MissRepresentation

Being the Best of Ourselves as Women: What does it Take to Promote and Empower other Women?

One of The MissRepresentation “Assignments” to Help Women Support Women

As women it is so important to encourage and motivate and to support each other. Too often we are put in a position of competing against each other. Take for example the Time magazine article with the title “Are you Mom enough?” This article, even though it was written by a woman, pitted women against each other.

I would hazard to guess that the competition that is fostered among women stems from a male-dominated society that leaves little, if any, room for women in power, or women who achieve high status. Women know that their chances of being successful or of getting a position are less when competing against a man; however, when competing against a woman, one still has a fighting chance. By eliminating the weakest of contenders, then the only contenders left are men.

MissRepresentation, in a task designed to help women support each other, asks each woman to identify her unique strengths and weaknesses so that she can draw on these qualities when mentoring or supporting other women:

“Take five minutes to write down three characteristics you like about yourself and three you’d like to improve upon. Then use the lists to focus your time and energy on being the best version of yourself!”

They go on to state:

“This action is not just about self-improvement, it’s about acquiring the skills necessary to inspire those around you. By first acknowledging your shortcomings and then being purposeful about your actions, you can work efficiently towards your goal of being a transformative mentor and model in your everyday life!”

I think the point here is that if you can recognize the value that you have in you and also recognize those areas that you might need to improve then you will be a better person, a better woman and, in turn, better able to put yourself forth as an example or mentor to other women and young women.

What are my strengths that I can use to mentor other young women?

These are the first things that came to mind.

1. I am a good writer.
2. I am a good scholar.
3. I am a good educator.

I was happy to see my list when I was done because much of my professional work is in the field of education. I teach men and women at both the undergraduate and graduate level.

Next I need to identify my growth areas:

This is more difficult because of the vulnerability that accompanies it. But here goes. In order to grow we need to be able to speak of the ways in which we can grow.

1. I can become better at teaching students and individuals the skills they need to be successful.
2. I can be more supportive so that people feel validated and encouraged.
3. I can do more to inspire people in ways that I feel inspired and I can help them to find ways to feel inspired.

How can I use this knowledge to help myself be a better mentor or to be a better leader or to be a better role model? That is a good question.

I think identifying my strengths helps me to feel more confident that I do have the skills to help other people and, in particular, to serve as a role model and mentor for other women. Along these same lines, the areas that are growth areas will only make be better at what I do. Casting competition aside and focusing on empowerment is one of the keys to growth and to the furthering of women’s success in the workplace and her place in society.

As a mother, my job is to continually support and further my daughter’s intellectual knowledge as well as her confidence and self-assuredness. These are the skills that are going to lead her down a path of success and independence. Hopefully the skills that I teach her will allow her to compete with men on an even playing-field and that she will hold her own in a male-dominated society.

The Challenge for You: Can you do the same? Are you willing to set aside a few minutes to think about your strengths and weaknesses? Can you examine how these two things affect how you currently are mentoring and encouraging women? Does this reflection change the way you think about how you could be mentoring and encouraging other women to reach their potential? What are your thoughts on this exercise in self-reflection and self-evaluation?

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Pledge to End Sexism: Action Steps for Our Girls

On the Miss Representation website (http://www.missrepresentation.org/) there is a pledge you can take to end sexism. In response to that I received an emails with some tips for raising young girls in a non-sexist way.

Thanks for joining our movement to end sexism!

Now that you’ve taken the MissRepresentation.org pledge, here are some actions you can take immediately to make a difference:

1. Tell 5 people about the film and share one thing you learned from watching it.

2. Parents: Watch TV and films with your children.  Raise questions like “What if that character had been a girl instead?”

3. Remember your actions influence others. Mothers, aunts and loved ones- don’t downgrade or judge yourself by your looks. Fathers, uncles and loved ones—treat women around you with respect.  Remember children in your life are watching and learning from you.

4. Use your consumer power. Stop buying tabloid magazines and watching shows that degrade women. Go see movies that are written and directed by women (especially on opening weekend to boost the box office ratings). Avoid products that resort to sexism in their advertising.

5. Mentor others! It’s as easy as taking a young woman to lunch. Start by having open and honest conversations with a young person in your life.

You are now dialed into a national movement to stand up to sexism and challenge the media’s limiting portrayals of gender. Together we will make a huge impact on contemporary society.

What do we want for our girls? Does the media help us decide?

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On a blog somewhere, Jane Quick said “I saw a very interesting documentary the other night about US media and how it portrays women. Among other things it talked about how the media (run mainly by men) pits women against each other to further their own misogynistic agenda.”

I want to see this movie. The way we are as women, and how we are with each other, will affect how we raise our girls. How the media portrays women and young girls affects how our girls view themselves and how we as women view ourselves.

As consumers of media in a very media-heavy period in the history of the world, we as mothers need to be particularly careful about the messages our young girls take in and how we as mothers might also buy into the messages and images the media has to sell.

If we don’t like what the media is selling about what it means to be a girl or a woman we need to teach our girls something different.

From the website of the film Miss Representation:

http://www.missrepresentation.org/the-film/

About the film

“Like drawing back a curtain to let bright light stream in, Miss Representation (90 min; TV-14 DL) uncovers a glaring reality we live with every day but fail to see. Written and directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the film exposes how mainstream media contribute to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America. The film challenges the media’s limited and often disparaging portrayals of women and girls, which make it difficult for women to achieve leadership positions and for the average woman to feel powerful herself.

In a society where media is the most persuasive force shaping cultural norms, the collective message that our young women and men overwhelmingly receive is that a woman’s value and power lie in her youth, beauty, and sexuality, and not in her capacity as a leader. While women have made great strides in leadership over the past few decades, the United States is still 90th in the world for women in national legislatures, women hold only 3% of clout positions in mainstream media, and 65% of women and girls have disordered eating behaviors.

Stories from teenage girls and provocative interviews with politicians, journalists, entertainers, activists and academics, like Condoleezza Rice, Nancy Pelosi, Katie Couric, Rachel Maddow, Margaret Cho, Rosario Dawson and Gloria Steinem build momentum as Miss Representation accumulates startling facts and statistics that will leave the audience shaken and armed with a new perspective.”

If anyone has seen Miss Representation, tell us what it’s about. Tell us what you learned. Tell us how we can join in to fight against the media pitting women against women.

On a different, yet similar note, let’s take a look at what the March 2012 issue of Parenting puts forth as the ideal for very young girls. (In the image above you’ll find a full page devoted to one girl who poses as three different mini Suri Cruise look alikes.)

On a side note, I recently read online that Suri Cruise’s wardrobe consists of several very expensive purses totalling over $100,000. Here’s a link to her carrying one of her expensive handbags. What kind of precedent is being set for other young women when the net total of a toddler’s purses is more than most women’s entire wardrobes?

The Suri Cruise page in Parenting is titled “The Perfect Princess.” What does this say to mothers reading Parenting Magazine? Is it a forum to pit toddler against toddler or mother-of-toddler against mother-of-toddler? Who has the cutest clothes? Who is wearing the most expensive shoes? I can’t say that I’m immune from being caught up in dressing my child up in cute clothes, and part of it is about clout and status. I, too, need to take a look at my own behavior as a mother of a young girl.

But what is the source of it all? Where do we get out ideas about what a toddler NEEDS? Where do we get out our ideas about what it means to be a girl or a woman? There is a larger issue at hand and that involves the media.

The media…yes…did anyone happen to see that Time article called “Are you Mom Enough?” with the picture of the sexy woman breastfeeding her child? Of course, I jest. If you didn’t check it out here. It seems like it is a perfect example of the media throwing out some sort of inflamatory statement to get women arguing with each other and putting each other down. Does that create a situation where men can then sit back and watch while the women go at it? Divide and conquer, right? Oh, and by the way, Parenting is owned by Time Inc. Hmmm…..

So not only are girls well-dressed and sexy, but the women, their mothers, are also putting each other down and are in battle. If that was Time’s goal, mission accomplished.