Earth Girls Are Busy: Geena Davis’ Mission to Promote Gender Equality in Entertainment
million dollar lady
Oscar-winner Geena Davis hasn’t made a lot of movies lately, but that’s because she’s been working with the United Nations (among other international and national organizations) promoting gender equality in entertainment all over the world. She’s been involved in research that has shown how badly women are represented in not just mainstream entertainment, but especially in children’s entertainment. For example, in G-rated movies, 81 percent of the adults who hold jobs are male, and none of the women who do have jobs hold positions in science, medicine, law, business, politics, or the like. And Geena Davis is working to fix that.
In a panel that took place yesterday as part of the Social Good Summit, Davis spoke with Variety publisher Brian Gott about how since 1990, Hollywood has not provided its global audience with an improved amount of women in roles that are not stereotypical or hyper-sexualized. She also pointed out that 80 percent of the world’s media comes from the United States, so there is a bigger responsibility on our part to take more strides in changing how the world views women. In one case, a woman from Congo approached Davis and asked her why the States were sending them such horrible shows, citing Bravo‘s Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, a show that is part of a series that celebrates pitting women against each other in an apparent “competition” for … uh … screen time? Twitter followers? General horribleness? Who knows. But yes, indeed — the U.S. is sending the world a view of women that is quite a bit less than positive.
Davis also took umbrage with how when a woman actually is depicted in a non-traditional female role (her example was a female racecar driver, removing her helmet and whipping her hair in the breeze), people were shocked to see her there. As in, “I had no idea a woman could do that!” Well, why not?
“When are we going to get over the idea that it’s shocking that women can do things?”
The findings came directly from a 20-year study conducted by Davis’ eponymous media organization, the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, which carries the slogan, “If they can see it, they can be it.” While the Institute covers entertainment for all ages and demographics, there is a specific emphasis on family-friendly entertainment and what young girls are watching on TV and in movies.
“We know that the more hours of television a girl watches, the fewer options she thinks she has in life,” she said. “So there’s clearly a very, very strong message coming through — that boys are picking up too, by the way — that girls can’t do as many things as boys can.”
And while the statistics right now are not great — like the aforementioned 81 percent of male characters with jobs and how for every female character, there are three more male characters — Davis believes that the tides are changing and that by 2015, those numbers will improve. Her influence in Hollywood has put her across the desk from several executives who are shocked at these findings, but will subsequently consider changing the gender of characters in scripts before shooting begins.
So, yes. Geena Davis is as awesome as the characters she plays.
The entire conversation can be seen here:
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