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    Still from Miss Representation. (Siebel Newsom, 2011). Used with permission from Amy Zucchero.


  issue 4.1 |  

Journal Issue 4.1
Spring-Summer 2012
Edited by Agatha Beins, Jillian Hernandez, and Deanna Utroske
Editorial Assistant: A.J. Barks
Editorial Intern: Vera Hinsey


Miss Representation. Directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom. San Francisco: Girls' Club Entertainment, 2011. 90 minutes.

Reviewed by Danielle Gougon

Miss Representation, an award winning documentary by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, explores the way that the sexual objectification of women in the media impacts women's social, political, and economic standing in contemporary culture. The film argues that the media is sexist and proceeds to easily make this point by bombarding the audience with degrading images of women churned out by the American media on a daily basis (including clips of Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, Barbie and scantily clad "reality" stars fighting over a lone bachelor, to name a few). Newsom goes one step further to argue that these images have real consequences; they directly impact girls' self-image and further promote negative stereotypes about women. Constant consumption of these images, consider here that the average teenager consumes over 10 hours of media a day, ultimately leads to the disempowerment of women in the cultural and political process. Depressing statistics and smart commentary by accomplished broadcasters (Katie Couric and Rachel Maddow), politicians (Nancy Pelosi and Condoleeza Rice), and entertainers (Geena Davis and Jane Fonda) provides support and context for these claims.
    The film provides a useful tool for beginning to develop students' critical consciousness of media around issues of gender. It is fast-paced, engaging and would work well in courses seeking to expose students to the social construction of gender, gender representation, and issues in women's leadership. The broad range of statistics presented also provide an interesting starting point for conversations about pay inequity and the under-representation of women in positions of power in politics, business, and the media.
   Perhaps one of the most important concepts introduced in the film is the issue of who owns and controls the media. The film reveals that the majority of media decisions are made by men, with only 3% of women holding decision-making positions today. Students would benefit from the additional use of texts that introduce and explore the male gaze and the ways in which women are implicated in the continued objectification of the female body. John Berger's Ways of Seeing1 and "A Web Essay on the Male Gaze, Fashion Advertising, and the Pose"2 would work well here. Attention should also be paid to the impact that race has on gender construction since the film does very little to address this issue.
  Miss Representation is currently only available for purchase for a fee and can be obtained by visiting the film's website: However, the film is currently being screen across the United States and has been shown on the Oprah Winfrey Network. The website also offers a complete curriculum for purchase, which includes the film, learning modules, reflection exercises, discussion questions, in-class activities and homework suggestions.

1 John Berger, Ways of Seeing (New York: Penguin, 1972).

2 Susanna Callender, Samantha Chipetz, Nicole Hintlian, Thomas Streeter. "A Web Essay on the Male Gaze, Fashion Advertising, and the Pose." Semiotics and Advertising Website, University of Vermont, 2005:


Danielle Gougon is the Dean of First and Second Year Programs at Douglass Residential College, one of the largest public institutions for women, located within Rutgers University, New Brunswick. She has a Ph.D. in Political Science from Rutgers University and specializes in women in politics, social movements, and reproductive politics.

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