Monday, November 19, 2012

Male Involvement in the Feminist Site Miss Representation

Male Involvement in the Feminist Site Miss Representation

A Guest Post By: Kelly Hynes


Pictured above is Rosie the Riveter morphed into a technology oriented version to represent women empowerment in the media. This new Rosie is the symbol for the feminist site that strives to empower women by pointing out misrepresentations of females in the media. (2011) was created by Jennifer Siebel Newsome and has been very successful in gaining credibility and positively affecting females. However, they have left out a crucial aspect needed to fully achieve equality; involving and educating males about feminism.
            The site Miss Representation is a direct result of discrimination in today’s world and people banding together to set it right. The website exposes how the media has further contributed to the distortion of female image and provides a curriculum for spreading their knowledge on how to breakthrough gender barriers. Research I have done on the site implies male inclusion in the feminist movement progresses slowly because feminists do not think to involve males or do not know how.
             Making the site look professional is essential to having Miss Representation taken seriously since feminism is often ridiculed in society. Jonathan Crowe explains why feminism is often mocked in “Men and Feminism: Some Challenges and A Partial Response”(2011). He says many men are used to being the center of societal topics and when presented with feminist ideas they feel threatened because in their minds since it is not for them, it must be against men (1).
   creates a wide network to expand their feminist group and prevent further female misrepresentation through communication on their many social networking sites, selling their curriculum to universities and schools, and Miss Representation members hosting film screenings.

On the “Education” page shown above, says the program has been made into several different versions for every age level and can be taught to males and females (Newsome). However, I noticed the curriculum rarely discusses males and the site even states it is mainly focused on how females are affected by the media. This could be because the curriculum creators do not know how to incorporate males into the curriculum, but to reach their young female target audience some male inclusion was necessary.

The preview for the movie shows many famous and intelligent professional women talking about females being misrepresented in the media, with very little male involvement (Newest Miss Representation Trailer (2011 Sundance Film Festival Official Selection)).
            On the site, males are noticeably excluded in many topics pertaining to equality among genders, which in itself seems contradictory.  It makes sense for males to be discussed on the education page, even if nowhere else, because on this page they are looking to sell their curriculum to schools, universities, and libraries. This is crucial because most schools are co-ed and a curriculum could not be sold to a public school if it was only viable for female students. By saying females as well as males will benefit from their curriculum they have broadened their audience without really including men in feminism (Newsome). Male exclusion is also directly visible on the entire Miss Representation site. Out of every main page or tab on the site there are only about two pictures of males and the other pictures were professional women working together towards equality, not women and men.
From this analysis I have concluded that is struggling to incorporate males because they are not sure how to connect males to feminism. Furthering this idea is the section “Media We Like” on the “Take Action” page. Here, a few strong female characters are shown and the author asks if the viewers know any strong females in the media. It is never questioned if we know a show or movie that equally represents genders and has strong female and male characters. In “Taking ‘Difference’ Seriously: Feminisms And The ‘Man Question’” (2007) Hebert claims that the reason males are left out is because of “a lack of lived experience of oppression as a ‘woman’ and continued skepticism among some feminists of men’s motivation in aligning with feminism” which has prevented them from being actual role players in the feminist movement (5). This could be why Miss Representation is having trouble incorporating men into feminism.
            The idea that males are not affected by media misrepresentation like women are can be disproved by Dunn and Guadagno’s article about gaming avatars and how gamers do not create their avatar solely around what they truly look like. In “My avatar and me – Gender and personality predictors of avatar-self discrepancy” (2012) Robert Andrew Dunn and Rosanna E. Guadagno explain that “the real person generally chooses an avatar that is somewhere between a para-authentic avatar and an alter-self avatar” (2). This “alter self” could be the product of media misrepresentations through the formation of what gamers of both genders deem a perfect person based on what they see presented in the media. Furthermore, in “The Proteus Effect: Implications of Transformed Digital Self-Representation on Online and Offline Behavior” (2009) Nick Yee et al. illustrate that “studies have shown that people infer their expected behaviors and attitudes from observing their avatar’s appearance” (1). This article shows how gamers of each gender tend to act accordingly to what they see, similar to how problems such as eating disorders have evolved from media misrepresentations.
            Despite the fact that females do need to know how to stand up against falsification in the media, women empowerment will be an incomplete effort if females are the only ones who understand why media misrepresentation is bad. Without having support from males, feminism cannot fully move forward because equality cannot be reached by creating more tension between genders. For instance, if men keep disregarding feminism because they feel threatened by it no progress will be made. On the other hand, if females do not allow for male involvement, feminism will move past equality and create the same problem they are trying to fix. Supporting this is a quote from Laura Hebert’s student who considered herself to be a feminist. The student stated “I don’t like how feminists tend to exclude some people, mainly men. Because the fact is, we can’t go it alone” she was unsure whether or not she was really a feminist because many feminist tend to exclude men when discussing equality (2). Opposing this thought is the fact that men cannot be included unless they want to be and are willing to care about feminist issues (Crowe 4).
            I have found it is a common belief among most people that men are the conspirators responsible for creating misrepresentations of women in the media. This statement is directly backed up by Crowe when he says “men are responsible for the continuing oppression of women —and until they grasp this responsibility they will always have trouble engaging with the feminist project” (2). He believes men have trouble participating in feminism because they feel they are being blamed for something they did not do. In addition, a blog post I analyzed from MissRepresentation gives support to this idea.
  This offensive product subconsciously tells females that males are the reason they are misrepresented because the second to last paragraph states the two male founders name. In reality both genders create misrepresentations, but men tend to be blamed more often.
       During all discussion of female misrepresentation there is a weak endeavor to include males. I think feminists are struggling to believe males are a part of the movement, because they are partly the reason why females have been underrepresented, or they are not actually thinking of equality, but only women empowerment.
         I suggest MissRepresentation focus on finding ways to include men in the movement while continuing to empower women. Additional male involvement in the curriculum and providing more discussion on how men are misrepresented will allow for a smooth transition into male inclusion. Furthermore, teaming up with a site such as XY will help to include male feminists in the movement.


  1. Kelly, you might also be interested in reading this blog post, since it both discusses the experience men have with unrealistic representations and the way the broader feminist community responds to their experience. The comments illustrate the integration troubles that you blog about at the commentators discuss how/why/when to address men:

    "... should we really be sneering and rolling our eyes at this just because women are targeted more frequently and in different ways? Why isn't it "Dudes, see? We TOLD you this obsession with the perfect body as dictated by pop culture and the media is emotionally and physically unhealthy. Let's join forces to start presenting a united front from both sides of the coin against it"? As someone who has struggled with her weight and body image her entire life, somehow I don't think dismissing someone else's distress just because you feel you have (rightly or wrongly) experienced more of it is any sort of positive solution."

    --Prof. Bates

  2. I found an article from the New York Times, Feminism of the Future Relies on Men, that argues that the future of feminism is in the hands of men. In it it brings up how motherhood is a "barrier to gender equality." I was wondering if in your research you found any other "barriers" like this one in your research, and if you completely disagree with the points made by the article about men being responsible for the future of feminism based on your topic?

  3. Another link that might prove interesting...
    I was looking online when I stumbled upon this website:

    It is a wordpress blog entitled "Digital Sisterhood Network: Celebrating Women in Social Media. It seems to be in line with what you point out in your own post. Looking through the "network," women (I am assuming) share things they find interesting and want to point out to other women on the blog. It even boasts an acronym of the word "FEMINISM." I find it interesting, I think you would too...

  4. I definitely find this topic intriguing and relatable! I think it is easy to blame men for media misrepresentation of women, but we often don't realize that they have the same problem! Its no wonder steroid use is becoming more prevalent with stores such as Hollister displaying huge photos of muscular men, even putting them on shopping bags! Even on Pinterest, women make boards completely dedicated to pictured of attractive men, such as this board I ogle over these photos just as much as the next girl, but when you really think about it, it's all a vicious cycle! Women create idolized pictures of men in our heads, and then we see ourselves as unworthy to be with someone that attractive, so we put pressure on ourselves to be the "perfect woman", creating self-esteem issues galore! When will it end?

  5. I think that perhaps the reason why men aren't represented in feminist arguments is perhaps because some women wouldn't want them there? I don't necessarily believe this, but I would think that some women don't think men have a place trying to argue for their rights when they're the ones who've oppressed women this whole time, and perhaps they'd think it hypocritical to be supporting women in their struggle. I think men do have a place in the feminist movement, however, and that they should be better represented.

  6. Here's my post to everyone!


    The basic “barriers” that were discussed throughout the articles I read were man-made barriers such as ads that put down the opposite gender and misrepresentations in the media, along with everyday gender stereotypes. I do believe men are very important in feminism being completely successful and not just a partial effort, but I don’t think they are the whole future. Women can move past “barriers” and empower themselves. Without the involvement of men though it may be difficult to achieve the same status they strive towards in society.


    I agree, this blog does seem interesting. From the title "Digital Sisterhood Network: Celebrating Women in Social Media” it is already leaning more towards women than men and women. Also it seems to be unsuccessful to actually include males in practice on the site like Miss Representation.


    Wow! You really stated that very well and even further opened my eyes, I had not even thought about the increase of steroid use and how it relates to this topic. Very interesting! Your post very much reminds me of the blog Below the Salt and the post about Sexism. The author discusses a male digital retoucher who realizes his poor career choice and the negative affect it could have for his daughters, but never mentions any ways it could affect his sons.


    I completely agree, while there are women such as on miss representation who try to include men and I’m sure there are some who have successfully included men there are still feminist’s who completely blame men for the misrepresentation of women. Although that may have been how it was in the past, we are in a new time and there are men who believe in equality. Also, there are women who misrepresent women and men, that is something that cannot be denied.