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Last night I attended a UK screening of Miss Representation Jennifer Siebel Newsom‘s documentary that looks at how the US media portrays women and young girls. This event was hosted by Women in Film and TV and Amnesty International UK.

Just watch the trailer and you’ll get a taste of the heart-lurching-lump-in-your-throat feeling that this film evokes. The opening still displays a quote from Alice Walker “The most common way that people give up their power is by thinking that they don’t have any”. This is followed by a montage of sexualised, violent and demeaning images of women cut between quotes from contributors about the media’s treatment and representation of women and the impact on society. From the start, you know that this is a campaigning film, designed to provoke its audience into action.

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Last Friday I attended a half day conference ‘Media and Mother’s matters’ hosted by Dr Oluyinka Esan at Winchester University. I have to admit, I was a bit grudging about this conference. The thought of scrabbling /begging to find an extra day’s childcare for Freddy to attend what I thought might turn into a group rant about how bad TV was for young minds did not seem like my number one priority (sorry Oluyinka). But I was completely wrong. The conference included fantastic presentations by among others the legendary Professor Dorothy Hobson whose keynote speech covered the entry of mothers into the workplace, the link between the economy and policy on mothers in the UK, the representation of mothers and mothering on UK soap operas including the audience reaction to the Kat / Ronnie cot death storyline in EastEnders were outrage from real mothers on the inappropriateness of the story caused production to rethink and rewrite. She also spoke about the criticism faced by working media mothers including foreign correspondent Alex Crawford who has been singled out as a war reporter with children when she makes the point that she is surrounded by men in war-torn areas who also have kids but do not receive the level of condemnation that she is subject to. Hobson spoke of the normative constructions of motherhood that have become embedded in our society today and the lack of realistic portrayals of mothering on our screens. She celebrated the Channel Four documentary ‘One Born Every Minute’ for it’s realistic portrayal of both the ordinary and miraculous reality of childbirth.

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