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How Words and Images Are Holding Women Back

If you’ve been reading Real World Research for a while, you may remember the “fat old bitch” incident. (If not, read about it here, and here.)

The current fracas over Rush Limbaugh’s unbelievably inappropriate sexist rant against Sandra Fluke brings this back to my mind

I’m going to use this opportunity to recommend a new documentary I’ve seen twice now and could easily sit through again. It’s called Miss Representation, and it’s all about how the media’s representation of women shapes our attitudes and contributes to women’s lack of power in this country.

Lack of power? The “feminazis”? Don’t be silly. We’re modern, liberated, in-charge women.

I wish.

Consider this: Women are 51 percent of the population but only 17 percent of Congress. America ranks 90th in the world in women in legislature. Even China is more progressive than we are in that respect.

Women hold a whopping three percent of power positions in the media—and that includes TV, radio, publishing, online media—all of it. So this means that pretty much everything we (and, more importantly, our children) see in the media is filtered through the sensibilities of men—and that is not to our benefit.

The denigration and disempowerment of women happens not only with the relentless sexualized images with which we are bombarded daily, but also one or two “jokes” at a time. One or two little words at a time. Slut. Prostitute. Fat. Bitch.

I am an unabashed feminist and “know” the issues that women face, but was not prepared for the effect the montages of clips in this documentary would have on me. It’s worse than I was consciously aware of…and it won’t get better unless it gets different. Very different.

Miss Representation is being screened around the country—I saw it at a couple of local colleges. If you have daughters, take them to see it. If you have sons, take them to see it. If you are interested in the position of women in our society, go see it yourself. If it’s not being screened in your city, arrange a screening yourself.

Here’s an eight-minute trailer  (there’s a shorter one here but I highly recommend the longer one).

Miss Representation 8 min. Trailer 8/23/11 from Miss Representation on Vimeo.

How Words and Images Are Holding Women Back

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APA Reference
Dembling, S. (2012). How Words and Images Are Holding Women Back. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 7, 2020, from


Last updated: 5 Mar 2012
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