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This link for the trailer of the documentary Miss Representation has been going around my Facebook for a little bit, some of you might have even already seen it, but I thought I’d share it here.

Miss Representation explores the media’s portrayal of women. It talks about how the media’s representation of woman as sex objects and possessions of men has detrimental effects on both young girls and boys. It focuses on the role media has in shaping the way we perceive ourselves and the expectations that are placed upon us. The trailer is eight minutes and includes some interesting points.

The trailer made me think of a conversation I had with two friends a few days ago. One of my friends was discussing how men are negatively impacted by the media because it skews their standards of beauty. They develop unrealistic expectations of beauty and this impacts how they seek relationships. Honestly I had never really thought about that before and my initial reaction was a bit unsympathetic, as in, “oh no, poor boys are disappointed because they only want girls who look like models they see in magazines and they don’t actually exist, boo hoo.” But in addition to being a bit condescending, this understanding of how media impacts boys is highly superficial. Even if you just focus on this aspect of beauty standards, having an unrealistic standard of beauty is detrimental. Boys can end up forsaking certain friendships and missing opportunities for real long term relationships because of this, which in turn impacts their development. This might sound like a little thing but as my friend sat across from me and explained how guys have told her, this clearly beautiful human being both inside and out (seriously, she fits neatly into conventional standards of beauty), that they just weren’t attracted to her, that she wasn’t pretty enough, I sat there feeling sorry for any guy who missed out on the opportunity to spend time with this woman. Any guy who knowingly walked away from her clearly had some negative forces acting on his understanding of beauty.

There are other aspects of the media’s portrayal of gender norms that can have negative impacts on boys. Media hypes up a certain idea of masculinity and imposes it on these young boys, fostering a culture of ridicule and bullying for any boy who doesn’t succumb to these pressures.

And of course there is the impact had on young girls. They are bombarded with images of what they should look like, how they should act, what their value is – all reinforcing the idea that they aren’t good enough. It starts from a young age and follows women throughout their lives.

Likely, just as the trailer makes clear, we need more female leaders and more women in media. But we also need a better understanding of what our true value and nature because without that, we’re likely to continue to promote some of the same media messages just in different forms.