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Day by Day: 'Miss Representation' is must-see for families

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Day by Day: 'Miss Representation' is must-see for families
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

I don't usually do reviews in this space but I'm making an exception for the film "Miss Representation," which will be screened at the Hudson High School auditorium on Thursday, May 31, at 6:30 p.m. The showing is free, and it should not be missed.

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The film came to our attention, that is Kevin's and mine, when our daughter suggested we find a screening to attend. To be fair it wasn't exactly a suggestion on Kate's part -- more of get your butts there and raise your consciousness!

Katie proudly describes herself as a feminist and wasn't exactly convinced that we, especially her dad, were on board. I explained to her what it was like when we were in college back in the early 1970s, when the National Organization of Women was the group to belong to; "Ms" magazine outsold Cosmopolitan, some months anyway; and we helped make the first edition of "Our Bodies, Our Selves" a bestseller.

Back then, it was exciting and the first time I remember being really motivated by a cause. Despite what Kate thought, Kevin was on board right from the start, something that didn't always make me comfortable or popular at meetings and events.

"Feminist men" were kind of few and far between in those days and consequently raised suspicion. Often Kev was the only guy at a meeting, defending his right to be there, and arguing reverse discrimination, all the while I was wishing to drop into a hole in the floor. The worst was the meeting about women's health when he insisted on staying for the lecture on just what to demand from your gynecologist and the proper use of a speculum. I left, he stayed.

Kevin doesn't like labels but he raised both our son and daughter to expect and demand fair and equal treatment and to be vigilantly aware of how the "media plays you," so when he heard that "Miss Rep" was all about that, he was all in.

The film has received widespread critical acclaim since first being seen at the Sundance Film Festival and on the Oprah Winfrey Network in 2011. In it filmmaker Jennifer Siebel Newsom "explores how the media's misrepresentations of women have led to the underrepresentation of women in positions of power and influence." I recognize that could sound like left-wing feminist propaganda to some; in fact that was kind of what I was expecting when I first saw it.

But it is much more than that. It is something everyone, especially parents and their teenagers, boys and girls, should see, preferably together.

The film explores the images of women and girls in all areas of media - from movies and television to news and politics. And what I saw cuts across all the labels. Let's face it, advertisers, television and moviemakers, and many big businesses don't care much about what we think or feel. What they are after is our spending power, our money, and they really don't give a rip if we are conservatives or liberals or what party we belong to. More than anything else I've seen or read, the film exposes that. It is a message that is hard to argue against regardless of your politics.

There are lots of well-known people who appear in the documentary, people like Katie Couric, Condoleeza Rice, a bunch of movie stars and some politicians, but some of the most impact-filled moments in it come from teens who are some of the biggest consumers of what the media is selling or saying about women and men in our culture. Again, it isn't about left or right, it is just a hard look at what our kids are seeing and being sold on a regular basis.

The good news in the film is the number of organizations out there at work to change things, again from all sides of the political spectrum, full of people who just want the rest of us to sit up and take notice.

Because of some of the images in the film and some language, most of which is lifted directly from broadcast television and print ads available everywhere and to everyone, it is being recommended for teens ages 14 and up. It would be good for parents and kids to see it together. I guarantee it will start a very important conversation.

Hats off to Youth Action Hudson's board of directors for sponsoring the screening and to Americorps member and YAH staffer Elise Whaley for bringing it to their attention. Now it deserves yours.

For more information about the film go to www.missrepresentation.org. A trailer of the movie is available there. The screening is free and open to the public. To contact Youth Action Hudson, call (715)386-9803.

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Meg Heaton
Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
(715) 808-8604
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