Saturday, March 10, 2012

Miss Representation

Maureen Orth and Jennifer Siebel Newsom

Photo credit: Alfredo Flores

Fresh on the heels of the Limbaugh debacle, writer/director and producer Jennifer Siebel Newsom held a private screening of Miss Representation at The World Bank.   

The documentary film explores the under representation of women in positions of power and influence and challenges the media’s limited portrayal of what it means to be a powerful woman. 

Michael Kosmides  Kimball Stroud  Eve O'Toole

The night preceding the screening, Michael Kosmides held a private dinner at K Street's Teatro Goldoni, co-hosted by Impact Arts + Film Fund's Kimball Stroud.  

“The media is the greatest psychological force of communication in our society," said Newsom.  It’s meant to continue our cultural values and our gender norm and yet it’s telling us who we can and cannot be.  The overwhelming message that seeps into our subconscious is that a woman’s value lies in her youth, beauty and her sexuality.  

This makes it difficult for young girls to see themselves as powerful figures and leaders, just as it discourages men and boys from seeing women as other than an object and something to be okay."

Helin Jung of PEOPLE and The Huffington Post's Christina Wilkie

In between Taglierini Pasta and Chicken Milanese, guests engaged in a robust round table discussion on the issues.  

The Hill's Judy Kurtz and Jenny Rogers, Yeas & Nays
"As a result of the film which premiered on Oprah Winfrey’s network, it has been kind of taking off in a grassroots way across not only in the country but the world.  We’re in over 2,000 schools across the country right now. We’ve launched a campaign that basically makes the connection between sexism in the media," said Newsom,  "and with the people that are consuming that media as well as who are the advertisers and the sponsors of that media."  

 "So it’s interesting what’s happening right now with Limbaugh because we and many others have actually reached out to his sponsors and advertisers of the show and said, “Do you really believe that this is healthy messaging for our nation’s youth, for our young girls in particular?” and several of the initial advertisers who pulled from sponsoring the show have now spoken up because they’re fathers of daughters and they’ve made the connection that this is not healthy, that it’s disrespectful and that it’s the lowest grade of sexism."

Maureen Orth  Julie Chase  Jennifer Newsom

"I thought things would die down post Oprah Winfrey network premiere," she noted, "but things have kind of built up and there’s this snowball effect. In the month of March alone, which is women’s history month, we have over 120 screenings already scheduled at non-profits and corporations. 

Women’s conferences and schools are using the film to really gender the message of women’s empowerment, women’s voices needing to be heard, women deserving an equal seat at the table. I mean, the argument really is that the media’s selling sex and violence to our kids and that there’s a backlash that’s being lead by the media against women’s rights."

Evan Ryan and Eve O'Toole
"And so, you know the Rush Limbaugh situation is an example of that; the GoDaddy commercials during the Super Bowl is an example of that; Tele Flora’s commercials during the Super Bowl is an example of that.

Partisan politics that are going on in this country right now that are challenging women as to birth control is part of that. 

There’s a lot going on in terms of the backlash, and it’s interesting. We explore this in the documentary.  There’s a connection between women who are achieving and have achieved more power in the real world, in the symbolic realm, and the media realm that has tried to take that power away. And what the media’s done in particular is to sexualize women and to objectify them.

The most damage is the sexualization of young children and the way they are being sexualized at younger and younger ages.  As a mother of a daughter and a son, I’m so nervous about this  mainstream media that we’re witnessing in our lives - as we wait for a bus, as we walk past a newsstand, as we turn on the nightly news." said a concerned Newsom.   

Deputy Mayor of LA, Borja Leon and Jenny Rogers
We wanted to know as second lady of California how affective she could be in restraining or reversing this trend.

"My husband is a huge advocate and supporter of women," she said.  "He’s a big champion of human rights. This is a human rights issue. Our goal, obviously, is to really change minds, encourage a true bottom line that looks at a social bottom line, in addition to an economic and environmental line.   

We just launched this campaign that’s about getting a curriculum, a Miss Representation curriculum which is age appropriate - so kindergarten through third grade, fourth, fifth, middle school and high school - getting the curriculum into all public schools across the state. We’ve had tremendous success in that area.  I’m not going anywhere until this is done. I’m committed to this and I’m fortunate to be inspired by my partner."