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Media Action Media sparks a Canadian conversation on media representation of women

December 20th, 2012     by Guest Blogger     Comments

By Layla Cameron

The media, in all of its forms, defines and constrains who women are, what they can be, and what they look like.

As most women live outside of these constructions, these media images and representations are incredibly damaging on both an individual and societal level.

That’s where the REPRESENT. project steps in.

REPRESENT. is the latest initiative from Media Action Media, an organization that seeks to promote gender equity for women-identified individuals through media criticism and activism.

The idea propelling the project is summed up in its tagline: “the girls we know don’t look like the girls on TV. They’re too diverse, creative and complex to look like what we see in mainstream media. We think the media are missing out.”

REPRESENT. blends both public awareness and activism in its three project elements: a video contest, a campus action kit, and a combined media forum and film festival scheduled for March 2013 in Toronto.

The video contest is accepting three-minute video submissions, challenging one or more harmful representations of women in the media.

These videos will serve as educational tools for Canadian media producers. A panel of diverse media-makers have agreed to review each video submission and their feedback will be shared at the REPRESENT. Women & Media Forum and Film Festival in March.

Some compelling video submissions have already been received. As well, the project’s champions have made a number of heartfelt and provoking videos. Up and coming Canadian band Three Little Birds filmed a video discussing media representations of women in the music industry.

REPRESENT. 3-Minute Video Contest winners will receive prize packages designed for up-and-coming media-makers who intend to continue working to spark change.

As well, REPRESENT. action kits are intended to help post-secondary campus groups initiate community projects and discussions promoting gender equity in the media. The kits include poster templates and interactive media literacy workshops and activities. Workshop topics range from challenging damaging media representations of indigenous women in Canada, to involving men in critical discussions on women’s representation in the media.

And finally, the two-day long media forum and film festival will showcase winning video submissions, as well as short and feature films made about media representation and other pieces produced by women filmmakers. It will also include panel discussions and workshops on subjects stemming from video contest submissions.

Media Action Media, first started as Media Watch, is a project-based volunteer-run organization that was founded in the 1990s in response to the lack of women media producers and contributors, as well as the abundance of poor and degrading representations of women in popular media.

The REPRESENT. project was created after Media Action Media and Equal Voice co- produced a screening of the documentary Miss Representation. The discussions after the film made it clear that a similarly provoking project, in a Canadian context, was needed and very much in demand.

Now it’s your turn.

Make a video, bring the REPRESENT. project to your campus or community, have a conversation about what you see in the media and how it affects you!

While REPRESENT. was designed to deal specifically with media representations of women-identified individuals, we acknowledge that those with trans* and gender non-conforming identities have and continue to be marginalized and misrepresented in the media. We encourage everyone in Canada to participate in REPRESENT. by entering our Video Contest or organizing a REPRESENT. community action event. As the REPRESENT. model develops, we will continue to expand our outreach to new partners and communities in an effort to broaden the scope and inclusivity of our project work.

If you are interested in a collaboration with REPRESENT. please contact

Three Little Birds Video Transcription

Hi! We’re Three Little Birds, and you’re watching a REPRESENT. video about the popular image of women in the music industry. Big breasts. Sexy dance moves. Wearing almost nothing. Passive. Skinny. Horny. There’s more emphasis on their bodies than on the women themselves or whether they have anything intelligent to say.

And this image of women affects every single woman in relation to how they see their body image and how they are in relationships with other people. A lot of this comes from what is presented in the media as “normal relationships”, which are actually abusive.

Hey babe, you wanna ride? Mamasita! Nice tits!

All three members of Three Little Birds have experienced various forms of sexual abuse. Women are often presented as two-dimensional, very over-sexualized objects. We decided to write a song about this to get over our feelings of shame and to regain our sense of empowerment.

A lot of young women have a really hard time accepting their own unique beauty. We’re often presented with magazine images of celebrity culture and of articles - how to do our make-up. The general emphasis is on our appearance and not on how we can form deep relationships with ourselves or with the people around us.

So this drive to achieve this ridiculous idea of beauty comes from the people than can make money from the advertisements, the music videos and all the images of women in the media. People can make money off of men and women’s insecurities. People feel bad about themselves and they’re told they need that…vagina rejuvenation surgery, or the lastest Justin Bieber perfume. Then, you know what? They’ll buy it, just to feel good about themselves.

But is that really what we want? And if it’s not, how do we change it?

Right now, as women in the music industry, we can make a lot of money displaying ourselves as sexual objects. We all have control over how we’re presenting ourselves. We can choose to emphasize our sexuality, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but we can also present a more diverse picture of ourselves. We would rather portray a more holistic image of ourselves in the media, so we feel that we need to change the system to one that values this diversity.

We’re already fine the way we are.

(Credits) (Bloopers)

Hey baby, wanna ride? can choose to over-emphasize our sexuali… [laughs] Vagina rejuvenation. Vagina rejuvenation. Vag…can’t believe I’m saying this over and over.

Tags: guest blogs, media savvy

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