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Miss Representation

[optional and extra-credit] “Miss Representation,” https://www.kanopy.com/en/uic/watch/video/128008. The film is available via the UIC Library steaming service Kanopy. This 2011 film is described as:

Like drawing back a curtain to let bright light stream in, MISS REPRESENTATION uncovers a glaring reality we live with every day but fail to see. Written and directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the film exposes how mainstream media contributes to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America. The film challenges the media’s limited and often disparaging portrayals of women and girls, which make it difficult for women to achieve leadership positions and for the average woman to feel powerful herself.

In a society where media is the most persuasive force shaping cultural norms, the collective message that our young women and men overwhelmingly receive is that a woman’s value and power lie in her youth, beauty, and sexuality, and not in her capacity as a leader. While women have made great strides in leadership over the past few decades, the United States is still 90th in the world for women in national legislatures, women hold only 3% of clout positions in mainstream media, and 65% of women and girls have disordered eating behaviors.

Nominated for the Grand Jury Prize – Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival.

Watch the 2011 film “Miss Representation” and submit an inspiring critique to me (via email) before Monday next week. After Monday, post a summary comment on WordPress.


  1. Miss Representation is a film that focuses on the mainstream media and how it contributes to the under representation of women in America. It brings us to reflect on our own consumption of media and what we often overlook. The media is constantly limiting and providing incorrect portrayals of women. This then makes it hard for women to feel in their own right beautiful, intelligent or powerful. The media is always portraying women in a sexual manner, which leads women to feel like they will never be enough or that they can not be both beautiful and intelligent. The subliminal message is that a woman’s power is because of her beauty and sexuality but never her intellectual capacity. Media also provides a message to boys that their beauty and looks is important and the sexualization of women. This message is constantly being spread, whether it be on magazines, TV shows, TV ads, video games, or billboards. It is everywhere. The media treats even women in power like Senators in a derogatory way. The film includes many different stories from different women and their own experiences with the media.

  2. A key takeaway from this film is the urgent necessity for media literacy and accountability. Media possesses the power to both reflect and shape societal perspectives, making it crucial to confront narratives that diminish the roles of women. Mainstream media has long perpetuated hypersexualized depictions of women, echoing the prevalent male gaze in media. Such misrepresentations carry significant consequences, shaping perceptions that undermine the value of women. However, given the commonality of falsely representing women in media, a real danger is that we may not even realize it. For this reason, I believe it is extremely important to actively be aware and vigilant of what the media portrays and scrutinize its impact on our perceptions.

  3. Miss Representation is a documentary film that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2011. The film discusses how the media contributes to the underrepresentation of women in influential positions in America by portraying women in a limited, disparaging manner. The film includes many interviews with celebrity feminists. Nancy Pelosi, Connie Rice, and Gloria Steinem to name a few. It analyzes how women’s marginalization affects the youth and the way women perceive themselves. The film encourages its viewers to challenge the media’s portrayal of women and to work towards change. This film tries to help individuals and communities overcome limiting stereotypes. I think it is a bigger problem today than it ever was, or maybe I am now sensitized to it so I notice it more. There is literally body shaming happening not only in the media, but on the internet and forums. I am glad I am not a teenager in these times where school follows you home via the internet.

  4. Miss Representation provides an overview of how representation of women in the media is harmful to society and to the development of women’s careers and aspirations. Because the media chooses to portray women as sexual objects whose purpose is the pursuit of love, society turns to view women as just that. In turn, women deal with consequences such as mental disorders and self-objectification, which can lead to disempowerment. Constant feelings of disempowerment lead to women being less present in leadership roles or even pursuing such opportunities. However, I found some of the comments and analyses to be rather shallow. We know that unachievable beauty standards can lead to insecurities and mental health issues, but I wish they would’ve touched more on how damaging those experiences can be. They aren’t just minor inconveniences in the lives of women, those effects can be destructive.

  5. The overall message of the film is that we need to work towards better representation of women in media and society as a whole, in order to create a more equal and just world. Paper emailed to you.

  6. I do not have any substantial critique of the film “Miss Representation.” I understand it to be a documentary film that explores how the mainstream media contributes to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence. The film also discusses the adverse effects of media images and messages on girls and women and how it affects their self-esteem and opportunities. The film features interviews with prominent women leaders, activists, scholars, and young girls and women who share their personal experiences and insights. It also examines how women are portrayed in popular culture, including in advertising, films, and television shows. The film highlights the need for greater gender equality in all areas of society and the importance of challenging harmful stereotypes and biases that limit women’s opportunities and potential. It encourages viewers to become more informed and engaged in advocating for gender equity and actively working towards creating a more inclusive and equitable world for all.

    • I’m unsure if they are better suited, perhaps that would be too far an assumption. What seems evident is that capitalism exaggerates divisive qualities for the maintenance of social hierarchy, so its really rather that a competitive (non communal) system is an extremely difficult system to engage really any -ism within. But maybe I’m talking out of my ass, as admittedly I’ve read books about communism, I’ve read books about gender but I’ve never read books about gender in communism. I’ll have to get back to you on that.

      • 28 Communism and Women Get access Arrow
        Donna Harsch

        16 December 2013

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        This article discusses women and gender relations under communism, beginning in the Soviet Union in the 1920s, continuing through the Cold War era in Eastern Europe, and including Cuba and China today. It addresses communist gender theory, ideology, and discourse. Women’s role in politics and government is discussed. The article covers employment and education, the peasant and urban family, social policies, and socialist consumption. Under communism, the article argues, women, especially married mothers, broke through traditional resistance to women’s participation in paid, including skilled, labour. Their levels of education and employment increased dramatically in most communist states. Yet women did not attain economic equality with men in any communist society and their share of political power remained stunningly low.

  7. I’m not sure I have an inspiring critique, as I think much of what they discussed over ten years ago in the documentary is still pervasive and relevant today, and agree with much of it. I will say there was a prudish anti-sex vibe to some of the commentary, in particular the one woman who commented about the “fighting fuck doll” trope in cinema as like an insidious way for media to present sexuality as a form of empowerment. She, and I suppose the documentary, seemed to imply that this empowerment is false and does not have meaningful impact. For me thats maybe a step too far, as I think that there are deep personal implications for the ownership of sexuality/or the manipulation of ones present reality through sexuality, I think maybe those don’t always serve like a grand agenda, but that they’re meaningful ways people handle living in our capitalist reality. Also though, no lie she kinda made me question if I really feel that way or if I’ve just been conditioned to believe that. Oh well gotta stick to your guns.

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