It's generally accepted (though not always acknowledged) that women are poorly portrayed in media. Filmmaker Jennifer Siebel Newsom is particularly aware of this; when she first started pursuing an acting career at 28, an agent told her to lie about her age and keep her Stanford MBA off her resume. And as an adolescent, Newsom struggled with self-esteem issues and an eating disorder. Thus, when she became pregnant with a daughter, she began to wonder what pressures her child would face from the media as she grew up.
The result is Newsom's first documentary, Miss Representation. The film's premise is simple enough: How does the media's presentation of women affect women's representation (or, in many cases, under-representation) in positions of influence and power in America?
The short answer: Poorly.
Now, Newsom never discounts or denies the many advances American women have made in business and politics over the last century. But there is the underlying sense that women are currently in a degenerative, self-perpetuating cycle. The average teen spends 10 hours a day consuming some kind of media and sees at least 500 advertisements a day – advertisements that are generally Photoshopped, creating even more unrealistic expectations for the human body. The results are disturbing: 53 percent of 13-year-old girls have a negative body image, and by the time they turn 17, that number rises to 78 percent. A whopping 65 percent of women and girls have eating disorder behaviors.
But the most frightening part is the fact that there is no sign of a slowdown. Currently, U.S. women spend more money annually on beauty products than they do on education. Since women who self-objectify themselves are less likely to run for office or even vote, ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 60+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more