Friday, December 09, 2011

"It's ALL about the body ..."

Miss Representation was made by documentarian/actor Jennifer Siebel Newsom. Newsom says her impetus for making Miss Representation was the birth of her daughter. She hopes her child’s life will be less limited, bigoted and oppressive than it is right now for anyone born female. Sadly, with every corporate media conglomerate owned by old white men like Rupert Murdoch that won't happen any time soon.

Feminists are aware of how pervasive misogyny is in movies, TV, the internet and magazines but Miss Representation hammers home statistic after statistic that had the SIFF audience groaning under the crippling sociological reality.

As one high school teen said, “It’s ALL about the body, not about the brain.”

Newsom didn’t have to look hard for material that reflects the dominant view in America she just had to turn on FOX News (owned by Murdoch) where shrieking “TV personalities” debate whether Sarah Palin had breast implants and why does Mrs. Clinton look so old?

Thoughtful interviews with prominent people like Pat Mitchell had the audience’s hands wringing. Mitchell heads the Paley Center for Media. Nobody is surprised hyper-sexualized and negative images of women has got teenage girls cutting themselves, developing eating disorders and becoming victims of assault in schools.

It’s like the entire media (magazines, films, TV and the internet) is now run by a bunch of angry teenage punks who care only about fake tits and catching female authority figures doing dumb things; except it’s not.

Corporate media is run by middle-aged and elderly homophobic men, all of them white, most of them fabulously wealthy, who arrogantly believe they have their fingers on the pulse of American culture. People like the porcine Rush Limbaugh (age 60, earned $285 million from 2001 to 2008) who slammed Michelle Obama for being "too fat" or shock jock Howard Stern, (57, net worth $500 million) who viciously attacked Gabourey Sibide after the film, Precious, for being over-weight and black. Previously, Stern hypocritically attacked Ellen DeGeneres for being a lesbian.

Amongst the points hammered home: America is near the bottom of countries that have women in their national governments, behind nations like Cuba and even Iraq. Girls as young as seven now experience body dysmorphic disorder, begin diets and obsess over dressing sexy.

Amongst the luminaries interviewed: Jane Fonda, Gloria Steinhem, former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Rachel Maddow and Newark Mayor Cory Booker. But it is experts like Jennifer Ponzer of Women in Media and News and Jim Steyer of Common Sense Media who make the most compelling points. Ponzer points out that “reality” TV shows where hyper-sexualized characters dressed like strippers fight over bachelors drowns out the voices of real female authority figures, like members of Congress.

Actress Geena Davis laments the root of the problem with television and film. Women almost never write or direct the narrative in these mediums. Hollywood is profoundly white, male and heterosexual, and filmmaker Paul Haggis points out, female characters in the past had more depth, were allowed more range and able to present characters that were more real ala Betty Davis in Dark Victory.

All these fake boobs, Girls Gone Wild and uber-violent video games like Grand Theft Auto have sent a clear message to young women: you’re just a hole, you’re good for fucking but nothing else and, you might not even measure up for that. And, girls are told, once you hit 40, just go away, disappear because a woman is only of worth when she’s young and appears sexually available. It’s a message that’s been voiced by Howard Stern on his radio show many times and chanted endlessly in so-called mainstream media like primetime sitcoms where every single female character is white, underweight and always under 40.

Never mind that Howard Stern is an ugly, old white guy with hair weave who bought his most recent wife.