Miss Representation Screening Makes Room for Dialogue

by Tiffany Wang

On the evening of Sunday, November 12th, a group of students gathered in the Women’s Resource Center to watch a screening of Miss Representation (2011) as a part of their two-part film series analyzing how women are perceived in the media and their effects on women in the political sphere. The first documentary, Embrace (2016) was screened the week before on Sunday, November 5th.

Miss Representation included prominent female voices in both the political sphere and the media like Nancy Pelosi and Katie Couric, as well as high school students well aware of the influence the media has on their lives. Though produced in 2011, the film highlights important disparities in representation in society today. The documentary outlined the critical language used to describe powerful women and the unnecessary critiques of their physical appearances. It also explored the depiction of women in movies in TV shows as stereotypical one-dimensional characters, hypersexualized for the viewing pleasure of men. At the end of the film, contributors offered suggestions for how viewers could combat this misrepresentation: call out sexism, stop consuming tabloids that sexualize women, educate others.

Before the screening began, Lily Fornof ‘20 passed out paper hearts, asking each person to note poignant quotes and thoughts throughout the film. Participants shared what they wrote, offering introspective and hopeful stories with the group. Nicole Bañales ‘18 explained how when she arrived at Swarthmore, she wanted to be a physics and astronomy major. However, after sitting in majority male classes with little support from her male professors, she found a home in the sociology department, one with strong female support. “I felt a little guilty about changing my major at first,” she said, “but I realize that I can do great things in any field and support other women in STEM.”

Elizabeth Balch-Crystal ‘19 echoes this sentiment, commenting on the #metoo campaign and recent sexual assault claims against men in Hollywood. “I like how the film had suggestions of the little things you can do to make a difference. I have a friend that will not watch any movie that has a man accused of sexual assault. It all adds up.”

In the future, the Women’s Resource Center looks to host more events like this one examining the representation of women in society. Planned next on the calendar is a coffeehouse and portrait painting. As Fornof says, she wants this to be a “constant thing for the WRC. It’s a conversation that needs to be had.”

Tiffany Wang