October 19, 2012

Panel to discuss portrayal of women in media

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A documentary and panel discussion next week at SIU Carbondale will examine the portrayal of women in the media and political campaigns.

The event will include screening a portion of the 2011 documentary "Miss Representation," a film that looks at how the mainstream media's portrayal of women contributes to challenges women face in gaining leadership and influence in society.

The screening and panel discussion is from 5-6:30 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 23, in Morris Library's John C. Guyon Auditorium.

The Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, University Women's Professional Advancement, and the SIU Carbondale Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program are event sponsors. The event is part of the Institute's "Women in Politics" series.

The event is free, and the public is welcome to attend, but Institute officials encourage registration to help ensure food orders. To register, contact Emily Burke, Institute program coordinator, at 618/453-4004, by email at eburke@siu.edu, or on the Institute's Facebook page.

Panelists will include SIU Chancellor Rita Cheng; Lisa Brooten, associate professor in the Department of Radio-Television; Melinda Yeomans, coordinator, University Women's Professional Advancement, and David Yepsen, Institute director. Janet Fuller, director of the Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program at SIU Carbondale will serve as moderator.

"The way women are characterized in the media and in political campaigns can be trivializing and demeaning," Yepsen said. "This documentary explores why that happens and what might be done about it.

"It's a real problem because it discourages women from running for office, makes it more difficult to win, and often stereotypes them as sex objects or sees them treated differently than male candidates," he said.

The event fits well with the Institute's mission, which includes focusing on encouraging women to enter politics and public service, Yepsen said.

"Given all the problems we face in our society we can't afford to sideline half the population because of gender bias or stereotyping," he said. "We need everybody working and contributing to a better world."

The 90-minute documentary debuted at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. Written, directed and produced by Jennifer Siebol Newsom, the film addresses problems that arise from the media's portrayal of women. The documentary features interviews from high-profile women including Condoleezza Rice, Katie Couric, Gavin Newsom, Cory Booker, Dianne Feinstein, and Rachel Maddow, and has aired on OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network.