Feminist film sparks media discussion

As a clip of Gossip Girl’s protago­nist Serena Van der Woodsen seduc­tively eating a strawberry flashed on the screen in Caswell Hall, a burst of laughter emanated from the crowd. Students murmured in disgust and subsiding horror when a shot of Tod­dlers in Tiaras appeared.

Portions of Miss Representation, a documentary by filmmaker and activist Jennifer Siebel Newsom that illustrates the negative effects of the media’s mis­representation of women in today’s culture, were shown to ninth through twelfth graders at an All-School Meet­ing on Jan. 6 and to the Parents’ Associ­ation (PA) on Jan. 10 to raise awareness and generate discussion.

The documentary interviews a multitude of men and women, includ­ing actors, directors, producers, politi­cal figures, high school students, activ­ists, university professors, journalists, broadcasters and authors, who togeth­er conclude that women are unable to reach positions of power because they are evaluated primarily based on their appearances and not on their ac­complishments or intelligence.

Actress Daphne Zuniga and tele­vision executive Lindy DeKoven were interviewed in the documen­tary and spoke at the ASM to encour­age girls to find strong female role models, seek empowerment and as­sert equality with men.

“I thought, ‘What would Kather­ine Hepburn do?’” Zuniga said when asked how she kept her integrity intact in the male-dominated Holly­wood film industry. When she was asked to do a nude photo-shoot, Zuni­ga said, “Katherine Hepburn wouldn’t take off her clothes, so I left.”

Diana Kasten, mother of Millicent ’12, learned about Miss Representa­tion through her involvement with The White House Project, a non-profit organization that encourages women to seek leadership positions in business and politics. Kasten intro­duced the documentary to the Par­ents’ Association and Head of School Barbara Wagner in the fall of 2010, who then discussed bringing the film and its lessons to the attention of the School community. The ASM and PA meeting was planned by Director of Admissions Jeanette Woo Chitjian, Physical Education instructor Tinka Brown, Physical Education Depart­ment Head Julie Napoleon, School Counselor Emily Vaughn and Assis­tant Head of School and Director of Upper School Laura Hotchkiss.

Inspired by the documentary and its mission, Millie ’12 has created a new club at School, Women In Lead­ership (WIL).

“It’s right on target to what we’re being told everyday, how we can be women leaders,” Millie said.

After seeing the film, 50 students signed up as members of the new club.

But Kiki’13 said she felt the film’s message was repetitive and unnecessary for Marlborough stu­dents.

“It seemed to me like just anoth­er thing about women. Everyone at Marlborough is mature and confident because we’re in such a welcom­ing environment,” Kiki said. “If they were to show this at a co-ed school it would have a much bigger impact.”

Brown said she may incorporate some of the information into her 9th Grade Health class curriculum.

“It’s one of the best things I have seen in a long time,” Brown said. “I think it will open [students’] eyes and hearts and hopefully teach girls to boycott watching things that de­grade them.”

According to Allie’12, the most interesting part of the film was women’s ability to tear each other down instead of supporting a common goal.

“We’re disgusted at the fact that Jessica Simpson uses her sexuality for power, but we also criticize Hila­ry Clinton for degenderizing herself in what she wears. It’s not only men judging women, but also women judging other women,” Allie said.