So, as many of you know, I take great pains to work against institutionalized misogyny every single day of my life (much to the chagrin of both my lifespan and mental health.)
Last night I went to a special screening of the movie Miss Representation, a film that, according to its website:
“Explores how the media’s misrepresentations of women have led to the under representation of women in positions of power and influence.”
Now, being the hardened, calloused feminist that I am, much of the information presented in the film was pretty old hat – it wasn’t shocking or disturbing – instead it just served as a means to reinforce truths of which I am already (much too) aware.
That the patriarchy exists. That both men and women actively engage in the perpetuation of this system.
That the media makes millions of telling women that they are not good enough, and that they will they ever be good enough.
(And that they are worth nothing more than the sum of their physical parts – a conceit continually advocated by media conglomerates, advertisers, and the like.)
This is not to say that I didn’t enjoy the film. (However I actually don’t think it’s really a type of film that you “like” or “don’t like.”)
I believe that it puts forth an incredibly important message – and one that should be talked about by all individuals, regardless of gender, which is that in order to change these destructive, social (and political, and cultural, etc., ) institutions we must, MUST work to empower both young women, and young men.
This is a two-pronged process.
If we hope to move ahead from the place where we find ourselves today, we must start promoting both agency and literacy amongst our youth, as these are crucial factors in terms of not only advancing the position of women in North America (and of course in other areas of the world) but of advancing our society as a whole.
Honestly, so much of it comes down to education.
And the stories that are told.
Stories about humanity – not necessarily stories about “men” and “women.”
I mean, how else are youth going to engage with the idea of equality?
How else are they going to develop the critical thinking skills required to operate within the social systems that openly advocate and reinforce inequality?
My husband (who is one of the coolest feminists I know) is also an educator, and one of the hardest battles he wages with his students is trying to engage many of them in literature they study.
Seriously, he will tell you point blank: not many kids reads anymore.
And because of this, young people are less and less likely to dissect the different messages that bombard them twenty-four hours a day, through an ever growing number of media – be they traditional or new.
They are less likely to deconstruct the stories – the tropes, the stereotypes, the norms, the systems – they are exposed to each time they flip the channel or open that web browser (let alone question then!)
Because when we watch television, use the internet, listen to music – these are passive media. We are letting these things happen to us.
With reading you are problem solving, forming hypothesis, and working through content – (yes I am aware that this is highly dependent on the material you are engaged with – but on the whole, I’m apt to believe that reading is a much healthier intellectual pursuit that ye olde boob tube or the interwebs.)
And the great thing about reading is, you get to find out what you like, and then make informed choices from that experience – as opposed to being told what you like (which is basically the main reason that TV exists, and increasingly more and more the internet) and making decisions based on what you think is right for you, and not what you know is right for you.
(I honestly have no other explanation as to why anyone would ever sign up for reality TV.)
Now, I’m certainly not saying that as long as every kid grows up reading a book a week, engrained sexism is magically going to disappear.
Nor am I saying that TV AND INTERNET ARE BAD.
(I have made my feelings quite clear about that sometime last November.)
It’s just that when there is nothing to balance out, or neutralize so much of the awful messaging that plagues those two platforms, (platforms that are owned and controlled predominantly by old, white, men – a group I would wager is predominantly adverse to change) it is incredibly difficult to evolve.
Instead, these norms are recreated and reinterpreted in perpetuity.
And that, as the movie successfully points out, is something that is hurting us all.
And this, unlike the movie, is something I don’t like.