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Miss Representation and the power of word of mouth

msr21You may have heard by now about “Miss Representation,” a documentary film created by Jennifer Siebol Newsom about the negative portrayal and treatment of women in our popular culture and news media, and the under-representation of women in positions of influence and power in our country.

If you haven’t, you can visit the website here and view the trailer here.

The film debuted at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year and showed on Oprah’s Network (OWN) earlier this month.

As the year moves on, the power of word of mouth and social media are helping this documentary gain a wider and wider audience across the country. I was able to attend a screening of this film several weeks back, and I’m still thinking about it. And I watch with great interest as more attention is drawn to it.

The story is told through interviews with a wide range of high-profile women and inspirational young people; through a variety of often harrowing statistics; and through commentary by the director herself. Certainly, the subject matter is nothing new. Women are objectified in television and film. Young girls often feel pressure to focus on their weight and their outer appearance rather than on their studies and their future. Women make up an infuriatingly small portion of our government and big business. The list goes on.

But it’s the way in which the subject matter is presented that is so compelling to people, I think. The director frames the issue with the birth of her daughter and the fact that she now worries in a whole new way about the world around her, and viewers can connect with her on a personal level. And the content is offered in a way that’s entertaining, fast-paced and enlightening, which in effect makes people want to engage more deeply with that subject matter and act on it after they’ve seen the film.

I certainly felt compelled to further explore the film and to do something about all I’d learned after I walked out of that theatre. But what?

Today it hit me – I’m already doing something. I started doing something the second I left that theatre, when I talked about the film at length with my best friend, and then later that night with my husband, and then the next day with my coworkers. I’ve continued to talk about it – with family, with friends, and online via social media and message boards.

I’m contributing my voice and my opinions to a dialogue that is growing bigger and bigger. With each conversation, each online posting, each sharing of a link or an article, the larger conversation about these very important issues grows and snowballs. And as the noise grows louder and more forceful, change will inevitably take place.

More of us will engage in conversations with our children about the media and about the role that women play in our society. More young women will be inspired to run for office or aspire toward that CEO position. More of us will turn away from the TV shows and the films that cast women in a negative and derogatory light. More of us will contact our elected officials about issues that specifically affect women. The ways in which we can make change – large or small – are endless.

That’s the power of word of mouth. Never before have we had so many outlets and channels through which to make our voices heard. Simply contributing to the conversations happening on issues we feel strongly about, when done in a thoughtful, constructive, respectful way, is doing something – and making a difference.


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