Well-known activist Marian Wright Edelman once said, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” The media has long been shaping society by showing people how they should be, feel and act.
Through commercials, television, movies, the news and music videos, gender stereotypes have been perpetuated and ingrained into the minds of Americans.
Jennifer Siebel Newsom is an advocate and documentary filmmaker who serves as the president and founder of the non-profit organization, The Representation Project.
Their mission, according to their website, is to “Inspire individuals and communities to challenge and overcome limiting stereotypes so that everyone, regardless of gender, race, class, age, sexual orientation, or circumstance, can fulfill their human potential.”
Sonoma State University will be hosting Newsom at the Weill Hall on April 25 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are free for students and can be found online, at the box office, or in the student center.
One of the first projects Newsom was involved in was the making the documentary “Miss Representation.” This film reveals how the mainstream media contributes to the under-representation of women in positions of power. It also dives into the way media sexualizes women and girls which leads to a society believing that a woman’s value comes from her bodies and not her mind.
In an interview for “Perspectives,” when asked what she hoped people would get out of watching the documentary Newsom said, “I wanted people to realize and recognize their power as consumers, employees, and citizens. There is power with the purse. I wanted women and men in business to recognize that the culture needs to change.”
More recently, Newsom has started working on another documentary called The Mask You Live In. This film takes a look at masculine identity and asks the question, “Is society failing our boys?”
The production team tackles how society and the media have created this ideal masculinity that results in boys feeling as though they cannot feel safe being their true selves because they have to fit the masculine persona.
Newsom will be coming as a part of the university’s ‘Women in Leadership’ series. Her talk is called “Redefining Leadership” and she will be giving insight into her organization and the problems of society that she is passionate about.
“I hope that [students] go with an open mind and go with the perspective that media and the use of images has a very strong impact on today’s culture,” said Methods of Media Criticism professor, Nathan Murray.
Murray is offering extra credit to his students who attend the lecture due to its relevance to his course and the importance of the lessons Newsom will be providing.
“I am mainly aware of her projects through her website and I feel her organization is informative and refreshing with a more critical way to look at media,” Murray said.
Students can take action and join the movement through a variety of ways. On their website there is an option to donate money that will go towards the organization and their ability to spread more awareness and fight the social injustice.
There are also four social media campaigns where people can use #MediaWeLikeIt or #NotBuyingIt to celebrate the brands with a good message or to call out the bad. They can also use the hastag #BuildingConfidence which is a campaign for empowering parents, mentors and caregivers to be positive role models. The #AskHerMore campaign is to point out how sexist reporters need to focus more on asking about women’s achievements.
The final campaign Newsom is running is #Unmasked to bring awareness to what it means to be a man by showing examples of healthy masculinity.
Students can take the pledge to join the fight on their website at therepresentationproject.org.