Film Mirroring Life: Gender and Power

By: Brett Slaughenhaupt

If you are outraged by the injustice served in the case of Brock Turner, then you will want to watch the documentaries Miss Representation and White Like Me.

By now, everyone in America has heard of the court case involving a sexual assault at Stanford University and the resulting hysteria that came about because of it. Two letters were released from the proceedings, one written by the woman who was assaulted and one from the father of the man who did the assaulting. Both paint very different pictures of the effects of rape on those involved. She writes of the power taken away from her – her lack of agency or respect for her life in the events that had occurred. His letter was about Brock’s eating habits and “20 minutes of action”. “Action” being the rape of a woman. The world cried out in horror as this man, who was convicted, was given the non-sentencing of 6 months.

The best way to react to this is to educate oneself on the sociological effects instances like this can have on entire populations and where these issues stem from. Two documentaries that do this well are Miss Representation, which looks into the portrayals of women in media and how that affects how people treat them, and White Like Me, which delves into the systemic issues involving race and the privilege that exists in our country.

Points of interest from Miss Representation:

  • Through the media, young people are being sold the concept that women and girls’ value lies in their youth, beauty, and sexuality and not in their capacity of leaders.
  • Through media and advertising, boys get the message that they should be violent, in control, unemotional, and that women should be treated like objects and second- class citizens.
  • Data and statistics on the physical and mental violence enacted against women

Points of interest from White Like Me:

  • What does it mean to be white? ‘Whiteness’ is a construct that was developed in the Americas in the 1600s to prevent the unity of black slaves and poor whites.
  • The sociological, rather than scientific, existence of race
  • Data and statistics of legislature that adversely affects people of color

These are just two examples of a far more expansive list of educational materials and research that work to break down the adverse effects of misogynistic and racial oppression in our country. It is atrocious that a young, white man can sexually assault an unconscious woman and get away with only 6 months of jail time because of the “severe impact” a larger punishment would have on him, without paying any mind to the severe impact that has already occurred on the woman he assaulted. Never mind that his black counterparts are being slapped with longer sentences for marijuana possession – something that is nonviolent, mind you. It is all hypocritical and unjust. The judge looked at Brock Turner and saw himself, instead of the rapist that he is, and felt pity. Had Brock been a person of color, this would not have happened.

By furthering our understanding of the problems that exist, we can work to make sure that this does not happen again.