Monday, July 29, 2013

Something's Missing

Today we reviewed some concepts we covered in class yesterday, including sexual identity and essentialism. We went over the process of gender construction, starting at gender assignment at birth, and ending with the acceptance of our gender roles. After that, we spent 45 minutes on "Leadership Life Maps," which basically outlined events that made you who you are as a leader. I figured that it would be a childish activity that wouldn't teach me anything (I mean, there were crayons on the table), but, then again, I thought the same thing about the diversity workshop. 

I plotted out a little timeline on some scratch paper, then colored in a sort of flowchart on the paper I would share with a small group. I felt odd writing about early characteristics that made me not a leader, but was surprised to notice how much in recent years, I've taken on more leadership roles than I used to. I found that I was running out of time to put in as much as I had wanted to. I ended up fitting everything, but I was surprised that 45 minutes went by so fast. We discussed our maps in groups, and I learned that I had a lot in common with the others in my group, once again reminding me that I wasn't the only one to have certain experiences. I had assumed that some people in my group were "born leaders" because they were Norths, but I was wrong. One person in my group had been pushed into leadership positions by coincidence, but ended up taking on more and more as time went on. 

Then we watched Miss Representation, which explores how the media's failure to represent women has led to a small number of women in leadership positions. It opens with clips from movies and television shows showing how women are sexualized and molded to fit the unrealistic expectations of society that we created. It gave some facts about media consumption, stating that children and young adults watch over 10 hours of media a day, and gave evidence that too many women shown on television are young, white, and underweight. This reinforces the idea that a woman's value lies in her body, not in her capacity to lead. When the media teaches girls to see themselves as objects, they're more likely to judge themselves negatively, which leads to depression and self-injury. 

Women make up 51% of the population, yet hold only 17% of positions in Congress. The United States is 90th in the world in terms of women in national legislatures. Women in power are either displayed as mean and bossy (think of The Proposal or The Devil Wears Prada), or sexual objects (think of any movie ever) and they are thought of the same way in real life too.

The film explained how reality television portrays women as catty and manipulative, and men as emotionless and in control. It analyzed journalism, how women are encouraged to dress a certain way on the air, and how they can even be asked to undergo plastic surgery to fit into society's gender norms. The film helped me realize that one of the first questions we ask about famous actresses is some form of "what did she look like?" It brought up the point that only 16% of film protagonists are female, and 71% of women on TV are between the ages of 20 and 30. Wait a second. Women between the ages of 20 and 30 make up only 39% of the population. As the film put it, women don't just disappear at 40, even though the media makes it seem that way. And if a majority of the population is female, why do all our main characters have to be men characters?

For each example the documentary gave, I could think of several more like it, and was sick thinking that I hadn't noticed any of these things before. 

After the film, we ate, then met with Ms. Neal to check in about our week. I got a couple of mosquito bites waiting outside for my turn to talk to my chaperone (my ankle is so itchy), but it didn't take long to get through everyone. It was nice to have someone to talk to, but I didn't really need it. My class is going well, I'm comfortable, and I'm fitting in well here. It's pretty simple to find people to talk to, considering that there are three of me. Yeah, there are three Julias in the Leadership Institute. It's a pretty easy conversation starter to have the same name as someone else. We went back to the dorm, and I was too tired to head out for the talent show that was on the schedule, but since the spots filled up fast, and a lot of people in my dorm couldn't be a part of the planned one, Perkins Hall had its own talent show right downstairs. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to watch my classmates perform, and was very impressed with some singers from my class, a monologue from another theater geek, and a really awesome spoken-word piece. Once the people in the lobby had reached the point where "teaching how to dougie" was a talent, I decided to head back to my room to finish my work.

I need to watch Miss Representation again. I was paying attention to every detail, but I could watch this eighty more times and I'd still be learning from it. I'm so glad that this class exposed me to this documentary, because there is no way I would have been able to figure these things out on my own. My surprise at watching Miss Representation is just another example of how ignorant I've been, and how much I have to learn. We were asked to describe our experiences with the film in one word, and I chose "enlightening." I would have used that word for several other activities we performed as a class, and I get the feeling that this time won't be my last.
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