Feminism in Miss Represented

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Miss Represented seems to primarily represent third-wave feminism and power feminism, though the two schools of thought are emphasized in distinct sections of the film. Set long after the women's liberation movement of the 1960s, the beginning of the film focuses heavily on issues concerning third-wave feminism. At its outset, the film presents the problem of the media’s false portrayal of women as physically idyllic, objectified goddesses, a harmful generalization which has negative social consequences for many girls and women in the United States. This mischaracterization is particularly harmful to younger women as it often leads to feelings of low self-worth and body image issues because they feel as though they are not built how they are supposed to be built. The feelings of insecurity that result from these issues place these women in positions of inferiority; they do not believe that they are good enough, and this belief can and does affect other aspects of their lives, such as career goals and their relationships.

In addition to taking the psychological effects of the media’s portrayal of women into consideration, the film takes another third-wave feminist concern into consideration by interviewing women from a variety of different racial and social groups, professions, and ages. This shows a desire to not only identify women as a separate generalization that is distinct from men but also to highlight their different and unique experiences and perspectives as individuals. This enables the women being interviewed to be able to speak about the same issues as a group while still affirming their own, non-generalized identities.

Toward the end of the film, concerns relating to power feminism are more clearly represented. For example, while the objectification and exploitation of women in media and advertising is a problem, the film highlights that women, being just over half of the population of the U.S. have the potential to wield more influence than many individual women think. Many of the women who are being interviewed stress the importance of recognizing this potential, acting accordingly and working together. For example, Rachel Maddow recalls how many of the women who had succeeded in the news business before her had supported her when she began her career and that she plans on doing the same for other women when she has the opportunity. Maddow and the other interviewees point out that, if gender equality and feminism are to succeed, then it is crucial to highlight and recognize successful and powerful women who have achieved positions of prominence and encourage other women to do the same. This idea of women recognizing their own potential and helping others do the same is characteristic of power feminism.

Before watching the film, I was aware of some of the problems women face that were referenced; for example, I knew that some young women suffer from body-image problems and that this was largely a result of the way that women are portrayed in the media in general, and, in particular, cartoons. I was also aware that men are far more likely to be successful in their careers than equally qualified women are, and that women generally receive lower salaries than men do, even when they have the same job and work for the same company. However, I was not aware of how many of the challenges that women face are interconnected and how strongly these problems are reinforced by the media. For example, while I knew that the portrayal of cartoon princess by companies like Dis-ney often present young girls with impossibly high standards of beauty and that when they inevitably do not meet these standards, these girls suffer from a poor self-image; however, I had never made the connection that when young girls see physical beauty as their main purpose in life, they are likely to think of things like intelligence, compassion, and leadership as unimportant qualities as they do not associate those things with women.

I was surprised by many things in the documentary. I think that what shocked me most were the clips that featured popular members of the news media speaking about accomplished and intelligent women in politics in extremely disrespectful ways. One clip, for example, featured a man who implied that a female president would be undesirable because she would have PMS. Suggesting that a qualified woman would not be able to do her job because her monthly cycle would interfere is insulting not only to the person he was referring to, but to women everywhere who excel in there career. I was very surprised to see that remark be made by someone who is apparently credible enough to be interviewed on a news program. I was also surprised by many of the statistics that the film featured. In particular, the fact that Iraq and Afghanistan have more women in politics than the U.S. does seem unbelievable to me. If these countries, which we regularly criticize as being unfair to women, have more female politicians than we do, then we definitely have to make some changes.

As a whole, I have a much more favorable view of feminism after watching this documentary. I think that this is probably because I have never heard the claims and arguments of feminism expressed clearly and all at once, and I had never seen precisely how interrelated the problems that women face in not only the U.S. are, but also for those across borders and boundaries. After watching the film, I am able to understand feminism as an attempt to answer a series of problems rather than a collection of disconnected circumstances.