This documentary from 2011 was recommended to me by a friend. The director and narrator, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, is an actress who had recently found out she was having a girl. This sparked a deep dive into the way our community is set up for women, and how the patriarchy plays a part in both politics and Hollywood in keeping women from believing they could become leaders in industry.
I had heard about much of the content in this film through conversations and even in the media, probably since this film came out. It covers the fact that women are encouraged to seek power through sexuality and not their intellect. It described the evolution for women’s rights from WWII when women were working in the factories, through the 1950s when media encouraged women to return home, on to the ERA and then how Hollywood still continues to portray women in narrow roles.
There have been some things that have changed since this film aired. The Me-Too movement happened. There have been more and more women involved in politics as well as more female production companies in Hollywood. In fact, I watched the TV show Mrs. America which gave a look into the ERA and the anti-ERA movement of the 1970s which is mentioned in this documentary.
But we still have a long way to go before we can really consider a realistic representation of females in leadership as it reflects to the number of women in society. I found it interesting that a lot of the conversation around women in this film also applies to people of color as well as other marginal groups. It was really shocking to hear what some men felt completely comfortable to say on live TV about their female counterparts. And that still happens. Just a few weeks ago, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez responded to some inappropriate public behavior of a fellow congressman.
There is profanity throughout the film. The sexual content consists of women dressed and moving provocatively and talking about rape in headlines. The violent content included video of women getting cosmetic surgery and pictures of women covered in bruises after assaults.
I felt convicted to really keep an eye on what I was watching, to critically think about what messages are being communicated in how women are portrayed, even in major roles in film, even how they are portrayed in news media. I think this film is a good starting point to the conversation, but it shouldn’t stop there.