rice, Katie Couric, Rachel Maddox, Sandra Bullock and Gloria Steinem.

Startling statistics drive her point home. Among them:

  • 53 percent of 13-year-old girls are unhappy with their body; that number increases to 78 percent by age 17
  • A woman still earns 77 cents to a man’s dollar.
  • While women make up 51 percent of the population, 17 percent of Congress is female and only 34 women have served as governors in the U.S.

The film urges viewers to visit and take this pledge: “I pledge to use my voice to spread the message of Miss Representation and challenge the media’s limiting portrayal of women and girls.”

Man speaks in a discussion group following the film

The film sparked discussion among the TCC audience members, many of whom were stunned by how pervasive the problem has become. Others were even more surprised that women’s harsh judgment of other women allows the stereotypes to continue.

“I didn’t know it was that bad,” said Artensel McCullough, Jr.  “My mentality has changed after watching this documentary.  Men have to appreciate a woman’s talent, but it’s not going to stop unless women do the same.”

Even small steps, such as conversations with your children about what they see, can make a difference, said student Miriam Millen. “I had already seen the short version of this and I joined the Miss Representation website afterward,” Millen said. “This is very close to my heart because I have a 6-year-old daughter and I am appalled at what I saw.”

“I thought this was a wonderful film,” said student Genise Thomas. “It was in line with what I’ve had to go through. The key is to empower each other and encourage each other. Women need to catch on to that message.”