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My lifestyle shifted when I first observed Miss Representation on Netflix when I was a sophomore in college. This was the beginning of a transformation in my thought process towards how both men and women are portrayed in American society.
Miss Representation is a documentary surrounding how women and girls gain a huge part of their identity from how they view women and girls being portrayed in today’s society. The problem is that these women and girls are shown in the media that their worth is entirely based on their beauty and sexuality.
Thus girls grow up believing that they need to look a certain way to achieve popularity. As shown in the documentary, many successful women are constantly spoken about in the media solely on how they are dressed or how they look. Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the creator of the campaign, states that “we as a society, need to do a lot more to celebrate women’s achievements, talents and brains outside of what they look like (McDowel).
She created the campaign after struggling herself with self-image and self-worth due to what she viewed the media portraying about women. Jennifer Siebel Newsom recounts in the documentary many of her experiences with men objectifying her and she accredits this to the oversexualization of women in the media. Jackson Katz states in the documentary that “women have been challenging men’s power, in the business professions, education, in politics, and other areas of social life, the images of women flooding the culture have been taking up less space, they’re less threatening, they’re highly sexualized, and therefore a certain power has been taken away from them, which is the power of being a whole person’ (Macnicol).
Jennifer Siebel Newsom created The Presentation Project; a campaign created to change the gender stereotypes present in the culture of American society. Newsom said she “wanted her daughter or son to live in a world where women are valued (Oatman). In an interview, she mentioned that “it’s interesting being a mother raising both of a son and a daughter, in a culture that objectifies women and sees women’s value in their youth or beauty or sexuality, and not in their ability to lead. And in a culture that values a hypermasculinized version of what it is to be a man. At MissRepresentation.org, we’re about creating a dialogue about how we empower women and men, or girls and boys, to find their own path and to find value in a plethora of attributes and possibilities for who they can be” (Oatman) . The two documentaries were funded by executive producers and donations from people supporting the mission of the campaign. There is a donation button on the top of their website where people can continue to make donations towards the nonprofit (About the Mask You Live In).
The Mask You Live In is another documentary which is apart of the Representation Project campaign. According to the Presentation Project website, the documentary focuses on boys who are “pressured by the media, their peer group, and even the adults in their lives, our protagonists confront messages encouraging them to disconnect from their emotions, devalue authentic friendships, objectify and degrade women, and resolve conflicts through violence. These gender stereotypes interconnect with race, class, and circumstance, creating a maze of identity issues boys and young men must navigate to become “real” men” (About the Mask You Live In). According to the Mask You Live In press kit, throughout both documentaries listed, there are “interviews with experts in neuroscience, psychology, sociology, sports, education, and media, and, most importantly, young men and boys themselves” (The Presentation Project).
This campaign led me to be able to notice gender stereotypes in the movies, television shows and music I exposed myself to constantly. It made me reflect on how these stereotypes have impacted how I view myself, how I view men and how I have been treated by both men and women throughout my life. Through this reflection, I discovered just how much the stereotypes spoken about in the two documentaries impacted my life on a regular basis. Now I desire to be an advocate for supporting and viewing media that only supports both men and women in an empowering way. Also, I make sure to speak against any negative stereotyping done by people around me whether it is in their actions or speech.
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