Miss Representation & Wonder Woman: Why girls need to feel powerful
I've had a very feminist-focused two weeks. I saw Wonder Woman on opening night (YESSSS) and I watched Miss Representation (a documentary) with my patients this week. We focused on the hypersexualization of women in the media, double standards, and how these things impact men as well.
While I would argue we shouldn't have the fate of feminism riding on a superhero movie, I'm instead going to focus on the impact this movie has made and why I think it's so important. First of all -- FEMALE DIRECTOR. Not just a female lead actress, but a female director who also tried to hire mostly female staff. This is a big deal because it's a male dominated industry in front of the cameras, and behind. Some men have cried foul, especially when some women-only screenings were announced, but I am reminded of the picture below. Just because women get something doesn't mean men lose something.
Gal Gadot is also not sexualized in the film; sure, there's romance between her and her beau, but it doesn't overshadow the story and it's not drawn out with continued references the rest of the movie. Even though it's set during WWI, there isn't constant catcalling. They address Diana being beautiful and it will occasionally come up, but it's not overdone. Can we talk about how she was also PREGNANT while filming? DAMN GIRL. DAMN.
Was the film perfect? Nope. Is anything perfect? Nope (except coffee, coffee is perfect). But isn't it about time we gave a hero for little girls to dress up as for Halloween? Or big girls for that matter. Harley Quinn is her own woman, but other than her and Black Widow... have you seen any others recently? Excluding dedicated cosplayers, who do absolutely fantastic crossovers like Elsa + Thor.
A tangential topic -- Miss Representation from 2011 (available on Netflix, if you're interested). It's a movie about how women have had their power stripped from them through various avenues, including the hypersexualization of them in the media. I showed this to my kiddos this week for our meal experiential (and we got pizza, yum) and they had some interesting answers to discussion questions. I also asked them -- is Wonder Woman an important break from these attitudes? (Most of them haven't seen it, but I think it still deserved a conversation)
The group presented good insight into why it's easier to present these women as one-dimensional characters -- because it's often men writing the scripts and directing, so they don't have as much familiarity of what it's like to live as a women/what goes on in our heads. One of the girls noted how the media affects her body image since it's everywhere and that it sometimes leads to subconscious body-checking. Another girl summarized it perfectly when she said that "it's all fake." Even the most 'perfect' bodies by society's standards are still retouched and photoshopped. We also talked about the impact on men -- that men are raised to see women in this way and that if they don't act in accordance, they can be seen as too sensitive, or not 'manly' enough. The way women are portrayed in the media harms everyone.
Wonder woman was unique because the main character, Diana, was not hyper-sexualized. Sure her costume shows skin, but there weren't comments made on this throughout the movie, and it was paying homage to the birth of the character. Diana was played by a POC -- A BIG DEAL! I've seen a lot of articles lately talking about how Black Panther is going to be a game-changer for black cosplay; this is an issue of POC not being represented, but also in the cosplay community where people have their feathers ruffled when cosplays don't have the right skin tone *eye roll*. Diana also kicks butt, and her romantic interest is exactly that, HER romantic interest. He has his own side stuff going on, but it doesn't take away from her. Additionally, after they 'get together,' it doesn't drastically alter their relationship because they are GOD-FORSAKEN ADULTS AND CAN HANDLE LIFE. Diana isn't reduced to a frantic emotional mess.
This was an interesting movie night for me -- and challenging. A few of the patients were triggered by the movies and had the desire to restrict/purge/even self-harm. I think this speaks to the severity of eating disorders. People often dismiss them (just eat! just don't eat so much!) but they have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. The severity is exacerbated by the comorbidities that often accompany these disorders. One of my patients ended up leaving the movie to use the bathroom -- and purged. A learning experience for me, to stick to the buddy system. I was so glad the patient told me what happened after so that we could talk it over and I could provide her with support. It's truly a challenge and a privilege working with this population, and every day I learn something new.
I am reminded whenever I hear them say that they hate themselves, that they aren't good enough, that they aren't pretty enough, that they are disgusting... I am reminded that every day their power is stripped from them by the media, by people influenced by the media, and by their own minds that have been influenced. So we teach them to continue to stand up, to fight. The media is selling what it thinks we will buy -- so let's buy something different.