Monday night, I had the opportunity to see Miss Representation, a 90-minute documentary about the stereotypical, limiting and often degrading portrayals of women in the media. I first saw the film’s trailer at the Mega IIN conference I attended in March and talked briefly about it in a blog post I wrote a few weeks ago. While I loved the trailer, I had no idea how much the full movie would move me.
As a female who’s struggled with disordered eating for a large portion of her life, I know first hand how negatively the media can affect women. Though I’m embarrassed to admit it, I truly thought the models and actresses in magazines really looked like their photographs in real life—thin, flawless, perfect—until just a year or two ago. I had no idea how much Photoshop could completely alter how someone looks!
Do you want to know what the sad part is? Even after I started to realize the women on the cover of magazines didn’t really exist, I still wanted to look like them. I would have killed to attain that standard of perfection, even if it was impossible. That almost made it more attractive to me—knowing that if I could look like that, I would have achieved an unreachable goal.
I know how unhealthy that sounds, and I’m not proud of having these thoughts and feelings. But you know what? I’m not ashamed, either. In a society that equates a woman’s worth to her physical appearance, it’s no wonder millions of women and girls are battling issues like eating disorders and depression. In fact, it’s a situation that can bring me to tears and make me want to punch the closest man to me all within a 30-second span!
Miss Representation sheds light on the reality women face in today’s society, one that many of us ignore, intentionally or otherwise. The documentary features strong, intelligent, inspiring women and men who provide insight and commentary about the issues facing women in America today. It also shows dozens of shocking facts, including the following:
- 53% of 13 year old girls are unhappy with their bodies. That number increases to 78% by age 17.
- Rates of depression among women and young girls have doubled in the past ten years.
- 65% of American women and girls have disordered eating behavior.
- The United States is 90th in the world in terms of women in national legislatures, behind countries like Afghanistan, China, Cuba and Iraq.
- 15% of rape survivors are under the age of 12.
Statistics like these are absolutely infuriating, and they need to change. NOW.
A wise woman once told me that whatever you accept becomes acceptable behavior. I might be just one person, but I sure as hell am not going let things continue like this while I sit back and watch. Whether it’s writing blog posts, hosting screenings or running for office, I’m going to do something to change this. And I challenge you do to the same.
If you haven’t yet, do yourself a favor and watch this film. Find a screening near you. Better yet, host one. Educate yourself, educate your community and help to improve the world we live in. If we don’t take a stand and make a change, who will?
What is something, big or small, you can do to benefit women in your community?