VALPARAISO | “When is it going to be enough?” asks a high school student in the film “Miss Representation” after images of women portrayed as sex objects and in violent scenarios flashed on the screen from advertisements, movies and television shows.
The film was screened by the Women Lawyers Association at Valparaiso University on Friday night at the Valparaiso Law School and was attended by members of the law school and residents, as well as local leaders to better understand the issues young women face.
Melissa Cohen, president of the Women Lawyers Association at Valparaiso University, says they chose this documentary and following discussion to bring to the front the way women are portrayed in the media. The film has not been screened in this area before Friday night, she said.
“Very often women hesitate to assume leadership roles. They sometimes believe they are not qualified or someone else is more qualified and they hold back. The reason this happens in society, in large part, is due to the bombardment of women’s images in the media that show their only value lies in their youth and beauty,” said Cohen.
Following the screening, a panel discussion featuring Karen Freeman-Wilson, the first woman mayor of Gary; state Sen. Karen Tallian; professor Rosalie Levinson, a constitutional law scholar; and Theresa Springmann, a federal district court judge, took place, as well as a workshop with educational curriculum.
“The reason we are having this education workshop is because the first step is to make all women aware of these portrayals in the media, to stop the cycle of indoctrination for ourselves, our daughters and sons, and our husbands,” said Cohen.
State Sen. Karen Tallian said she felt the film’s message is an important one.
“I have seen this film before and was asked to be on this panel. There are some women who have managed to get through the ceiling and some of us who are older who remember we already fought this battle once in our lifetime. It’s good to see the younger group of women still talking about it,” Tallian said.
Shelbie Byers, event chair for the program and lawyer at Hoeppner Wagner & Evans said, “It’s particularly important for women in my generation because we think women have broken all of the glass ceilings and we have reached parity, but when you see this film you realize the struggles that women are going through.”
Byers said that she hope the film and conversation will spark action.
"Our value lies in our knowledge and our ability to help others, not in youth and beauty. You can’t be what you can’t see so I have an obligation to be out in the community and be seen, to reach back and help those who are coming behind me, like so many have reached to me to show me what I can be,” she said.
Karen Coulis, committee member and Lowell Town Court judge and felony public defender said, “People think there is no such thing as gender discrimination anymore that that’s not true. When I was here at law school we didn’t have a women’s bathroom. We used the faculty bathroom or the janitor’s bathroom, so we have come a long way, but there is still a lot of work to do. This is still relevant.”
She said it’s not just about how media portrays women, but also how it portrays men.
“It happens to men too. I’m so sick of men being portrayed as the dumb guy at home that doesn’t know what to do,” she said.
Adam Sedia, a Dyer attorney, recited his poem "Trophy Wife" before the screening which touches on the same themes.