My house is quiet. It’s almost 10 p.m., and my 5-year-old is sleeping in the next room.
But I’m awake.
I’m thinking about her as I sit here at my sewing table, which I’m using as a computer desk right now, in the dim lamp light. I’m thinking about how she views herself as a girl, and how she views other girls.
I’m worrying about her future.
Earlier this evening, I watched the documentary “Miss Representation,” sponsored by the Junior League of the Quad-Cities. The film focuses on the way media portrays women, and how that message is impacting our culture, and it was shown tonight to a packed audience of mostly women and teenaged girls (and a few men) at the Putnam Museum in Davenport.
The film shows women and girls, men and boys, talking about the sexualization of women and how it hurts all of us, deeply. And this happens so often, it’s scary. The message is sent through movies, music videos, reality TV shows, TV newscasts with scantily-clad female “reporters” … and it’s sent in our own homes, with our own criticisms of ourselves as women and of the women around us.
We give away our power.
And we hurt boys, too. We expect them to never cry, never show weakness, and we send that message so often that we cause many to become what one man in the film calls “emotionally constipated.”
I can’t tell you every detail of the film, and I wouldn’t, even if I could. Because I want you to see it for yourself. Bring a friend. And talk about it afterward.
Then, talk about it some more.
The big question is, “What can we do to change this?”
Before I sat down to write this, I scanned Facebook to see what some of my friends had to say about it. I knew they had been to the event, too.
This post from Erin Lounsberry (used here with her permission) nails it:
“I just watched the powerful film “Miss Representation” and my brain is percolating right now about ways we ALL can change the conversation so that women finally feel like being strong, smart, and accomplished equates with value in our society. One post-film suggestion was to compliment a woman each day without commenting on her appearance. So while I love my Facebook friends’ sassy style, I’m sure you’ll be OK with my calling you out instead for amazing abilities like coordinating a golf tournament to raise funds to help vets with PTSD, writing novels, playing complex characters onstage, teaching little girls how to do an axel, caring about the environment, running your own business or designing an amazing logo, among others. Who’s with me?”
I’m with her.
I’m also thinking a lot about the importance of mentoring other women. Help each other. Support each other.
Someone in the film also says, as you walk by the mirror and feel like sighing with frustration about what you see, remember that a young woman, a little girl - maybe your own – could hear you. Do you want that girl to think her appearance is that important? Aren’t there other more important things about you than that?
Don’t you want to remember that for yourself? Don’t you want that little girl to believe it?
You know, my little daughter was at the museum with me tonight. She sat next to me in the darkness of the theater, wearing headphones, completely immersed in a mini-DVD player showing “Shrek” on her lap.
But as I watched that documentary, I couldn’t help but glance over at her little face silhouetted by the light from the big screen … and worry.
What messages about what it means to be female in this world am I exposing her to? What am I teaching her through the way I view myself and other women?
And beyond my roles as mother, daughter, sister and wife, how am I helping other women in my community? Am I making sure I’m a positive force for women as a female newspaper reporter, blogger and teacher?
How can I make this world a better place?
Yeah, right now, my house is quiet. But my mind is screaming.
Is yours? Were you at the show, too, or have you seen it already? What did you think?