Thursday, 13 October 2011

Mrs. Representing

A friend of mine posted a movie trailer on Facebook this morning and asked for "Thoughts?". The trailer (warning for the sensitive, graphic images) was for the movie Miss Representation, which is about the disparity between women and men in positions of power.  The first part of the trailer focused on the portrayal (and the betrayal) of women in media - advertising, music videos, magazines etc, and I have to say I was somewhat shocked by the cascade of images on the screen.  I know it's out there, but I've made a conscious decision in my life to expose myself to that sort of negative image as little as possible.  And it is possible to weed it out to a large extent.  Frankly I think more people need to do just that.
It seemed to be posing the question - how do we get girls to grow up with healthy self images and life expectations when they are exposed to so much female exposure?   It needs to start with media savvy in the home.  And I don't mean that we need to become more sophisticated consumers of media although that's part of it.  It means we need to consume less media particularly in the home.  It's very easy to say that we can't control what our kids will see and do because they are so over exposed to the media.  We have to take charge and start reducing that exposure.  We make choices every day about what's best for our families and we have the power to choose here too.  It may seem hard.  It may mean that you cut out commercial television for your family.  We've done that.  And there's no reason why young kids "need" to have Facebook or other social media accounts, it opens them up to more avenues of risk.  Now that's not to say you won't have to deal with resistance or peer pressure, but if you really look into the facts about this stuff and then take a hard look at the everyday decisions you can make to make a difference, it's all right there.  Your kids may not be the most popular kids but in the long run they'll have better self esteem and a more positive outlook for your active participation in their lives.  Time and again studies tell us that kids respond well and actually want their parents to be involved in their lives and share their opinions.  Kids consistently report that if their parents had said something, or forbidden something else it would have made a difference.  That's not to say that kids won't push the boundaries.  But no matter where you draw a line in the sand, kids will try to step over it to see if you mean it.  Isn't it better to draw the line close and let their push be at the very edges of where the media can take them rather than give them free access and have them dive in at the deep end. 
The movie appears to go on to look at women in positions of power and how they got there and what we can do to help more women get there.  I think this is a worthy question, but I'm not sure that the end goal should be to have an equal number of men and women at work in high profile positions of power.  There are certain things women do that men can't, like bear children.  And having chosen to do that in my life, I'm quite content to let my husband be the breadwinner of the family, and handle that side of the pressure that's involved in raising a family.  I wouldn't be surprised if quite a number of women felt the same way.  (I know, very politically incorrect of me but there it is.)  I'm not saying it has to be that way, but we should avoid getting hung up on trying to get an exactly even split.  After all if we are raising our girls to be self-respecting and raising our boys to be respecting then anyone in a position of power should be equally concerned for the good of both men and women, call me idealistic if you will.

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