Gender in the Media: The Importance of The Representation Project’s Educational Campaign

As the year comes to an end, various recap videos and articles about the “best of” or “worst of” 2013 are beginning to surface. Social justice organizations and advocacy campaigns for a multiplicity of issues are also using these tactics to raise awareness and offer reflection. The Representation Project, best known for its 2011 breakthrough film, Miss Representation, uses film and media content to expose social injustices and raise awareness about gender stereotypes that are prevalent in the media and inevitably create appropriate social change. Just shy of four minutes, their most recent video campaign, “How the Media Failed Women in 2013,” exploded over social media this past week.

Sex sales. Sensualizing news gets ratings. People, at least we are led to believe, care about celebrity gossip. We have the freedom to watch whatever we want. So what’s the big deal? Why is this a social justice issue? Why is the Representation Project important?

The point is that what you see and what you hear matters.

Media influences behavior and beliefs. It influences how boys and girls, men and women, view themselves, how they are treated, and how treat others. Media provides content that shapes our society. The media is saturated with negative images and it is becoming more difficult for people, especially women and girls, to be emotionally healthy and fulfilled.

The Facts:

• The average teenager consumes over 10 hours of media a day.
• Girls between 11 and 14 see on average 500 ads a day.
• 53% of 13-year-old girls are unhappy with their bodies. That number increases to 78% by age 17.
• Depression in women has doubled since 1970.
• The average woman spends enough money on beauty products in one year to pay for five years of community college or two years at a state college.
• Between 1937 and 2005 there were only 13 female protagonists in animated films…All of them except one had the aspiration of finding romance.
• Women and girls are the subject of less than 20% of news stories.
• Women hold only 3% of clout positions in the mainstream media (telecommunications, entertainment, publishing, and advertising).
• Women make up 51% of the US population… however women comprise only 20% of congress.

The award winning film Miss Representation and the Representation Project cover a multitude of issues and consequences surrounding gender and media. I want to expand on one area that I personally believe to be one of the most crucial problems. As a public servant, I promise you, young women and girls have ambition. Young women want to see a female president and want strong female role models. However, it seems the more powerful and influential a woman gets, the more backlash she receives. By trivializing women, no matter what their accomplishments are, makes it so no one takes what they say seriously. Sends the message that women are not worthy of being in public office. Politics aside, Hilary Rodham Clinton is by far the most qualified person to be a presidential candidate in modern history. Yet, her pant suits, her “erratic mood,” and her aging looks are at the forefront of the discussion. When the media is belittling to the most powerful women in the world, we are telling young women that they will never be strong enough, smart enough, or accomplished enough to have their voices heard or matter. We are telling young men that it is okay to disrespect women of power and the overall idea of women in professional and political settings is not to be taken seriously.

Educational campaigns like the Representation Project are important and necessary in order to raise awareness and challenge the status quo so that everyone has a positive self image and has the opportunity to reach their potential. As easily as it can be damaging, media can be an instrument of social change. It’s influence and power is almost limitless.

“If women spent a tenth of the time thinking about how to solve the world’s problems as they think about their weight…we could solve them in a matter of months.”- Katie Couric

Post by Jillian Fisher


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