Sick of being “miss represented”

I watched a video today that made me cry.

That’s saying something, because my tear ducts are fairly selective about who they work for. I didn’t even cry on The Lion King (and yes, I do have a heart, thank you very much).

But this video, a trailer for the film Miss Representation,  made me cry, in sadness and in anger. In desperation and in frustration. I sincerely hope you’ll take the time to watch it:

This video made me cry because it hit so close to home.

The video observes:

“Girls get the message from very early on that what’s most important is how they look…and boys get the message that this is what’s important about girls. So, no matter what else a woman does, no matter what else her achievements, their value still depends on how they look.”

As one young lady in the video says, with a hint of desperation in her voice, “There is no appreciation for woman intellectuals.”

I’m a 21 year old woman intellectual. I’ve made it through 3 years of college (thus far) in an intense degree program. I’ve won debate contests. I’ve written and presented research papers. I’ve had articles published. I want to write books. I want to get my PhD. I want to join the Peace Corps.

And yet, I still have to fight to get the world to appreciate my brain and not just my boobs.

From junior high, when I was told by several friends, “Sarah, you’re pretty. You could have so many boys if you didn’t act so smart and scare them away. You can be smart, just don’t act so smart.”

To the ex-boyfriend who convinced me that I was worthless so that he could treat me like a sex object.

To the Sunday School teacher who looked me in the eye and said, “Why are you even bothering to go to college? A woman’s place is in the home.”

To now, when I’m told fairly often, “Oh, you want to get your PhD? That’s good, because all the female professors I had in college were ugly. You’ll actually be a pretty one.”

I feel weighed down by the idea that my brains, my talents, my gifts and abilities are not enough–will never be enough. Unless I can get through another 10 grueling years of school and still look as young and pretty as I do now at age 21, unless I can somehow afford fashionable clothing, make-up, and hair-stylists on a graduate student’s salary…

It won’t matter.

To the world, I’ll just be another “ugly” professor.

I am sick of this. I am damn sick of this.

I’m sick of hearing people put down the intelligent, hard-working (and beautiful. More that just pretty) female professors that I look up to just because  those professors spend their time writing books and winning academic awards instead of getting their hair done and reading fashion magazines.

I’m sick of hearing news reporters ask Sarah Palin if she’s gotten breast implants (would a professional reporter ask Mitt Romney if he ever uses a penis pump? Didn’t think so) or compare Hilary Clinton to a nagging wife when she stands up for issues she cares about.

I’m sick of men being taught that their masculinity is at stake when women make achievements. I’m sick of men growing up to believe that the measure of their manhood is how much power they have over the women in their lives.

And I’m sick of the media– from magazines to music videos to the daily news–reinforcing all of these ideas.

I’m sick of this misrepresentation.

I’m ready for a change. Who’s with me?

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  • I have been told on numerous occasions that if I don’t a) wear makeup regularly, b) wear trendy clothes, or c) have a trendy haircut, I will never get a boyfriend, and for a long, long time, I thought I was weird for the intense gut reaction it would give me. I’d get worked up enough to cry, because, dang it all, I don’t WANT a trendy haircut! In other words, I’m with you all the way. I’ve got a whole lot more to offer than a painted face.

    • I cut my own hair with child’s safety scissors and I’ve managed to somehow get a boyfriend. haha.

      first of all, you don’t need a boyfriend to be awesome (that’s another stupid thing media likes to tell us)

      Second, a good boyfriend will appreciate you for you! not for your hair (and honestly, I doubt most men pay attention to a woman’s haircut. I don’t know many men who notice that sort of thing)

  • The entire Nilsen clan is with you!

  • Yes! I’ve seen this video re-posted in my facebook newsfeed and it’s great. (For many reasons, plus it reinforces my theory that A League of Their Own is the greatest movie of all time.)

    Thanks for your thoughts!

    • I’m not a sports fan, so it wasn’t a favorite of mine, but the world needs more movies like that with strong female leads who actually serve a purpose in the plot besides “dress in skimpy outfit and bring in male audience.”

  • Those junior high “friends” weren’t very smart. And if it’s any consolation, I’ve never heard anyone talk about female professors as if the only thing that mattered was their looks.

    I never wear makeup, and my most expensive haircut was a cut and dye job that cost $50 total. I did it because I felt like it. Oh and I’m married. So they clearly don’t know what they’re talking about.

    I thought the video was eye-opening…though, I have to admit, it really doesn’t bother me that much if women aren’t 51% of Congress. It seems silly to me to equate “equal representation” with “in order to be equally represented, Congress must match the demographic makeup of the US as a whole.” It would bother me if women were trying to run and somehow being kept from doing so. As far as I know that isn’t happening.

    What do you want to get your PhD in? I’ll be cheering you on. 🙂

    • oh – and I completely agree with you and the video on pretty much everything else.

    • I mostly agree with you on the congress thing too. Of course, it does bother me how many women feel they can’t run for congress, and it bothers me how the news media tends to treat female politicians.

      And I agree that my junior high friends were not very wise. I have a boyfriend who loves me because of my intelligence, and I couldn’t be happier.

      Right now I’m going for music history, but I’m thinking about changing that to women’s studies, or maybe I’ll do a combination of the two!

  • be yourself, don’t compromise, force the world to fit to you, don’t make yourself fit to the world

  • hell yeah. this movie has been on my mind constantly, and it’s all i can write about. we have so far to go and most people don’t even see the need.

    keep writing. keep fighting. xo

  • sounds all natural to me. don’t see why anyone would disagree.

    I’m with your here on my faraway continent!

  • You’re an excellent writer. Although I disagree with many aspects of this blog (I am NOT a feminist), I agree the female politicians should not have to put up with the criticism which they receive.

    • Indeed. I don’t think you have to be a huge feminist like myself to realize how wrongly women in our media are treated!

  • thanks Sarah! I often think that the problem mostly comes from women themselves – You wouldn’t believe the number of times I’ve had this conversation with a female, consultant doctor:
    Them: you should be a GP or an anaesthetist. They are good jobs for women.
    Me: I want to be a neurosurgeon, a neurologist, or a geriatrician.
    Them: but you should be an anaesthetist. It doesn’t matter how good you are at med school, or what interests you, what matters is picking a career that you can have a family around. Let the boys have the hard jobs.
    Me: …..sad face of being unable to beat sexism.

    Apparently although I’m one of the best in my class, have written research papers, and won prizes, medicine still wants me behind a stove so the lads who are less capable can look after the health of the nation. Reassuring.

    • Ah, that’s so sad that you’ve had to face that. Awesome of you to keep going despite all the resistance you’ve gotten! Inspiring.

      Sadly, it’s often women who discourage me as well. It saddens me that so many women think this way about their gender. It saddens me that so many women have been conditioned into thinking that women can only fulfill certain roles.