Thursday, June 7, 2012

Sexy or Sexism?

By Megan Coleman
Student Projects Assistant
Office of the Dean of Student Life
Enrollment Management and Student Affairs
Portland State University

If any of you haven’t heard about the newish Documentary Miss Representation by Jennifer Siebel Newsom I would highly recommend watching it. This film debuted at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and aired on the Oprah Winfrey Network: OWN in October. Jennifer explores the misrepresentation of women in the media and how it could be affecting women striving for positions of power and influence. You can visit the website for more information about the film.

Overall I think the film is great. It is a very powerful film that shows how the images of women in the media are affecting not only women’s self-esteem but their future aspirations. It contains interviews with young women who are struggling to find their place in today’s society as well as some very familiar faces including Condoleezza Rice, Katie Couric, Nancy Pelosi, Jane Fonda, and Gloria Steinem. Jennifer urges that the problem is not only the way women are portrayed in the media, but the underrepresentation of women behind the scenes making the decisions. She suggests that if more women felt driven to seek positions of power and influence that the atmosphere would be much different. If there was a more balanced power structure there would therefore be a more balanced portrayal of women in the media.

One of my favorite things to come out of the Miss Representation movement has been the “Sexy or Sexism” Campaign. The blog which highlights the ups and downs of women in the media, “Sexy or Sexism” is powered by the Women’s Media Center as well as (You can find this blog as ). The goal of this blog is to redefine sexy and to identify sexism. This blog is centered on critiques and affirmations about how women are being portrayed in the media and I found it informative ad well as funny. Overall the posts are great; they give thoughtful critiques while still being aware of their own possible bias. I particular liked the blog post giving a graded scale to the new television shows this year on the “sexy or sexism” scale. I enjoyed that this blog wasn’t overly negative. While they do have critiques they also showcase shows that are doing great things and I thought it was nicely balanced.

I think that the goal of the Sexy or Sexism campaign is an admiral one. I especially like that they are not trying to define sexy necessarily but rather start a conversation about it. The aim is not to replace one definition of sexy with another but to broaden the very narrow scope of what television and movie producers have identified as the ideal image of beauty. Identifying sexism in the media is extremely important especially since so many of us are passively ingesting the images on the screen. Overall both these websites get a big thumbs up from me and if you have some free time and or are bored of the normal sites you frequent give these a try I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

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