It would be easy to dismiss Miss Representation, which focuses on the effect of the predominantly sexist media on girls, as another alarmist documentary that's basically preaching to the choir (An Inconvenient Truth, anybody?). It seems more than a little ironic that director Jennifer Siebel Newsom and guests such as Rosario Dawson, Lisa Ling, Katie Couric and Jane Fonda, each of them powerful, rich, beautiful women, who have each built careers based partially on their looks, are on screen telling young girls that it's possible to be strong and powerful without having to fall back on their looks.
The media does foster the idea that a girl's worth is judged by her body, not her brain. Very early on, both boys and girls adopt the idea that all girls should aspire to look like an anorexic, freakishly tall supermodel. (A perfect SAT score? So what? A 28-inch waist? Excellent!)
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One young girl in the film asks, "When is it going to be enough?" Another laments, " I remember when I was in fifth grade and I was worried about my weight. Now I'm in ninth grade, and I'm still worried about my weight."
That self-consciousness affects career aspirations for young women -- and that's Newsom's message. Young women aren't getting into politics, which means legislative bodies all across the country from small-town school boards to the United States Congress, are still mainly made up of men. In turn, that makes it more difficult for women to get elected ... and the cycle goes on and on, keeps repeating itself.
Annie's List, an organization dedicated to electing more women, is screening Miss Representation tonight as part of a social mixer for young adults. 7 p.m. Alamo West Oaks, 1000 West Oaks. For information, visit www.missrepresentation.org/Houston. $35 to $250.