I watched the award-winning independent film MissRepresentation last month. The producers are building a movement of awareness around the themes of the film and unlike those occupying streets and parks across the country, this cause asks proponents to take real actions toward advancing their goals.
Among all the unsettling information presented in the movie, there was one statistic that really made me want to get involved.
According to the 2003 Annenberg Public Policy Center report, “The Glass Ceiling Persists,” women hold only 3 percent of positions of influence in mainstream media.
In that same report, this gem:
Among communications companies in the Fortune 500, women comprise just 15 percent of top executives and only 12 percent of board members.
If those numbers weren’t enough to take notice, the film discusses the link between objectification of women in media and violence against women. It seems obvious: dehumanizing your victim is often the first step toward violence – but I’d never made the connection.
The MissRepresentation Movement
I took the pledge and signed on for weekly e-mails that would prompt me to take specific actions to further the cause. The first few weeks went well. I spread the word about the film, questioned sexy Halloween costumes for children, etc. And then came the Sexy or Sexism campaign – in which MissRepresentation.org is hosting a poll to grade the fall television lineup.
Maybe the obvious offenders were simply not worth mentioning. Maybe no one is actually watching Pan Am, just as they didn’t tune in for The Playboy Club. I was confused, however, by the campaign’s target of The Good Wife, which in my opinion portrays a grown woman taking charge of her own life and sexuality after years of letting other people define those for her.
The people at MissRepresentation took issue with the show’s latest ad campaign, in which lead actress Julianna Margulies appears looking especially spent and satisfied in black lingerie. The email, sent to me and other supporters, encouraged us to spread the message “The Good Wife doesn’t need sex to sell.” Except that… it sort of does.
Sex Sells Because People Like Sex
All these reminders about objectification got me thinking about my own book cover for Blacklisted from the PTA, which depicts a disembodied set of legs exiting stage left via shopping cart. I chose the image to represent the plight of everyday women whose lives get hijacked by domestic responsibility. Also, the skirt and stilettos say moms are sexy. I used a sexualized image on purpose because I know women want to feel sexy, and men, well, they’re just easy.
Clearly the producers of The Good Wife know the same thing. I only started tuning in regularly after Alicia and Will started getting it on, regularly. Surely, I’m not the only one. So yes, if the show wants to keep viewers like me, they need to remind me that this is a story about a woman who does things I can only fantasize about (cue the hot hotel sex with new partner), not just another lawyer whose cases conveniently parallel her personal dilemmas.
The line between sexy and sexism may never be clearly defined but we need to pick our battles and there are certainly better fights to pick than this. However, I may have a temporary solution. A tit for tat sort of compromise, if you will. Perhaps the producers could make it up to the ladies with some strategically Photoshopped images Chris Noth. It’s possible that I’m part of the problem.
I think I hear my e-mail address being deleted from the MissRepresentation roster even as I type the words.
Image: Helga Weber, Flickr ; Lela Davidson