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Less than 20% of American governors, congressmen, and CEOs are female.
We see women in major positions of power so infrequently that it would be easy to think that men are natural leaders and women just aren’t.
But that isn’t true. Otherwise there wouldn’t be so many countries around the world (Finland, South Africa, Cuba) with parliaments that are half female. Rwanda, of all places, is more than 50%.
So, what’s going on in the United States that is keeping women out of power? The overly liberal documentary “Miss Representation” explores this topic and gives several answers.
The film’s main – and most convincing – argument is that girls tend not to become great leaders because they are too preoccupied with becoming great beauties.
Our culture and media emphasize the way women look above all, diminishing all substantive virtues in the process. Girls are told to work to achieve the perfect body and to use it to get attention from boys. Everything else is secondary.
The film blames the cosmetics and hair industry for making women obsessed with their looks and profiting from the insecurity they help create.
This is doubly destructive: both because it pressures young women to become shallow and vain and because it robs them of tens of thousands of dollars that might otherwise be spent on education.
Even the few driven women who do become leaders aren’t able to escape society’s need to judge their looks. The film rightly observes that female politicians are routinely subject to demoralizing and disrespectful commentary about their bodies and wardrobe choices.
“Miss Representation” was directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, wife of California’s Lieutenant Governor. So it is understandable that the film is overly political.
But the film is least convincing when it is most partisan. Siebel Newsom argues that the 1980s backlash against feminism led by the Republican Party is the key factor in suffocating the feminism movement.
That is clearly biased nonsense, though.
The Republican establishment has put up a united front in opposition of gay rights and especially gay marriage. But that hasn’t stopped the gay rights movement at all because millions of people care deeply about the issues. Most American women simply aren’t passionate about feminism. Blaming the GOP is neither fair nor productive.
In another knee-jerk liberal move, Siebel Newsom blames big corporations for working together to suppress feminist thought.
The film strangely argues that male-run media corporations are colluding to keep American women down. Very odd. In reality, Viacom, News Corp, and Time Warner care much more about profits than politics. If Americans were eager to watch feminist shows, there would certainly be more feminist shows.
Siebel Newsom proposes that more government regulation of media content is a solution to the problem of sexism on television. To be fair, I can’t come up with a solution myself. But I know that censorship is never the answer.
“Miss Representation” is a little too anti-conservative and anti-capitalism for my taste. But it does bring up a very important issue: the fact that our country is actively wasting the talents of 51% of our citizens.
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