Periodically, we’ll be bringing you stories from the front lines of our movement. Screening organizers help bring the message of Miss Representation to their communities. We’ve asked recent organizer Anna W. to get us started by sharing her experience. We look forward to sharing more inspiring stories like Anna’s!
“Modern teenagers divide our activities into two categories: things we want to do and things we feel obligated to do to impress people–the inevitable result of living for resumes and college applications.
That’s why it’s truly surprising and delightful to feel moved by one of your “resume-building activities.” Take it from me: an eye-opening film in good company followed by an enlightening (and enlightened) discussion is always worth the effort. Find a reason, any reason, to hold a screening of Miss Representation–you won’t regret it.
For me, the ‘resume-building activity’ in question was the Girl Scout Gold Award: what I generally have to refer to as the ‘girl’s equivalent of the Eagle’, because it seems that everyone seems to associate Boy Scouts with community service, and Girl Scouts with cookies. But that’s another blog post entirely.
My project is on female characters in young-adult targeted media, which intersects with many of the themes of Miss Representation.
I was already familiar with the film when I began working on my Gold, and I knew that it carried a message I could stand behind. But how would it be received in my small, conservative town of McMinnville, Tennessee? There was no way to know unless I tried. I have discovered that trying, no matter the outcome, is better than keeping to myself.
As I planned the screening, I quickly began to discover what works and what doesn’t. Here are my three big lessons learned:
Align yourself with teachers. All of the panel speakers at my screening were involved with the school system. I held a bake sale on Teacher Inservice Day and was amazed by the generosity.
Pound the pavement to promote your screening in-person. Word of mouth is the most efficient means of advertising. Tell your friends and family–they want to know what you’re up to and will be your strongest promoters and most reliable attendees.
The post-film discussion was what made the experience truly rewarding. I contacted female leaders in my community to lead a panel discussion of the film. I had the leader of our county’s Girl Scout unit, a professor of education, a Fulbright scholar, and a former Washington lobbyist–not an unimpressive group.
Everyone seemed to enjoy the film, laughing at the right times and letting the moving moments land. We began our talk with first impressions: surprising statistics in the film, effective interviews, and major takeaways. The panelists led at first, but were receptive to questions and comments from the crowd, which consisted mostly of teenagers.
From there the conversation flowed easily for nearly two hours. The dialogue between panelists and audience covered topics such as superhero movies, girls in STEM fields, and the hot topic of high school dress codes. Near the end, the discussion became emotional as we shared our personal and direct experiences with sexism.
What did we all take away from the evening? Memories of a quality film. A few brownies, hopefully. Most importantly, the knowledge that there are successful women who have gone through exactly what we’re going through, and who are willing to help us now. We have to to stand our ground together. There are allies everywhere, if we only look.”