By Pem McNerney

Anyone concerned about the media’s portrayal of women needed to look no further than Connecticut, where the local FOX-TV affiliate recently covered Women’s Day at the state Capitol. The event, organized by the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women to mark four decades of the battle against gender discrimination, was covered by CT FOX-TV with video footage made up entirely of close-ups of women’s breasts.

That was pretty much it.

Just women’s breasts.

Exposing the coverage for what it is … distorted, misleading and absurd

Not the women’s shoulders, or heads. And certainly not any of the thoughts in the heads of those women. Just their breasts. About 13 seconds worth of close-ups.

CT FOX-TV apparently apologized on Twitter, and then ran the exact same footage about an hour later, says this report in the Huffington Post. It’s just one example of the “war on women,” the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women said following the coverage.

And that’s the kind of coverage that Beth Crowley, the head librarian at Scranton Memorial Library, and Taffy Bowes, assistant director of Madison Youth and Family Services, hope will be exposed for what it is during an upcoming showing of the movie MissRepresentation.

Movie will be followed by moderated community discussion

The movie will be shown on Monday March 18th at 6:30 p.m. and will be followed by a community/panel discussion led by Bowes, Crowley, and Frank Henderson, principal of Walter C. Polson Middle School. Admission is free and parents and children, 14 years old and older, are invited to attend.

Registration is encouraged:

The library provided this synopsis of the movie:

Premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, MissRepresentation is written and directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom and exposes how mainstream media contribute to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America. The film challenges the media’s limited and often disparaging portrayals of women and girls, which make it difficult for women to achieve leadership positions and for the average woman to feel powerful herself.

If you’ve spent any time middle school students, you’ll know how important this movie is …

Anyone who’s visited the halls of Polson Middle School while classes are changing will know this is an important movie. There are children in all different stages of physical and intellectual development, some of whom have already opted in to the message that sex sells and that females derive power primarily from their sexuality. The opt-in is conveyed by what some of these children wear, how they walk, how they interact with their peers, and how they talk.

The film addresses not only the hyper-sexualization of youth and women, but also the negative portrayal of women leaders and women in general in the media.

“With men it’s ‘he said,'” Crowley said. “With women it’s, ‘she complained.'”

“What messages am I telling myself and where did it come from?”

Bowes said school administrators and parents alike often struggle with a “that’s just the way it is” attitude among children and teens in town.

“I think this movie is an important way to teach kids about media literacy,” Crowley said. “We can’t get rid of it. But we can help teach boys and girls how to interpret and assess this information. We want kids to say, ‘what messages am I telling myself and where did it come from?'”

Bowes admitted that can be hard, for anyone, but particularly for young teens. “It’s like asking a fish to describe water,” she said. “It’s all around them.” Bowes and Crowley said they hoped the movie will help teens and their parents sort out the inaccurate, misleading and damaging messages, and refocus on information and messages that empower and convey women in a positive, accurate light.

About this column: Around Town is an occasional column about what’s going on around Madison. If you have an idea for a column, or would like to write one, please let us know! Contact Pem at

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