Jennifer Siebel Newsom and Occidental College associate professor Caroline Heldman urged students to be vehicles for social change when it comes to objectifying women in the media.
"We're all responsible, and it's up to us to use our voices and our dollars to speak out against it," Newsom said to the students.
Newsom and Heldman were the keynote speakers for Marin Academy's 2011 Conference on Democracy-a two-day affair that features speakers and forums addressing subjects from France's ban on religious attire to the New Deal to the media's portrayal of women.
In Thursday's discussion, Newsom showed an abridged version of her new film Miss Representation (view trailer above), which features male and female politicians and CEOs commenting on why women are underrepresented in American politics and what role the media play. Some interviewees include former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Sen. Barbara Boxer, actress Rosario Dawson and Newsom's husband Gavin Newsom.
"We don't value women enough," said Heldman, who teaches political science. "It's damaging to our boys and it's damaging to our girls."
Women's perspectives need to be involved more in decision making, Newsom said. She told the students about Nancy Hult, her friend and writer for the NBC series Pan Am that follows several stewardesses in the 1960s. She said Hult, who had been a stewardess for the airline and was one of the only women working on the show, argued against over-sexualizing the female characters with short skirts and risque advertising.
"She knew that they were worth more than that," Newsom said.
Marin Academy history teacher Bill Meyer already started showing parts of the movie in his class, and his students are responding well.
"They are troubled in a good way," he said. "The great thing about teenagers is that they're willing to try and fix things."
If you are interested in seeing the film, there will be a screening tonight in Marin Academy's Performing Arts Theater. Tickets are available online. Or you can catch it on the Oprah Winfrey network tonight at 6p.m.
If you want to discuss some of the issues in the film with your kids, you can download materials on the Miss Representation website.