I just watched Miss Representation, the documentary by Jennifer Siebel Newsom that discusses the harm sexualized, violent images are doing to our children. Young people need this film to have a fighting chance of thinking critically about these images, rather than simply accepting their messages as subconscious fact. And adults need this film as a call to action. Americans need to stop the sexualized, violent media from having its way with us, or we will be drowning in a sea of lost, sexually dysfunctional girls and boys—who have become lost, sexually dysfunctional women and men— within a few generations. This film brings that reality into crystalline focus.
The film, which was created as a teaching tool (it is available, along with discussion materials, to schools and libraries), presents shocking images of sexualized violence from our media alongside statistics about rape, domestic violence, and female representation in politics and positions of power and influence. It also includes interviews with media and gender scholars, journalists, and politicians. I am pleased to have the opportunity to discuss the film with a group of local high school girls in the coming weeks, as I believe getting this film’s message into the world is one of the most significant things I could possibly do with my time and energy. Below are some highlights—please read them, watch the film if you can, and then take action.
Note: Infographics are available on The Representation Project’s website.
- American teenagers spend 31 hours a week watching TV, 17 hours a week listening to music, 3 hours a week watching movies, 4 hours a week reading magazines, 10 hours a week online. That’s 10 hours and 45 minutes of media consumption a day.
- The United States is 90th in the world in terms of women in national legislatures.
- Women hold 17% of the seats in the House of Representatives (the equivalent body in Rwanda is 56.3% female).
- Women are merely 3% of Fortune 500 CEOs.
- Women hold only 3% of clout positions in the mainstream media (telecommunications, entertainment, publishing and advertising).
- 1 in 4 girls experience teen dating violence
- 1 in 4 women are abused by a partner in their lifetime
- 1 in 6 women are survivors of rape or attempted rape
- 15% of rape survivors are under the age of 12
“Here we are in this massively powerful democratic society, and we are not modeling for the rest of the world a better balance.” — Pat Mitchell, President and CEO, Paley Center for Media
“These images are part of a cultural climate in which women are seen as things, as objects. And turning a human being into an object is almost always the first step toward justifying violence against that person.”—Jean Kilbourne, Ed.D., Filmmaker, Killing Us Softly
“We have no obligation to make history. We have no obligation to make art. We have no obligation to make a statement. To make money is our only objective.” —Michael Eisner, Former CEO, The Walt Disney Company (Internal Memo)
“How do we expect our sons to be men of integrity and of conscience and to be social justice advocates, to treat women with respect and to speak up when they see women being treated with disrespect, if they don’t see their fathers doing it, if they don’t see men in the public culture doing it? It’s not fair to put the burdens on the shoulders of boys, or even of young men. They’re part of the solution, there’s no question, but this is about adult men.”—Jackson Katz, Ph.D., Author of The Macho Paradox
“When it comes to the politics of all this, in the last 25 years, our lawmakers have essentially been absent. Out of the picture.” —Jim Steyer, CEO, Common Sense Media
1972: Surgeon General’s Report cites link between screen violence and aggressive behavior.
1976: American Medical Association calls TV violence an “environmental hazard.”
1982: National Institute of Mental Health says there is a clear link between TV violence and aggression.
1985: American Psychological Association shows link between TV violence and real violence.
1992: American Psychological Association calls for federal policy to protect society when research on violence is ignored.
2004: The Centers for Disease Control finds that media violence enhances violent behavior
2007: The FCC unanimously recommends Congress regulate TV violence.
2007: Congress holds special hearing on the prevalence of women’s sexualization in music videos.
2009: Studies prove exposure to sexually explicit video games and music videos is linked to men’s acceptance of rape myths and sexual harassment.
Feel like taking action yet? If so, here are some ideas:
- Visit The Representation Project and get involved.
- Contact your local schools and tell them about the film—ask them to buy it. If they don’t have the funds, and you do, offer to buy it for them. Volunteer to come do what I’m doing, and discuss the film with students. A caveat: Although there are teaching materials for elementary children, I wouldn’t want to show this film to a child younger than 13 who hadn’t already been exposed to the images. I do intend to watch the film with my kids when they are older, even if they haven’t seen the images yet, because many of their peers will have seen them—and will behave accordingly. My kids need to know what they’re up against. We all do.
- If you are an educator or an administrator at a school or university, bring this film into your schools and talk about it with your students.
- We need to get people in power who will make media decisions based on the public interest. Let’s find and elect them. Our future depends on it.