If you haven’t seen Miss Representation already, I highly encourage logging onto Netflix (maybe your friend’s account), placing a hold at the library, buying the film, or better yet watching it right now.
This brilliant documentary exposes how media contribute to the objectification of women, the reality of our culture and the damage it does to women and girls.
Women have long been the objects of their sexuality. Over the decades, reoccurring images of provocatively dressed women are either praised or scorned upon. And most importantly, it contributes to a culture of judgment. Women are highly judged and criticized in both our intellect and our sexuality. The message our society sends is that a woman’s value and power lie in her youth, beauty and sexuality, and not in her capacity as a leader. These misrepresentations have led to the underrepresentation of women in positions of power and influence.
While women have made much progress, some of the statistics highlighted in the film show we still have miles to go:
- America’s women continue to earn just 77 cents for every dollar men earn.
- Between 1937 and 2005 (68 years), there were only 13 female protagonists in animated movies. All of them, except one, had the aspiration of finding romance.
- Women make up 51 percent of the population and only 17 percent of Congress.
- Women are merely 3% of Fortune 500 CEOs.
- Women hold only 3% of clout positions in the mainstream media (telecommunications, entertainment, publishing and advertising).
For more recent statistics touching on issued raised in Miss Representation, University of Denver’s Women College also released a national study this year benchmarking women’s leadership: Women’s Leadership Report.
Miss Representation is certainly not perfect and does not provide solutions. Nonetheless,
it is a resource and a conversation starter about how the media affect women.
Some of the various ways to progress change about these issues are:
1. ALWAYS QUESTION YOUR WORK. Always ask yourself, is this objectifying ANYONE in ANYWAY? Look at things like camera angles, clothing, assumed roles, assumptions about before and after the ad. Who is in power in the ad and why? What is being said in the ad? By constantly critiquing your ad and to look for ways in which the ad is marginalizing a certain group, you are one step ahead of the critics and people who might negatively view the ad. If we are proactive in examining our ads we can start to change how our ads are influencing girls and women.
2. Write a letter. If we see ads that objectify, marginalize, or out-group a certain identity SPEAK UP! By letting your voice be heard then companies can start understanding that the people do not want ads like that in our world, that we are not going to sit idly by and watch them destroy people, particularly women. Sending an email in this day and age can go further if more people are doing it.
3. Get people talking. This blog, the fact that you read this blog and the fact that you viewed or will view this movie are perfect examples of ways to get people talking. Bring up this subject at lunch, tell your boss you want to be conscious of this in the hiring process, in company meetings, in everyday work. Getting the ball rolling around conversations that are going to help spread the word that we as people and we as ad agency employees are not okay with what is going on in our media and we want it to end.
Karsh Hagan’s push towards progress started when a group from the agency attended a screening of Miss Representation in August. They brought back their knowledge and still KH strives to continue educating. This week the agency showed several screenings of Miss Representation for all employees to attend. After watching, people wrote anonymous response cards describing how the film made an impression on them:
“I so appreciated the chance to see this movie. I can’t say it was surprising, but it was a strong compilation of important information for all of us to know as advertisers and consumers.”
“It opened my eyes to how women are viewed in the media and politics. This devaluation goes unnoticed because it has such a cultural norm.”
“It is so nice to hear these arguments from someone outside of my own head. It just makes a girl feel a little less alone.”
“I like how the video focused on problems that were extrapolated from the core problem of objectification of women. How can we all actually make a difference?”
“Amazed this is that bad– that we continue to break down women. I believe there will be a change though.”
“Outraged but ultimately hopeful”
I think many of the people at KH believe advertising can be a tool for change. Instead of showcasing only women’s bodies, the media have the opportunity to illustrate strong women of power. As a young account service intern, whose ambitions go far beyond making copies, I hope to assist in changing the culture that objectifies women, and maybe still manage to make a living. It’s about time that the media start to acknowledge and respect the intelligence of women. Yet, this is a complex issue involving not only the marketers and advertisers, but also the consumer who supports these products and our overall cultural values. This situation does however create a great opportunity for brands to take the lead and display to the world, the real, multi-dimensional image of women and in return win the hearts of millions.
Ph.D,Director, Innovation Insight & Strategy, Global Snacks Group, PepsiCo.
“I believe advertisers and marketers should work on driving social change and that this is actually good business. In a world that is changing so rapidly, given that our consumers have access to brands and messages through social media, not showing progressive advertising and role models can actually hurt the brand name and risk it being seen as dated. Also, you can get called out quite easily these days with regressive advertising because of the way consumers, especially women are blogging and sharing their reactions on sites such as Facebook”.
Check out and Like Miss Representation’s Facebook Page view recent articles and ongoing conversations about these topics.
Written by Tarryn Sanchez, Account Service Intern