Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Remember the "Myth California" protests that sprang up in opposition to the Miss California pageant once held in Santa Cruz? Protesting the objectification of women's bodies as not only damaging to female self-esteem, but an invitation to violent sexual assault, activists paraded in front of the Civic dressed in gowns made out of raw meat or dragging bathroom scales chained to their ankles, wearing sashes that identified them as "Miss Used," "Miss Informed," or "Miss Steak."

That was in the early '80s (before the Miss California pageant finally fled Santa Cruz for the simpatico complacency of San Diego). But the spirit of outrage that fueled the "Myth California" activists continues to burn in the new film Miss Representation, a documentary by Jennifer Siebel Newsom that explores the distorted images of women that persist in the mainstream media.

The film presents a broad overview of the rampant sexualization of the female image at all levels of the media, combined with the systematic disrespecting of serious women who have managed to stake out a position of power. "Patriarchy is America's default setting," notes one observer. 30 years later, we still have a long way to go, baby.

Next Monday, Cabrillo College will host a screening of Miss Representation, free and open to the public. After the 90-minute film, a panel moderated by public policy veteran Rose Filicetti will lead the audience in a discussion of the issues it raises. Panelists include Mary Ann Thyken, Executive Director of Community TV, Dr. Ekua Omosupe, poet, Cabrillo Professor, and advocate for social justice, Cynthia Mathews, former Santa Cruz City Council member and three-time Mayor, Charlotte Achen, Cabrillo student body president, and me.

Showtime is 6 pm, Monday, April 30, at the Crocker Theater, Cabrillo College. Panel discussion begins at 7:30 pm. Admission is free.

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