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'Miss Representation': local panel discusses media messages about women and girls

A 20-year-veteran of the St. Paul Fire Department, Ann Majerus of Hudson, will be a member of the panel discussion that will follow the screening of "Miss Representation" at Hudson High School on May 31. After working in a "non-traditional field" since she was 18, Majerus said there was plenty she could relate to in the film that explores how women and girls are treated in the media. The screening, sponsored by Youth Action Hudson, is free and open to the public. Submitted photo

Youth Action Hudson board member Ann Majerus knew all about the film "Miss Representation" when discussion started about screening the documentary in Hudson last winter. She was on board from the beginning.

The film, an official selection of the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, explores the images of women and girls in the media and how that affects the presence of women in positions of power and influence. It will be presented at Hudson High School auditorium Thursday, May 31 at 6:30 p.m. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Admission is free but donations will be accepted.

Majerus, a firefighter for 28 years, saw the film earlier this year and she liked what she saw about gender discrimination in it. "There was a lot I could relate to in the film. It hit a chord with me because I have always worked in a non-traditional field. There is always someone there to question whether you can do the job. You can't make a mistake and you need to be twice as good to be thought of as equal. The film says a lot of things and points out important issues that we don't discuss enough. It has an important point of view."

Majerus is a fire equipment operator. She says some people assume that means she just drives trucks and was never a real firefighter. "I have to tell them that I rose through the ranks to get to this position and I was a firefighter and I still am."

And while she could relate to what the film has to say about gender discrimination in the workplace, she also appreciated the film as a parent of both a son and a daughter. Married to Hudson Police Chief Marty Jensen, Majerus said they want both of their children to be aware of the messages they get in the popular media.

"I want them to think critically about the images they see. I want them to look at the ads and the shows they watch and think about what the media wants them to buy into whether they are a girl or a boy. So much of what is out there is not good. I want them to think about how what they see affects how boys and men look at women and how women and girls see themselves."

Yvonne Larsen of Youth Action Hudson, a volunteer involved in numerous activities throughout the community and the mother of an adult son, also endorses the film.

"My hope is that parents and youth will view the film together and become more aware of how the media can choose to portray females sexually in an effort to generate ratings. This film could become the impetus for our community to recognize and affirm the real value of our young girls, encouraging them to aspire to achieve their goals without bowing to media pressures," said Larsen.

Along with Majerus, the panel will include HHS choral director Kari Heisler, Dr. Christopher Babbitt of Northwest Counseling and HHS student Martha Muchlinski.

There will also be representatives from a variety of area organizations that support youth and provide outreach in the community. They include Camp St. Croix, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Project Success, United Way St. Croix Valley, Students Today, Leaders Forever, Theatre Unbound, Youth Action Hudson, Turningpoint and AAUW-River Falls.

The film is not recommended for teens under age 14 without a parent or guardian. It contains illustrative clips that show women and girls in revealing clothing and sexualized situations. It also discusses bullying and abusive relationships, eating disorders and some explicit language that degrades women. For more information, go to or contact YAH at (715) 386-9803 or online at

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