Did the Media Fail Women in 2013? Ask The Representation Project

The newest viral video making its way around my Facebook feed is, “How the Media Failed Women in 2013,” a sobering three-and-a-half-minute compilation of media moments that drive one point home: the representation of women in the media isn’t changing fast enough.

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“How the Media Failed Women in 2013” recaps the highlights and lowlights of women in the media this year.

It starts by celebrating the successes: Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai is getting her voice heard, films and TV shows featuring female leads doing well at the box office and in ratings, and ads for products like Goldieblox are going viral.

However, for 30 seconds of positivity, the video features three minutes of negative representations of women. Women continue to be sexualized and denigrated in ads (of course, the usual suspects like Carl’s Jr and American Apparel are represented here), music videos (Robin Thicke, Justin Timberlake), films, video games, magazines, sports, politics.

As if that’s not enough, we are also accused of “deserving to be raped” in a culture that still largely values men over women.

It’s enough to make you seethe with rage, isn’t it?

The video was made by The Representation Project, a “movement that uses film and media content to expose injustices created by gender stereotypes and to shift people’s consciousness towards change.”

This movement began once filmmaker Jennifer Siebel Newsom created Miss Representation, a film that exposes the underrepresentation of women and girls in mainstream media, and the impact this has on our culture in general. Siebel Newsom created The Representation Project as a way to encourage people to take action to change the stereotypes that limit our culture.

The newest project from The Representation Project is The Mask You Live In, a film that turns the spotlight on the experience of boys. The film explores representations of American masculinity, and how boys are influenced by various cultural forces that limit their means of expression.

As someone with a young son, I will definitely be watching that.

Tessa Needham finished her PhD in Performing Arts at the University of Western Sydney (Australia) in 2008. Her thesis explored the potential of performance to provoke change, and part of her research was Bodily, a solo theatrical performance about body image. She loves technology and the creative arts, and is passionate about the different cultural forces affecting the body image of girls and women. She teaches computers and does freelance creative work: www.tessaneedham.com.

8 thoughts on “Did the Media Fail Women in 2013? Ask The Representation Project

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  1. Every topic chosen is about rage/anger/disappointment and a serious negative attitude towards what the authors deem are significant values for women. This in itself is troubling…. How are you going to control the behavior of others? I hope your readers know that the only behavior we can control is our own, and to be happy with that. Can someone write an inspiring story without the agenda? How are you going to control the media? The media caters to audiences, as you cater to yours. About-face is media and you have your audience so stop your negative judgement on other audiences.

  2. Hi Werone,

    I actually thought this was a positive piece about an important movement. How did you think it had a negative attitude? How did it judge other audiences negatively?

    We write about a lot of positive stories as well as the negative, though unfortunately, as the video above shows, there are currently a lot more negative representations of women in the media than positive ones.

    We don’t aim to control the media. We aim to educate and to provide girls and women with tools to understand and resist the media messages we are constantly receiving. This is a change within ourselves, not within the media.


  3. Hi Tessa,

    The title quickly sets the mood for the article, and like many other articles in the blog, has a war on media agenda. The blog is about women and media , I understand that, but it seems to cause many women to judge other women by what they choose. Unintended consequences. Every woman’s ideals and values are different, and In my opinion, we should teach respect for people and their choices. I want men and women to be different, we are different. We are different, but in no way do those differences make one weaker to the other. Many people make a living targeting an audience, why judge them? Instead of resisting the media, talk about the freedom in our choices, the respect for others and their choices, teach debate without the need to demonize those that are the target audience of those ads. If I don’t like someone’s ideas then I say so and move on, I don’t say I’m better than anyone else because of my choices. A happy mother, sister, girlfriend or wife is my agenda. Peace is my goal. I am an American, I don’t feel nor have I ever felt that it was my culture to value men over women. Men and women are sexualized in the media, as they are in relationships, and women’s sexuality is not negative. Nor is men’s. Seething rage is not healthy, passion is healthy. Anger has no positive qualities. I for one don’t want the women in my life to think that the world will limit them in anyway, and a stupid commercial or ad will not deter me from voicing the truth…the self evident truth that the limits of our abilities are where we place them ourselves.

  4. Hi Werone,

    I’m troubled that you think I’m judging other women or demonizing the target audience of ads. Where have I done this?

    You seem to be blessed with the ability to look critically at the representation of women in the media, and recognize that it is not representative of all women in actual life. Many girls and women, and many readers of this blog, do not have this very important ability. It is so important to be literate about what messages we are getting from the media.

    You say that you want to teach respect, and I wholeheartedly agree with you. In my opinion, the negative examples shown in the video do not respect women.

    However, I do disagree with you that anger has no positive qualities. History has shown us time and again that anger can be a necessary step to galvanize change, either in ourselves or in society.

  5. That you seeth with rage at the media, the ads depicting some woman’s choice to look a certain way, act a certain way. That is her choice.

    Anger does not change us in positive ways. Passion changes us in positive ways. If you want to win a war against someone with anger then that is easier than fighting someone who is passionate. If you allow yourself to be angry, you take away your ability to reason, to be level headed. If we all want peace then those things we are passionate about get done in the right way and with our histories lessons. Anger just has you swinging, passion has you winning. Cheers!

  6. Did you watch the video? Many of the examples aren’t about women choosing to do anything.

    It seems like you are making a semantic argument between anger and passion.

    Thanks for your thoughts. I can see that we are going to have to agree to disagree!

  7. Thank you. We all need to challenge the media and our culture. Our current society is inhumane to women and girls.

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