“Miss Representation”: power of empowerment

A friend lent me the documentary Miss Representation. It was powerful. I think she lent me this DVD because we were talking about the summer’s hit “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke. We were horrified that teenagers, and people in general, were constantly hearing this song with it’s message of how engaging in non-consensual sex is good and normal (“you’re a good girl/ I know you want it”).

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Throughout the documentary the film makers interviewed a lot of different people. One of the clear messages was that women and men need to stop participating in gendered socialization (the theory that it is a “man’s world”) and start engaging in equality and empowerment of people’s talents, regardless of sexuality and gender. One of the stand-out interviews for me was with Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark, New Jersey, who said that by limiting the number of women in the workplace (companies, TV, News Shows, etc.) or by discrediting women by constantly making references to their appearances instead of their ideas, that Americans were short changing voices.

Instantly I thought of Shad’s song “Keep Shining”: “There’s no girls rapping so we only hearing half the truth.” In fact, Shad’s entire song is a lament about the lack of involvement of women in the music scene (as well as in all aspects of life) yet it is also an empowerment and an encouragement for those women who do want to have their voices heard. Here is a link to the song (worth a listen!!): Shad: “Keep Shining”

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Some of the key words within the documentary were confidence, empowerment, purpose, equality, power.

For anyone–male, female, transgendered–the idea of being empowered is crucial to finding passion in life. The power of positive talk, not destructive talk to self and others, and encouragement of people’s passions and purpose are essential to developing leaders and just overall good human beings. One of the interviewees in the film said something along the lines of this: purpose and passion should drive women and women should be given equal opportunities to succeed in life.

These ideas reminded me of Parker J. Palmer’s book Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation.

In his book, Palmer writes that “Vocation does not come from willfulness. It comes from listening . . . We listen for guidance everywhere expect from within” (4-5). If this is true, then what guidance are women and men receiving from the media and songs like “Blurred Lines”? Yet there is hope! Palmer quotes Frederick Buechner as writing that vocation is “the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need” (16). Again, positive talk and encouragement of people’s talents and passions, not their appearance, could help those around us realize their purpose: where their deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.

The film spent a lot of time looking at the way in which women in powerful positions in the USA are treated in the media. Palmer writes that “a leader is someone with the power to project either shadow or light into some part of the world and onto the lives of the people who dwell there” (78). By constantly talking about women in terms of their appearances, emotions, and gender, the media and leaders in the USA (and other countries as well, including Canada) project shadows on the lives of countless women. How can a woman find vocation when she is only getting messages from those around her that she is not good enough, smart enough, or ‘manly’ enough to hold a powerful position.

The last thought I have about this film is one of the pet peeves I have in my own life:
“She’s a pretty good soccer player . . . for a girl.” “She’s a great rapper . . . . for a girl.” “She’s a smart student . . . . for a girl.”

The power of language and of telling on one side of a story is very dangerous. So I think that I needed a reminder to use positive language when talking about myself and about others, especially women. We need to encourage one another to find those things in life that make us passionate so that we can find our purpose.

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Therefore encourage one another and build one another up (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

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