MissRep Review: An Unanticipated Reaction

The documentary Miss Representation, by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, and aired on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network. The film explores how the media’s misrepresentations of women have led to the underrepresentation of women in positions of power and influence.

Ok, let’s be honest, this is not actually a review.  Rather, it’s an anecdote of this girl’s response to watching the documentary for the first time – one that took me wholeheartedly by surprise.

I have the best husband there ever was, that ever will be.  It’s Saturday night, I’ve been working all day (yes, on a Saturday), and I come home about 2 hours later than originally planned.  The woodsy odor of toasted almonds greets me as I open the door – Sole amandine, my favourite.  He tells me that we’re having a movie night.  Perfect.  What’s on the schedule?  First up, Miss Representation.  I melt.  I have managed to marry the most feminist man on the planet.  (Second up is Dédé à travers les brumes, another great choice, btw).

One of the reasons I was so psyched to be seeing MissRep right then was because I am planning on attending a screening and panel discussion on the documentary for International Women’s Day (March 8th).  I thought it would behoove me to see it for myself first, reflect, and then have intelligent things to say or questions to ask. I’m not that good on the spot.

Plus, I’ve been dying to see it since watching the trailer.  The trailer was sent to me by a fellow Girl Guide back in October.  Her commentary was short and sweet: This is why girls need Guides.  Watching it back then was like getting punched in the stomach.  Alone in my office, eyes wide, it made me feel sick, physically nauseated.  Powerful.

So, my husband and I sat down with our dinner and away we go.  What was I expecting?  I thought I would be shocked, outraged, called to arms, indignant.  Yes, I felt that.  What I didn’t expect was guilt, affliction, grief.  3 minutes into the film I burst into tears, and they continued to flow for the duration.

I cried my heart out for the entire 90 minutes of Miss Representation.  I cried for myself, I cried for every woman I had met and those I hadn’t, I cried for men, for children, for America.  I even cried for Sarah Palin.

In my drama and despair, I told my partner that I could not bear the risk of bringing a child into this world.  I realized that the world that I believe in and dream of is generations away from reality, that my children will be victims the way that we are victims, without any way of knowing if it will get better.  I told him I felt like I was wasting my time with non-profits empowering women and girls – that my passion would be better utilized in the corporate world or in politics.

He stopped the film.  He’s not used to seeing me feeling hopeless, and I can see that I’ve got him worried.  He knows that I want to have children with all of my heart.  He knows that I believe that the struggle is not just necessary, it is essential to work to improve the lives of future generations.  He knows it.  I know it.  But for 90 intense minutes, the dark side caught up with me.

It is important to look at the dark side.  But it is also important to bring as much light with you as possible!

The light that you bring with you when you examine and explore the most painful parts of humanity is the love that you have for humanity.  You bring your friends, you bring your partner, you bring your family and even that jerk that cut you off on your way in to work.  You bring every ounce of forgiveness you can muster.

Saturday night I held on to my darling husband and counted my lucky stars.  I will keep up the fight and generating light.  Roland Barthes asks: Is it better to last or to burn?  I say you gotta do both – you need to just keep adding fuel.


Miss Representation Trailer: It’s 8 minutes and 52 seconds that are worth your time.  Watch it.



World Thinking Day: Something to Think About

I'm proud to be a Girl Guide in Québec!

I’m proud to be a Girl Guide in Québec!

Happy World Thinking Day everyone!  

Today is a big deal for Guides and Scouts – this is my first Thinking Day as a Girl Guide and *wow* have I been enlightened!  I could not believe my eyes this morning as my Facebook, Twitter and inbox were flooded with warm fuzzies from Guides and Scouts from around the world!  The outpouring of solidarity and sorority deeply touched me, I must say.  Sometimes, oddly enough, when your heart is truly in something, it can be rather isolating.  You wonder, does anyone else feel as strongly as you do?  Does anyone else understand?

Today was a beautiful demonstration that there are women and girls – ten million strong – that are linked by Guiding and share in a common mission – to enable girls to be confident, resourceful and courageous, and to make a difference in the world.

Ironically, not really “thinking” about the fact that today was Thinking Day, I set up an appointment to meet up with another local women’s organization to discuss goals and values, and potential collaboration.  It was one of those encounters where things just click. I immediately felt the warmth that these ladies radiated and everything they said, it could have been me saying it.  There was a lot of head-nodding in agreement and as we spoke, a large circle was being drawn in my mind.  As we connected so freely and easily, sparks were going off, synapses were firing, lightbulbs illuminated my view of women, myself as a woman, of women’s issues – in a way I had never before understood.

Everything is interrelated and we are all inter-connected.  

I am fully aware of the cheesiness of what I just wrote.  There was definitely a “duh” factor in all of this sparking/firing/illuminating, so cut me some slack.  To admit, I had always seen my cause as “ending violence against women”.  I did not feel terribly called to arms by “eating disorders” or “breast cancer” or “more women executives” or the panoply of “women’s issues” out there.  Don’t get me wrong, these are great causes that I support wholeheartedly, but the one that would always get me out on the streets with a banner is violence against women.  I have witnessed the violence.  I have felt it.  I have gone from the process of experiencing my own pain to experiencing others’ pain.  It has been a visceral, defining element of who I am.  And I want it to stop.  It has to stop. – I will always feel very passionate about physical abuse and sexual assault and other forms of gender-based violence.  It is a part of me.

But it is just one link in the chain.  Preventing violence against women means talking about women’s bodies, women’s self-esteem, women’s health, the way that society views women, they way the media views women, the way that women view themselves.  And here we open the door to eating disorders, women executives and decision-makers, definitions of beauty and body image, toxic beauty products and even cancer.  When you talk about female leadership you are automatically talking about violence against women, albeit indirectly.

Just as we are ten million Girl Guides and Girl Scouts standing together on February 22nd to empower ourselves and each other, all women and women’s organizations should see themselves as sisters.  We have the same cause.

Happy Thinking Day to all my sisters around the world.  Je vous aime toutes!

V-Day: Vagina, Victory over Violence, Valentine’s Day…Vlogging?

EKL backstage on V-Day 2008

EKL backstage on V-Day 2008

Happy V-Day, ladies and gents!  

Today is a very special day.  And it has nothing to do with the pound of chocolate on my desk (well, not entirely at least).

While most people associate February 14th with chocolates, roses and candelit dinners with your snookums (or red wine-infused single female power parties!), thanks to Eve Ensler’s groundbreaking movement, for me and thousands of women across the world mid-Feb is often the apogee of a passionately frenetic campaign to end violence against women.  A different kind of celebration of love, if you will.

I would be remiss if I didn’t also note that The Girls Action Foundation has also reappropriated February 14th as their National Day of Action including innovative empowerment initiatives such as a collective love letter to girls and a blogging carnival.

Wow!  These are both great reasons why February 14th is extra special…but oh yeah, it gets even better!  

Today is my official blog launch!  I am moving my passion for ending violence against women and empowering girls to a more focused digital sphere.  Ranty Facebook statuses and 140 character missives are great.  Long-winded feministastic blogs are even better!  And I am fully aware that there is no actual vlogging going on in this post – consider it a promise of good times to come!

On that note, I welcome you and leave you with Mishka’s V-Day greeting (because “living without you would be like living without any treats”…which reminds me, I have a pound of chocolate on my desk!  Yay V-Day!)!!