Something New for Friday, October 28, 2011

For me, it started in the sixth grade. That’s when I began to criticize the person I saw when I looked in the mirror. Flipping through the pages of my mother’s copy of Vogue, I’d compare myself to those stone-faced, skeletal models.

I felt that I was too fat, my hips were too wide, my boobs were too big, my smile was too toothy and my hair was too frizzy.

It’s stories like these that are featured in first-time filmmaker Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s documentary “Miss Representation.”

The film delves into how mainstream media outlets portray women and the effects on young girls. The film asserts that not only do girls lack self-confidence as they are bombarded with thousands of advertisements per day, but their leadership aspirations wane as well.

The documentary has made its way from Sundance Film Festival to the Maui Film Festival (where it won the Movie Matters Award), and has found a home on the Oprah Winfrey Network.

The YWCA of Kaua‘i and the Kaua‘i Community College Preventing Violence Against Women Task Force are co-hosting a screening of the documentary “Miss Representation” today at the KCC Performing Arts Center.

While the disparaging way women are portrayed in the media is not a new subject — evident by countless books, articles and college courses about the topic — we have done little to reverse the hyper-sexualized and dumbed-down images of women.

While my mother’s generation may have asserted its freedom by burning bras and abandoning their girdles, my generation has embraced Spanx shapewear, Botox injections and silicon body parts.

At the same time, we watch reality shows about how women reconstruct their entire bodies with plastic surgery (“Bridalplasty” and “Extreme Makeover”) and how our greatest aspiration is to have a fairy-tale wedding like Kim Kardashian’s, complete with a $2 million diamond ring.

The movie claims it’s hard for women to achieve a position of power while they are constantly reminded that their power lies in their youth and beauty.

What troubles me is that women own six percent of commercial T.V. and radio stations in America, and less than 30 percent of women are in managing positions, according to the National Organization for Women.

And in those positions, there is still a nationwide pay gap between men and women. Male editors outearn female editors by $113 per week, according to a report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

It’s always hard to be a teenage girl, but with young women consuming more media than ever, our goal should be to start talking with our girls (and boys!) to promote healthier images of girls (and boys!).

See a free screening of “Miss Representation” 7 p.m. today at Kaua‘i Community College Performing Arts Center. A panel discussion will follow the film with Kapa‘a High School teacher Rebecca Pickett, Leslie Cabingabang from the University of Hawai‘i-Manoa Women’s Center, Kaua‘i County Director of Communications Beth Tokioka and yours truly . Call 245-8318 for more information about the screening.

• Andrea Frainier, lifestyle writer, can be reached at 245-3681, ext. 257 or afrainier@ thegardenisland.com.

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