“Miss Representation:” How to Overcome The Media’s Distortion of Women

Writer/Director Jennifer Siebel Newsom on how we can shape a new picture of beauty and success—which really isn’t a picture at all.

| October 19th, 2011
Courtesy of MissRepresentation.orgJennifer Siebel Newsom, the writer and director of "Miss Representation," is seen on the right.
Miss Representation

What should a powerful, successful woman look like?

Every day, the media tells us. At the store, you’ll see tabloids splashed with Christina Aguilera’s thighs, then come home to news of Senator Hilary Rodham Clinton’s pantsuits (yes, still). Regardless of whether you’re a fan of what the woman is saying or doing, the critical commentary drowns out her voice. 

We’re left with a very narrow definition of beauty.

This is the focus of the new documentary “Miss Representation,” airing Thursday, October 20th at 9 p.m. on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). The film, the directorial debut of Jennifer Siebel Newsom, an actor, Stanford MBA, mother and wife of California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, suggests that girls and women will painstakingly aspire to meet these unrealistic standards, even subconsciously.

Confidence-cutting messages continue to sell, and we’re buying it.

QUIZ: How's Your Self-Esteem?

The documentary depicts how American women are underrepresented in positions of power. Though females are roughly half of the country’s population, they comprise 17 percent of the U.S. Congress, 16 percent of the protagonists in films and 3 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs.

About half of seven-year-olds want to be president, but by the time children hit their teen years, that aspiration falls by the wayside for girls. Our appearance-focused environment may play a role in how a girl thinks about her future.

What’s happening here?


“We’ve created this culture. If it’s hurting our youth, we’ve gone too far,” Newsom tells YouBeauty. “We need to support each other, finding what beautiful inside. We need to start to value women for their contributions to women at large.“

Here are three ways we can avoid falling into the Miss Representation trap.


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