You're likely to have seen tweets flying around about the film "Miss Representation" - a feature-length documentary that absolutely everyone must see, in my opinion. If you know me or are a regular reader, it'll come as no surprise to you that it is to do with the portrayal of women in the media and the damaging effects that has. I've spoken before about not quite being able to articulate how passionately I feel about issues revolving around sexism - I'm still learning - but here is some advice given at the end of the film about how each of us can spark a change in attitude and challenge the terrifyingly normalised evils we are bombarded with daily.
What you can and absolutely should do [some lifted/some paraphrased]
- Measure yourself by your accomplishments, not by the way you look
- If, every time you pass a mirror, downgrade our how we look or complain about how we look, remember that a girl is watching us and that’s how she is learning
- Reflect on the ways you may contribute to sexism – e.g. we scrutinise women “Look how old/grey she has become” “What is she wearing?” We need to stop that destructive behaviour that we inflict upon each other and also onto ourselves
- Support media which champions accomplished women – we need strong women role models who are in the media because they did something, because they’re doing great work, not because they have the most “banging” body or they’re the “sexiest woman of 2010”. That’s philanthropists, those in the medical field, and it’s not about the way they look, it’s about who they are inside
- Boycott magazines, TV shows, movies that objectify and degrade women
- Speaking your mind and criticising media companies when you think they are doing things which are inappropriate to children
- Go see movies written and directed by women – important to go on opening weekend and Friday nights because these are the nights that Hollywood tracks.
- Write your own stories and create your own media about powerful women in non-traditional roles
- Teach those around you to look at the media critically
- Ask your school to start a media literacy course focussed on female issues – look at whose perspectives are framing a story, there’s always two or more sides to a story etc
- Don’t be afraid to challenge your friends if you hear them saying derogatory things about women – the problem today is not the vitriolic words of bad people, it’s the appalling silence and inaction of good people
- Find healthy role models and be a mentor to others
- Encourage women to become leaders and support them in the process
It is heart-breaking how few people know their true worth. You as a completely splendid human being are 100% worth standing up for, as are those around you. Whichever gender you are.