Monday, February 27, 2012

Last week I attended an event at the Sugar Club hosted by the Irish Feminist Network: a screening of the American documentary "Miss Representation," followed by a panel discussion.

The movie was of course angering, frustrating, touching, and educational. Afterwards, the panel featured Dr. Katherine Zappone, who, among many other things is a member of the Seanad, or in other words the Irish Senate. She is also originally American, and went to Boston College, so of course I felt a camaraderie with her purely on that basis! Margaret E. Ward was another speaker, and coincidentally another American ex-pat who is a journalist and also runs a writing consultancy business called Clear Ink. I'd seen her speak before, and she is very compelling. Next we had music journalist Una Mullally who has done a lot of research about gender divides in Irish media. And sadly I cannot remember nor find anywhere the names of the other 2 participants in the discussion.
It was nice to take this very US-focused documentary and bring it into a more Irish perspective. There were some criticisms of the movie, however, not the least of which was that it didn't include working class and minority women enough, citing Condoleeza Rice, who is interviewed for the film, and a couple of other minority women as just thrown in there for good measure. I see her point, though she was mistaken that the teenage girls in the film were "all white." In fact, most of them were minorities. Just because they weren't African-American doesn't mean they don't qualify. But yes, the people interviewed were academics, activists, actresses, and film-makers, none of whom were disadvantaged (currently). But I don't think that negates the message of the film. As much as we'd like everything to be inclusive, I don't think it's realistic to expect.

I thought of the film Miss Representation as a sort of primer for people just starting to think about issues of gender and media. I commented that I'd love for my brother-in-law, an avid objectifier of women (sorry dude, but you are) to see this film and think about not just the effect media portrayal of women and girls has on his daughter, but also his son. The problem with these kinds of films is that most of the people who watch them are not the people who really need to watch them. I wish I could pull a Dark Crystal move and force parents who don't think that gender issues are important to watch it, to be honest.

So, despite the criticisms, I definitely recommend Miss Representation. Find it, rent it, watch it with your friends, watch it with your (adult) family (it's not appropriate for younger kids because of the sexual images). If you can't find it, look online. It's there if you look hard enough.

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