Miss Representation premiered at Sundance in 2011, and within months, the film's trailer was spreading virally among my female college friends as part of a gender equality call-to-action campaign. In the documentary, Jennifer Siebel Newsom takes on the media for its overwhelming emphasis on a woman's beauty, youth and sexuality rather than on her capacity for leadership. Newsom uses startling statistics, along with moving first-person interviews of teenage girls and women in the spotlight, to show how much women's leadership potential is impeded by a media culture of photo manipulation and sexualized female portrayals.
A few scary facts: The United States is ranked 90th in the world for the number of women in national legislatures; women hold only three percent of leadership positions in mainstream media; 65 percent of women and girls suffer from disordered eating. This, Newsom rightly declares, is not acceptable. Condoleezza Rice, Nancy Pelosi, Katie Couric, Rachel Maddow, Gloria Steinem and others share their stories and call for women's empowerment in this moving film. —Emma D. Miller