Students address impact of media

For junior Clarin McDonald, entering the workforce as a woman presents complications.

“[Women] are either viewed as being too masculine or hyper-feminine,” she said. “I hope to be taken seriously in my job, but it makes me wonder if I can even be myself in a professional setting.”

This is one of the issues addressed in the film Miss Representation, a documentary that was shown on campus on Nov. 16 by the Sophia club and Seattle Pacific’s Women’s Studies.

The film examines how women are portrayed in television, movies, video games and other forms of media.

“Women are not only misrepresented, but a lot of times, they are absent in media as well,” said Dr. Jennifer McKinney, associate professor of sociology and director of Women’s Studies.

As the documentary played, the audience reacted with gasps and expressions of shock and anger at footage of media clips that are widely accepted in society.

The film examined the issue of sexism in the news, showing several examples of popular news anchors freely throwing out degrading comments.

At one point in the film, Bill O’Reilly asked what the downside was to having a woman in the oval office.

The answer from a news anchor was, “You mean besides the PMS and the mood swings?”

Although Co-President of Sophia senior Lisl Stadler was one of the hosts of the event, it was her first time seeing the film.

“There were moments [when] I didn’t hear anything being said in the film because it was so infuriating,” Stadler said.

Dr. McKinney said there is no real reason behind the negative portrayal of women today.

“It’s not like people sit down at a table and say, ‘Let’s oppress women,’” she said. “They do it because sex sells.”

Dr. McKinney said children as young as 2 years old start internalizing these gender roles.

This causes men and women to form warped ideas of gender roles in society and relationships, she said.

Dr. McKinney gave the example of the popular children’s show Bob the Builder.

“Bob, the strong, hardworking man, is the builder. His co-worker Wendy, being a woman, is the secretary,” Dr. McKinney said.

“Even in G-rated films, what women wear can seem like R-rated clothing. Oftentimes, female characters have their midriff showing or wear skin-tight clothing.”

After watching and discussing the issues presented in the film, many students began thinking of ways they could change the way women are viewed in society.

“I want to be a teacher,” sophomore Lydia Hazel said.

“I want to talk about these issues to young boys and girls and tell them it’s not OK to view women like this.”

Dr. McKinney said changing the way women are portrayed in the media could happen in three steps.

First, she said, it is important to be aware of the issue. Second, consumers should take action by refraining from buying products from companies that negatively represent women.

Consumers should also tell these companies why they have stopped purchasing from them, Dr. McKinney said.

Finally, she said, people should partner with one another to take action.

“If you think it’s a problem, there are at least a thousand others who are thinking the same thing,” Dr. McKinney said.

Miss Representation concluded by encouraging women to lift one another up instead of criticizing each other.

According to the film, some of the most popular forms of media involve women fighting with each other or putting each other down, which encourages women to be hypercritical of one another.

“It’s really hard for me to walk into a room and not automatically judge people,” SPU alumna Emily Mathews said.

“Maybe changing the way media portrays women starts with changing ourselves.”

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Title: Students address impact of media | Author: Amber Ackerson | Section: News | Published Date: 2011-11-30 | Internal ID: 7921