Award and Emmy-winning documentarian and CEO of “The Representation Project,” Jennifer Newsom, spoke at NMU Wednesday, Nov. 15, discussed the harmful effects of American gender roles.
The speech also focused on culture at large and the impact of media on the representation of women in leadership positions.
Newsom spoke to about 200 students and community members in the auditorium of Jamrich room 1100 for a discussion titled, “Women and Girls in the Media: If You Can See It, You Can Be It.”
Though a high number of women were in the crowd, many men also attended.
The first half of her speech was inspired by her children and looked at how her friends, family and community responded to the birth of her daughters compared to the birth of her sons. She explained that culture today pressures girls to be pretty and boys to be tough.
“Girls wear pink, boys wear blue,” Newsom said.
She said that when her sons were born, they received letters from either a president or senator, welcoming them into the world. They were gifted with onesies with the message, “Future President,” Newsom said. However, her daughters have yet to receive anything from these people in power.
“Our daughter never received even a suggestion that she too could be president and that her opportunities in life are limitless,” she said.
Newsom said, as a culture, women are brought up to be fundamentally insecure, whereas a man’s success is based on power in a male dominated industry.
“Women have less leadership roles and Mrs. Newsom does a great job shedding light on it,” said Rachel Harris, director of the Center Student Enrichment and advisor of Platform Personalities.
Harris added, “This challenges the stereotypes and gender norms where women are praised for their youth, beauty and sexuality rather than for their intellect.”
Change is impossible with everyday injustice, regarded Newsom.
Newsom’s documentaries “The Mask You Live In” and “Miss Representation” provide insight on media as catalysts for cultural transformation.
“‘The Representation Project’ is changing attitude, behavior and culture; one individual, one company and one community at a time,” Newsom said.