Founder and CEO of MissRepresentation.org, Jennifer Siebel Newsom reflects on her amazing and inspiring year…
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead
As we approach the end of the year, I want to take this time to reflect on just how amazing 2011 has really been.
At this time a year ago we had just found out my film Miss Representation was accepted into the Sundance Film Festival, and that I was pregnant with my second child – a son. As you can imagine, we were all filled with much excitement, but also anxiety.
I didn’t really anticipate the kind of reaction the film would receive, or how my life would change within the next few months. But once I saw the lines outside Miss Representation screenings at Sundance, heard the audiences cheer, and Oprah Winfrey approached us to purchase the broadcast rights, I knew we were at the beginning of something bigger than just a documentary.
Fast forward to October and we had assembled a small full-time team, filed for non-profit status as MissRepresentation.org, and were gearing up for our US national broadcast premiere on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network. We were also in the midst of igniting an international social action movement online – with our trailers going viral across the world, all the while sparking thousands of small actions through a brand new website.
We watched in amazement as 400,000 people viewed a trailer in the span of a week, with hundreds of thousands more watching trailers on YouTube and Facebook in the days leading up to the TV premiere. Word spread to the major news outlets, and soon we were being mentioned everywhere from Vogue to Entertainment Weekly.
Over 1.3 million people ended up seeing Miss Representation on OWN in October, but countless more have been touched by the movement. And this has been spearheaded by the passion and commitment of our supporters. Individuals like yourself who have been moved by the trailer or the film, and have then taken it into their own hands to do something about it.
So many of you are calling out companies, writing letters or starting petitions against sexism and disrespect towards women in your local communities. Hundreds of independent blogs have been written about Miss Representation. Hundreds of thousands have shared content on Facebook, liked a post or sent a tweet out using #MissRep.
More than the numbers though, it’s the individual stories of action which are especially poignant. From the mother in New York who successfully lobbied Mayor Bloomberg to have a pornographic advertisement removed from her child’s bus stop, to the high school youth who started a ‘MissRep’ club to discuss sexism in the media with her classmates, we have been reminded again and again of the power of one individual having courage and using her or his voice to stand up to injustice.
Because of all your efforts, we are even more inspired to continue the work we started with Miss Representation a year ago.
The coming months promise exciting opportunities for this campaign to expand and continue to shift the cultural mindset around gender. In addition to continuing to partner with leading non-profits like the International Museum of Women, we will be launching new campaigns in 2012 to give women and girls further tools to combat sexism.
We will spread our Miss Representation educational curriculum – which is bringing a much needed gender focus to media literacy classes – to thousands of educational institutions across North America. We will host call-to-action town halls with government, business and community leaders as well as work with industry executives to improve the portrayal of women and girls in the media. We are actively supporting the Girl Scout’s Healthy Media Commission and are working with the private sector to establish best practices. And we will begin development on new films to expand on the message of Miss Representation. We’re not slowing down until sexism is eradicated and all women are allowed to realize their full potential. And we need your help!
Yet before we push ahead, it’s important that we pause to celebrate all that has been accomplished already. Because of this movement, more people are aware of the inequalities present in American media and leadership. More women feel empowered to focus on their careers and more girls feel capable to pursue their biggest dreams. Because of this movement, there are more men and women out there willing to challenge the status quo.
The movement really comes down to you. By taking the pledge at missrepresentation.org, you are exemplifying the very change we wish to see in the world.
From the bottom of my heart I want to thank everyone who has joined us thus far. In a few weeks, as the New Year approaches, many of us will make resolutions for what we’d like to be or see in 2012. For me, this year’s resolution is easy: I will not stop. I will do everything in my power to continue to make a difference for women and girls.
Will you join me?