April 18, 2012

Chrysalis Partners to Screen Miss Representation

On April 17, 2012, Chrysalis, in partnership with Drake University's Student Activists for Gender Equality and Department of Culture and Society hosted the public for a special screening of the documentary film Miss Representation. As part of Chrysalis' community education efforts, we would like to share the information we provided at the screening with all of you.

Presented by Chrysalis in partnership with Drake University Department of Culture and Society and SAGE (Student Activists for Gender Equality)
April 17, 2012

An average teen spends more than 10 hours daily consuming media – more than sleeping or attending school.  Messages they receive from media teach them how to view themselves and others, particularly what it means to be a woman or a man.

Mainstream media (instruments used to communicate information, including television, magazines, books, movies, music, and the Internet) bombards children and adults with constant messages that women should be beautiful and sexy; men should be powerful and often violent.  These messages can have damaging effects on self-esteem, health, and relationships, limiting children’s ideas about what is possible for them in the world.

In a society where media is the most persuasive force shaping cultural norms, the collective message that young women and men receive is that a woman’s value and power lie in her youth, beauty, and sexuality – not her intelligence or capacity as a leader.

In its continuing role to educate the public, Chrysalis presents MISS REPRESENTATION, the acclaimed documentary released in 2011 by writer, director, and producer Jennifer Siebel Newsom.  It uncovers a glaring reality facing each of us, every day – how mainstream media contributes to the under-representation of women in influential positions in America.

1.        Boycott magazines, movies, or television shows that objectify and degrade women.
2.       Participate in a female candidate’s political campaign.
3.       Watch media with children and discuss how girls or women are portrayed and the impact this has.
4.      Avoid complimenting a woman or girl on looks (pretty, thin, sexy, “hot”) and compliment how smart, skilled, or clever she is, or what a great leader she is.

Here are a few other ideas adapted from about-face.org.  About-Face equips women and girls with tools to understand and resist harmful media messages that affect self-esteem and body image.

1. Stop talking about your weight (especially in front of young girls).
Young girls listen to the way women talk about themselves, and about each other, to learn the language of womanhood.  Young women can only learn to love or even accept their bodies if they see women who love and accept their own.  Every criticism we use – about ourselves or about other women - leaves an impression on the people around us, encouraging the quest for perfection.  Differentiate between weight and health, and start talking about health.
2. Make a list of women you admire.
Think about the most important attributes a woman you admire has – is appearance one of them?  What would you like a young woman to most admire in you?  In herself?
3. Question the motives of the fashion industry.
Remember - the main objective of the fashion, cosmetic, diet, fitness, and plastic surgery industries is to make money, not to make you the best person you can possibly be. 
4. Stop weighing yourself.
The emphasis to be thin is ever-present in our society, but this focus is completely arbitrary.  Spend a day, week, or month without getting on the scale – and when you do, don’t let the number be a measure of your self-esteem.
5. Concentrate on things you do well.
It is true that if you are feeling good about your life, you are much less critical of how you look.  You aren’t changing, but your perception is!  If you’ve had a bad day and don’t want to be distressed, stay away from the mirror.
6. Get physical for fun.
Your body needs fuel and function – that’s real food and exercise!  Take walks, dance in your living room, garden, golf… try to get moving for your heart, not to decrease the size of your waist.  You may lose weight and you may not, but your body will be stronger, and your stress will be lower.
7. Value your dollars.
How much do you spend on fashion, hair, and cosmetics?  How much on specific eating regimens?  The money you spend should reflect the person you are, not the person society wants you to be.
8. Voice your opinion.
Every size and type of business is interested in your input.  Letters, e-mails, and phone calls really make a difference.  If you disagree with the way a company treats women, or if you believe a company shows a lack of respect for girls and women in any way, write a letter explaining why, and stop purchasing the product.
9. Be a role model.
Every culture and generation has its own rules and expectations for women, and there are always women who have taken risks to grow, learn, and succeed.  Wouldn’t you like to break a mold or two?  And remember – girls and women are watching you.
10. Break the barriers.
Author Sara Tisdale wrote, “We must all choose between battles: One battle is against the cultural ideal, and the other is against ourselves.”  Stop defining yourself by what popular culture dictates.  Develop your own style and uniqueness – by accepting yourself and demonstrating it, you help break the barriers.