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Miss Representation: empowering women in the media

Sophomore Mariah Taylor is on a mission.

Miss Representation has made Rosie the Riveter, the icon of women’s ecomonic empowerment during WWII, their mascot. (Source: Wiki Commons)

It’s one with a message older than Mills College itself, one that would make Rosie the Riveter proud: to bring equality and economic power to women everywhere.

After seeing the trailer for Miss Representation, a documentary about how the media’s disparaging portrayal of women hinders their ability to become leaders, Taylor knew what she had to do: bring the film to the Mills community and its East Oakland neighbors.

“It’s important for every woman… to see this film, so they can go out and make a change,” Taylor said, “so media will change.”

Taylor has become one of many who have joined the movement that Miss Representation has sparked. After it was released in 2011, the documentary’s writer and director Jennifer Siebel Newsom started a call-to-action campaign ( to bring women together and facilitate change.

According to the film’s website, “ is igniting a cross-generation movement to awaken people’s consciousness to recognize the true value of women, change the way women and girls are represented in the media, interrupt and stop patterns of sexism, and ensure a tipping point that will lead to gender parity in leadership throughout the United States.”

Inspired by the movement, Taylor, a biology major and economics minor, decided to do her part by organizing a campus film screening open to the East Oakland community, complete with refreshments and a panel of Mills students and media professionals, including Patrice Scanlon, Mills’ AV Technical Director of Media Arts, for a post-screening discussion.

So far, Bay Area screenings have either been held as private events, or came with an admission fee. But Taylor wants to make sure that this event is free so those who have not had the opportunity to see it yet can.

“We need more women in [positions of power] so the media can see that we are here and we are powerful and smart,” Taylor said. “Once we can show [them this], the media will change and portray women as strong leaders, which will influence the youth to go on and continue this strength they see.”

Supporting Taylor is the co-sponsorship of three student clubs: Tuesday’s Club, APISA and MECHA, all of whom are working to plan the event by dividing up the tasks associated with it—organizing the panel, creating flyers and visiting local schools.

Though the film features interviews with successful women journalists, politicians, entertainers and academics, its major focus is interviews with teenage girls who struggle under the bright lights of the media, and statistics that show how these struggles are manifested in their lives.

“The number of cosmetic surgical procedures performed on youth 18 or younger more than tripled from 1997 and 2007,” the film reports. And “the US has the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the industrialized world.”

With this in mind, Taylor and other Mills students plan to visit the 18 junior high and high schools within a one-mile radius of Mills to inform them about the film and invite them to the screening.

“The movie is for the youth” Taylor said, “so I want there to be a place where junior high and high school students can see it and be inspired.”

The proposed cost of the event was $600: $350 for the rights to the film, and the rest for flyers, refreshments, and transportation for some of the proposed panel participants, Taylor said. She turned to the Associated Students of Mills College (ASMC) to ask for special funding on Feb 6 and was awarded $550 the following day. She immediately bought the rights to the film and began planning.

“Now we can work to change the injustices,” Taylor said.

The event will take place March 15 from 6:30-8:30pm in the Student Union. To view the trailer for the film or join the campaign, visit