Women’s Stories Weekly

Melissa Harris-Perry Talks w/Margaret Cho & Jenn Pozner

WATCH the full discussion on the MHP Show page at MSNBC.com.

In case you missed it on Sunday of this week, professor and new politics & culture talk show host, Melissa Harris-Perry (of the show “Melissa Harris-Perry” on MSNBC) had an incredibly refreshing and of course, intelligent, conversation about feminism, bullying, young people’s & LGBT teens’ self-esteem, and unrealistic media representations with one of my long-time heroines, Margaret Cho (@margaretcho), and someone I’ve just recently come to know (via twitter &  her website) and admire, Jennifer Pozner.

In case you don’t know who Margaret Cho is, where have you been living?  She’s a brilliant comedienne, activist, writer, actress, cultural critic and dare I say, a public intellectual (in the traditional, non-academic kind of way that existed before about 1950, and not the professor-turned-pundit way we think of public intellectuals today).  Jennifer Pozner came into the discussion a bit later and lent her expertise.  She’s founder and executive director of Women in Media & News (and tweets @jennpozner).

Melissa Harris-Perry Show w/guest Margaret Cho (Pt. 1 of 2)

It was so exciting to see and listen to, and if you saw the Her Film twitter feed from Sunday, you knew I was so happy to see it that I was practically up on my couch dancing around.  Like I said then, when was the last time you saw three women sit around a table on national television and have an intelligent discussion of feminist issues?  Thank you, MSNBC, for the MHP Show, what an amazing contribution to politics and cultural discourse!  Watch it on Saturday and Sunday mornings from 10AM-12noon on MSNBC.

MHP Show w/guests Margaret Cho & Jenn Pozner (Pt. 2 of 2)


CNN Blog Gives Lengthy Attention to Miss Representation

Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s latest documentary film, Miss Representation, which premiered on OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network) in November 2011 continues to pick up steam.  It has screened in dozens of venues across most U.S. states, and CNN explores the film’s content, people who’ve lent their names to it (being interviewed for the film, such as Rachel Maddow, Rosario Dawson, Jennifer Pozner, Geena Dvais, Hillary Clinton, Gloria Steinem, Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker, and many more people), and talks about recent screenings at Auburn University in Alabama, Emory University in Atlanta, and Sistah Cinema in Seattle.

Also mentioned is the documentary America the Beautiful and its follow-up America the Beautiful 2: The Thin Commandments.  These films delve into the gross and offensive ways of representing girls and women in the media, and Miss Representation has a pretty stellar action and education campaign underway that includes ways to battle against negative images on a daily basis as well as mentor a girl you know to provide her with alternatives when it comes to internalizing these negative images.  You can take the pledge by clicking here.


ITVS Holds Month-Long Women and Girls Lead Online Film Fest

Thanks to The Mary Sue: a guide to girl geek culture (an awesome site), I heard of the Independent Television Service’s month-long online film festival this March, so this week we’ve landed in the middle of it but not to worry, there are still 14 days left in the month.  You can watch 11 different documentaries about women and girls by both female and male directors, including Abigail Disney’s brilliant series (recently aired on PBS), Women, War & Peace, along with We Still Live Here – Âs Nutayuneân (by Anne Makepeace) about the Massachusetts Wampanoag nation and its attempts to save their language, Taking Root: The Vision of Wangari Maathai (by Lisa Merton and Alan Dater) about the Nobel Peace Prize winner and activist who recently passed away, and several more.  Take a look at The Mary Sue’s article about two of the films, and then visit the Women and Girls Lead Online Film Festival site.


New Doc Tells Story of Women in Japan After 2011 Disaster

Filmmaker and journalist, Kyoko Gasha, will be screening her new documentary, Never Surrender at the Women Make Waves Film Festival in Taiwan this weekend, and will screen in several other countries this year.  Her documentary focuses on the strength of Japanese women during the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster and the reconstruction that’s currently happening.  Gasha understands disaster, and understands evacuation; in 2011, she had to evacuate her New York City home after the September 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.  After spending 10 days in northeastern Japan and interviewing 50 people, Gasha has come away with a documentary that shares something about the process of rebuilding a life.  Kyoko Gasha is planning on following the stories of these women for years to come.  Read the entire article on Focus Taiwan News Channel.


WIFT UAE Launches Short Film Fest About Muslim Women

The recently formed United Arab Emirates chapter of Women in Film and Television has partnered with Women’s Voices Now to put on a three-day short film festival called “Women’s Voices from the Muslim World.”  The festival was on this week in Abu Dhabi, UAE.  The line-up includes films from the UAE, Afghanistan, Indonesia, the U.S., Turkey, China and Iran, and screenings are followed by panels with several of the filmmakers whose shorts are screening.  For more information on WIFT UAE, check out the website here.

Take the Miss Representation Pledge

As evidenced on twitter, discussion (#missrep) about Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s new film MISS REPRESENTATION is trending.  The film premiered last night on OWN (Oprah Winfrey’s new television network).


“I pledge to use my voice to spread the message of Miss Representation and challenge the media’s limiting portrayal of women and girls”

Please take the pledge and embrace this mission to counterract the extraordinary imbalance in gender representation in the media, politics and other arenas.  Whether you’re a man or a woman, a girl or a boy, we all have the power to make a positive change, even if it means just turning off the television when something offensive is being aired.  The discussion following the film, hosted by Rosie O’Donnell, showed that there is also a need for discourse around issues of race and gender — an interested audience member brought this up — and also a need to recognize the positive and cultural-shifting work being done by groups trying to change the way the media portrays gender — brought up by another interested audience member.  It’s not only girls and women, but boys and men who also experience the unrealistic and violent expectations placed upon them — Cory Booker (mayor of Newark, New Jersey) talked in the film about how a woman called his attention to this issue.

Inspiring, horrifying, encouraging all at the same time, I appreciate and value the exposure this serious issue of misrepresentation and underrepresentation of girls and women in the media and positions of influence and power is receiving.  Oprah says on one of her network’s ads that she wants to “do for documentaries what the book club has done for books.”  She’s well on her way to doing that, showing women’s lives and facilitating discussion, and we need that now more than ever!


When you pledge, you are sent these suggestions, which you can start putting into action now even without taking the pledge — but please, do TAKE THE PLEDGE.  Participating makes a huge difference.  There is power in numbers.  Let’s stand up and represent!

1. Tell 5 people about the film and share one thing you learned from watching it.

2. Parents- watch TV and films with your children.  Raise questions like “What if that character had been a girl instead?”

3. Remember your actions influence others. Mothers, aunts and loved ones- don’t downgrade or judge yourself by your looks. Fathers, uncles and loved ones—treat women around you with respect.  Remember children in your life are watching and learning from you.

4. Use your consumer power. Stop buying tabloid magazines and watching shows that degrade women. Go see movies that are written and directed by women (especially on opening weekend to boost the box office ratings). Avoid products that resort to sexism in their advertising.

5. Mentor others! It’s as easy as taking a young woman to lunch. Start by having open and honest conversations with a young person in your life.

Watch filmmaker Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s TED talk at TEDx Event earlier this year.


(The importance of being active participants in the media was also briefly brought up in the discussion following the film last night.  Inspired by Occupy Wall Street, I want to start a movement of women & girls to OCCUPY THE MEDIA.)

Women’s stories this week

Magnolia Pictures picked up writer-director Sarah Polley’s latest film, Take This  Waltz, for U.S. distribution beginning summer 2012.  Polley’s film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September.  Read Katherine Monk’s article here, an interview with Polley in the Toronto Star, and a video of her at The Globe and Mail talking about the film.  Visit the film’s website for more information.

Finnish director Zaida Bergroth wins the Gold Hugo in the New Directors competition at the Chicago International Film Festival for her feature film The Good Son.  The fest states that Bergroth’s film provides “real psychological insight.” Read my review of it here (third film listed) that I wrote after seeing a screening at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival.  Visit the film’s website here and click on “English” at the bottom to get a translation.

Mohamed Diab’s film Cairo 678 about the sexual harassment of women in Egypt received the Silver Hugo in the festival’s International Feature Film competition.  I wrote about this movie in conjunction with the 20th anniversary of Anita Hill’s testimony on Monday of this week.  Read the piece here and watch a trailer for the film.  Visit the film’s website here.

Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s documentary Miss Representation on media misrepresentation of women and the dearth of women in positions of influence and power screens tonight on OWN at 9:00 PM (EST).  It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.

The second film in the Women, War & Peace series on PBS, “Pray the Devil Back to Hell” aired on Tuesday night.  This film shows the power of Liberian women to band together to demand an end to war and the creation of peace.  The Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Leymah Gbowee, was prominently featured through both interviews and video footage shot during the war in Liberia.

Watch “Pray the Devil Back to Hell” online at PBS.

The next film in the series will be “Peace Unveiled” about women in Afghanistan (airing Tuesday, October 25 on PBS affiliate stations in the U.S.)  Check your local listings.