Talk Back: Miss Representation

Recently a group of us got together and watched Miss Representation, a compelling documentary film directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom about the portrayal of women in the media.  As we watched the film we jotted down key words, questions and quotes on a large white sheet of paper on the floor. After the screening we discussed some of those points and shared general impressions of the film.

We all agreed the film was a good teaching tool and introduction that can create important dialogue, especially among people who are unaware of these issues. There were some complicated reactions as well; and we spent over two hours unpacking them.

As women of color, some of us felt underrepresented in the film, not only in the images and talking heads, but in the lack of analysis around intersections of gender and race. Intersections of race and gender is something that we tend to notice, struggle with and internalize– and this just was not talked about. Rachel Maddow alluded to the intersectionality of gender and sexuality when she discussed the sexist and homophobic hate mail she receives from angry viewers on a regular basis.  This touched on the idea that all women are not treated the same in the media. And for many of us, gender bias is one of many concerns when we think about media representation.

Some viewers also asserted that the film covered a lot of ground about the problem, but lacked attention around solutions.  This lack of focus on next steps left some viewers feeling overwhelmed and defeated– how do we combat this huge system?  This led to a discussion about feminism, patriarchy and specifically, a white supremacist capitalist patriarchy (shoutout to bell hooks).

Others felt affirmed when watching Miss Representation. To them this film illustrated a problem that is undeniable — a wake up call that begs for change. One viewer, Chantelle, explained that the film affirmed that she was not over-emotional or “crazy” for being angry about destructive media messages.

Watch our Talk Back video about Miss Representation here:

One highlight was participating in the film’s “Represent Us” video advocacy campaign where we each recorded a brief response to the question: How do you want to be represented in media?  According to the Miss Rep campaign organizers, after receiving 1000 videos responses to this question they will send them to television networks. It was exciting to participate in collective action that will hopefully make an impact.

Turning frustration into action for positive change is aligned with our goals at FAAN Mail. We are excited about supporting the movement that Miss Representation is initiating. We look forward to continuing this conversation and envisioning and working towards solutions as we promote critical dialogue about the media, talk back and create the alternatives we wish to see.


About Nuala Cabral

Nuala Cabral is an educator, activist, filmmaker and co-founder of FAAN Mail, a media literacy and activist project based in Philadelphia.

Posted on December 2, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Hello,
    I attended the screening at Temple and was able to stay for a portion of the post-screening panel discussion that you moderated. I remember thinking that I would have loved to hear more of your insights as a panelist. I admire the work that you do. I work for Steppingstone Scholars Inc and we, along with a couple of other organizations, are planning to host a screening in late May for our families and have a panel discussion afterwards. I was wondering if you would be interested in joining the panel. We have secured the author Lori Tharps and looking to add Lorene Cary as well. I would be happy to talk more with you about it. I can be reached at You can also check out to learn more about our work.

    Looking forward to hearing from you.

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