By Geraldine Guilfoyle
Published: Feb. 18, 2012
When filmmaker Jennifer Siebel Newsom made the emotionally charged and thought provoking documentary, Miss Representation, she was on a mission.
She wanted her audience to be “educated, inspired, motivated and entertained.”
While my attention was not held by something amusing or diverting (dictionary definition of – to entertain), it was held by the jaw dropping images of photo-shopped models, and the candid commentary from young women who expressed their anguish over the pressure to conform to this unreal ideal.
It was held by the sobering statistics of the invisibility of women in the corridors of power and most disturbing of all the blatant and stridently sexist comments of some well aired broadcasters.
This is a carefully crafted and researched production with provocative imagery, insightful interviews and a subtle use of text that gives silent testimony to the fabrication and distorted view of reality that we have all been influenced by.
The message is pervasive – women’s value and power lie in their youth, beauty and sexuality and not in their capacity as leaders. I thought I was reasonably well informed on women’s issues. But the situation is worse than I had imagined, so yes I did come away more educated.
What’s wrong with this picture?
78 per cent of 17 year old girls are unhappy about their body image
26 per cent of protagonists in films are women
17 per cent of Congress are women
(25 per cent of Canada’s MP’s are women – external reference source)
There were many inspiring moments that helped to balance the discouraging elements of the film. I was most inspired by the role models emerging among today’s generation of young women, as they claim their rightful place in the body politic.
In particular the confident and charismatic aspiring servant leader, Devanshi Patel, who was featured for her involvement in civic engagement.
Which brings us to motivation, the best arbiter of which is action. Enter entrepreneur and event planner, Shannon Lorenz who after viewing Miss Representation in Vancouver walked out of the theatre determined to bring the film to her home town, Squamish.
She found an enthusiastic partner in The Howe Sound Women’s Centre. With backing from HSWC who purchased the film, Lorenz used her event planning skills to organize a very successful showing at Eagle Eye Theatre.
The viewing was followed by a discussion with panelists, Christine McLeod, Judy Brooks, John French and Patricia Heintzman. Their combined experience and local insights grounded the film for a Squamish audience.
Heintzman, a proponent of grassroots education, said change starts at the classroom level and cited the work of the Women’s Centre in educating and empowering young women. She also provided some additional information regarding the negative illusions of women and the positive illusions of men.