Missrepresentation, Media, and Me

After posting a somewhat spur-of-the-moment post about my general thoughts (a sort of “what do I put on a blog?” post), I would like to take the time to more closely reflect on Missrepresenation and my relationship with media.

On a broad scale, my relationship with the media is complex. I love TV, films, and music, but don’t know how to react when I see things that disappoint me. I love finding interesting articles (especially on these topics!) on the Internet, but I avoid sites where I tend to feel uncomfortable. I often find social media irritating and try to avoid it as much as possible, something I wish were more common. In general, I would say I’m less enamored with the media than the average American; I watch very little television, I know nothing about celebrities, I can’t remember the last time I watched a viral video. Yet media is pervasive, and for that I both love and resent it. A common body of knowledge facilitates connections with others, even if it’s wrong or misleading.

If you had talked to me eight years ago, my eighth grade self would have most related to the film’s portrayal of women as sex objects, to the parts condemning the idea that a girl’s worth is based solely on her size, her clothes, her appeal to men. One of my best friends at the time was struggling with anorexia, another was cutting herself, and the rest of us were less obviously, but still decidedly, struggling with the pressure to fit a certain ideal. Although directly influenced by our peers, the ideal were trying to reach was no a creation of our peers: it was impressed upon us on a much larger scale through years of television, film, magazine, and internet access. Disney molded our desires, encouraging us to find a Prince Charming. As we grew up, advertisements and other media convinced us that this man – whom we should be so desperately seeking – wanted us thin and attractive, made-up and well-dressed, agreeable and submissive. It was something I struggled with as teen, and even now, as a senior and an engineer at MIT, I still sometimes feel that pressure. It’s a small, subconscious voice, telling me that, despite the myriad things I have to be proud and thankful for and the infinite possibilities I have for the future, I cannot be truly be successful unless I appear desirable in the eyes of men.

Yet as I’ve grown up, my concerns center far more on the messages of politics and power. At this point in time, I no longer fear being ostracized for my clothes or feel as if I need to act a certain way to fit what’s expected of me. What preoccupies me now is how I can succeed in the workplace, how I can reach my career aspirations. Missrepresentation really resonated with me in its clips of Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin. To me, throughout the 2008 election, they represented either extreme of women’s portrayal in positions of power, and either was something that scared me. Seeing women, both those I admire and those whose views I don’t care for, ridiculed by the media for their clothes or their status as grandmothers, makes me wonder whether I would ever be able to (or want to) walk that tough line between being taken seriously and being a “bitch,” between being well-dressed and being “slutty” in any sort of office, let alone the Oval Office. 

Overall, I thought the documentary’s point was spot on. I was disappointed slightly, however, in its presentation. I would have loved to see a (longer) documentary that went into greater depth in both the areas I described above: objectification of women and the media’s effect on perceived (and actual) power. Yet that’s probably not the best way to spread a message, and for its ability to do that, I applaud it.

 

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