Over the last few weeks, we’ve shared information about the current state of the representation of women in our society. We’ve discussed the lack of diversity in the fashion industry and the media, as well as gender inequality. The media, through television, film, advertisements, social media, etc., is such a powerful influencer of our society and culture, so it is important that the messages and images depicted fairly portray the people of our society. As we’ve discussed, women have been underrepresented and misrepresented in our society, and even though some progress has occurred, albeit not much, we still have a LONG way to go. As we close out this series I think it’s important to reflect on why adequate representation is necessary and the consequences of a lack of proper representation.
“Miss Representation”, the 2011 documentary written and directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, does just that. The documentary highlights the representation problem in our society and the issues that result from it, and although the film is five years old, the information presented still rings true in our society today.
Lack of representation in the media can cause people-especially young girls- to feel inadequate and rejected, leading to low self-esteem and the desire to change oneself to feel “normal” and “beautiful”. Young girls especially may view the prevalent standard of beauty and “feminine behaviors” as the “only” form of beauty and might go to dangerous lengths to attain it. When young girls are able to identify with the images they see in the media, they are less likely to feel like an outcast and feel more comfortable with who they are and how they look, and they are more willing to pursue their genuine interests instead of the ones society pushes on them.
I recently watched an old episode of “The Real” that I think exemplifies the power of representation, and it nearly brought me to tears (in a good way!). In this scene, April Star, a young girl and aspiring model with Vitiligo, meets her role model and inspiration, Winnie Harlow, a model who also has Vitiligo. Because April is able to “see” herself in Winnie, she believes in herself and her dream of becoming a model all the more. She sees that her dream is possible and that her skin condition does not have to be a limitation.
THIS IS WHY REPRESENTATION IS IMPORTANT!
We hope you’ve enjoyed this series and that you were able to learn something from this. For more information about the representation of women and ways to get involved in the movement for better representation, check out our resource page for additional info!
“The visions we offer our children shape the future. It matters what those visions are. Often they become self-fulfilling prophecies. Dreams are maps”.