By Jennifer Janiak, Daily Free Press Staff Writer
Ladies, we’ve all been there: flipping through tabloids while waiting in line in the grocery store, glaring down at the number on the scale and catching up on a guilty dose of America’s Next Top Model. Media influences people of both genders more than one may think, according to Miss Representation, a documentary focused on the portrayal of women by the media, and screened by the Center for Gender, Sexuality, and Activism Thursday evening.
The movie and the subsequent question and answer session evoked strong reactions from the primarily female audience, many of whom voiced disappointment at the lack of men in attendance.
“I think the whole movie does a good job at letting you step back because even in the intro…a lot of those movies and shows [presented] are shows that I may have watched in the past and not even thought about all that,” said Kate Eberle, a senior in the College of Communication. “Seeing that all put together like that really makes me feel like I have to start thinking about this more. So I think makes you realize how much of an issue it is.”
Written, produced and directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the documentary provides several personal anecdotes about the negative effects the media’s portrayal and objectification of women. Included in the film are candid interviews with women such as Katie Couric, Jane Fonda, Condoleezza Rice, Lisa Ling, Daphne Zinga, Rachel Maddow, Nancy Pelosi and Catherine Hardwicke.
When asked about what resonated with her, Ramona Ostrowski, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences, said, “How the media is so destructive to the most powerful women that we have in our society, our most powerful role models.
“I really look up to women like Nancy Pelosi and Hilary Clinton,” Ostrowski said. “And when I’m watching the news and all people are talking about are how much cleavage or how much leg [they’re showing] or what their hair looked like or whatever, it just shows me that I should focus more on my hair and less on what I’m saying.”
Along with a cringe worthy scene with images from true cosmetic surgeries, the film contains clips from popular movies and television shows that objectify women and quotes that apply to its theme of overcoming what the media’s prescribed perception of women.
“I think the very idea that you can’t be what you can’t see really attracted me,” said Cynthia Hass, a freshman in the School of Management and a representative for Miss Representation. “So many times girls are discouraged from living their dreams because it hasn’t been done before.”
Following the film, a lively question and answer session included both audience members and a panel, consisting of BU Law student and Women’s Law Association member Kathleen McGuinn; WGS Co-Director of Undergraduate Studies Barbara Gottfried; and Mass Communication Professor John Carroll.
Gottfried offered this advice: “I think it has to be something we work at bit by bit and so many different ways…We need to look for alternatives and there are plenty of them out there, from small independent films to cable channels that offer alternatives to magazines that are alternatives to Cosmo and Glamour and so on.”
“I would like to think that there are lots of opportunities out there, but most importantly for this audience, you need to start producing the media,” Gottfriend said.