ALAMEDA, Calif. — About two weeks ago, I saw the film Miss Representation with a friend. It is a film by Jennifer Siebel Newsom linking the skewed view of women in the media with women’s underrepresentation in positions of power and influence.
Here is a clip if you haven’t seen it:
Maybe it’s because I am living my own reality as a woman, specifically a working mother, that I haven’t had time to give it much thought. I haven’t taken any action on its website and forgot to review the movie until now.
It isn’t that it wasn’t compelling. I was alert and wide-eyed the entire time. I just think it is too simplistic to blame the media for the fact that there are so few congresswomen. I am sure it plays a part, but I can’t help but think there is something larger and systematic in play here.
First of all, I resented that there was no coverage of the number of women leaders in other sectors, like the non-profit and creation of small businesses as well as those super volunteers that cash-strapped schools must now rely on. I know many smart and competent women who have no desire to run a Fortune 500 company or run for public office. The same, by the way, could be said of smart and competent men who don’t hold these positions of power and exemplify leadership in other ways, like being a good father or managing a small company.
The other thing I resented in the film was the lack of political will and social safety net that would help catapult (primarily women) caregivers into these roles: universal healthcare, subsidized childcare, quality education, flexibility in the work place, and opportunities to advance to these positions. Mothers especially are dinged for having babies even if they haven’t forfeited their jobs and ambition.
That said, women’s portrayal in the media is disturbing. Two anecdotes that stood out to me was California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom — Jennifer Seibel’s husband — describing how much grief he received for promoting women to the head of the police and fire departments. People thought he was making a political statement, yet would probably never make such a crass assumption if both picks had been men.
The other is the little respect that smart girls get in school. It’s cool to be a male geek as evident by Mark Zuckerberg or any guy who tinkers with technology and eventually goes on to a high tech job. But a girl geek? She isn’t treated as well by her peers, which I find troubling.
Have any of you seen the film? What did you think?