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Glenbard to screen film focusing on women’s portrayal in media

Glenbard West High School senior Maura Zindler watches TV news a little differently after seeing the documentary “Miss Representation.”

“I think it changed the way I interpret media,” said Zindler, 18, describing a segment in the film about female newscasters who dress provocatively while delivering the day’s headlines. “The film had Katie Couric on there talking about how it wasn’t what these women were saying, but how they looked.”

Zindler said she is now more cognizant of what she’s absorbing.

“(Gender equality) is something we need to start pushing for and bringing awareness to in the school, ” said Zindler, who saw the film through Glenbard West’s Students for Students Club, a peer group that focuses on issues within the school such as substance abuse and texting while driving. “We discussed the film after it was over, and a lot of people we fired up about it.”

Now the school is screening Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s 2011 film for the public. Featuring interviews with women lauded for accomplishments in politics, business, news and other fields, it will be featured as part of the Glenbard Parent Series May 8.

The piece addresses the portrayal of women in the media and contends that women are far too often shown sexualized, reinforcing in young girls and women the notion that their worth lies in their faces and bodies and not in their substance. The documentary makes the case that this leads to self-objectification and the under representation of women in leadership and decision-making positions.

Gilda Ross, Glenbard Student and Community Projects Coordinator, saw the film when it premiered on the Oprah Winfrey Network, and was the one to bring it to the Students for Students Club and now as part of District 87′s monthly program. “Miss Representation” will be screened for free at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 8 at Glenbard West High School, 670 Crescent Blvd., Glen Ellyn.

“When I watched the kids watching the film, I could see it having an impact,” Ross said. “Their eyes, the tension in them. They left that room transformed with an awareness that was powerful.”

The documentary not only brings attention to the arguably narrow characterizations of women in media but also to the lack of women voices in Congress and influential offices across the country. The film features former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, activist Gloria Steinem, comedienne Margaret Cho and others.

“The reason I was compelled to make this film was because of all the tabloid fodder. Women like Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan, who are being held up to be role models for young girls,” said Newsom, who will speak following the screening. “There’s this misguided notion that (women’s) value lies in our beauty and youth and not in our capacity to lead. We just don’t value women in our culture. It’s such a weird thing to say but we value the superficiality of women, not their contributions.”

Newsom said she has found that young women from all walks of life are caught in a world of self-objectification and constricted ideals.

“Girls from all socio-economic backgrounds are feeling limited,” Newsom said. “It’s such a challenge for us as a society and for parents. How can we help girls to feel unlimited?”

To move things in that direction, the filmmaker and her team have created several outreach campaigns. One focuses on increasing the number of women in elected office while another calls for young women to sign up as  representatives in their communities and take specific action to achieve gender equality.

To learn more about the film or outreach campaigns, go to missrepresentation.org.

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