“When my friends and I would act out movies as kids, we’d play the guys’ roles, since they had the most interesting things to do. Decades later, I can hardly believe my sons and daughter are seeing many of the same limited choices in current films.” – Geena Davis
During college I interned at Sports Illustrated for Kids magazine, which targeted kids ages 8-12. That summer I learned that there was a limit on how much female athlete editorial could be put in each issue of the magazine because the articles about female athletes were not nearly as well read as the ones about male athletes.
I’m not knocking the magazine for making a business decision to continue to engage their audience. Kids of both genders are brought up thinking that male athletes are cooler than female athletes. Wouldn’t it be nice, however, to change that perception? Shouldn’t girls get to see strong female characters in the media?
Sadly, studies show that gender stereotypes are also a serious issue on TV and in film. Females comprise over half the population yet they are outnumbered 3:1 in family films. When females are shown, they are in sexy attire, have unrealistic figures or (my personal pet peeve) play the role of a helpless female. In family films, 80% of employed characters are male while just 20% are female, compared to the 50:50 ratio in the real world. Just imagine how limitless the world would be if half of our population were given a fair representation in the media.
Actress and role model Geena Davis, who starred in Thelma and Louise, does not settle and someday soon there might just be a generation of girls who can thank her for that. Last week at the Social Good Summit I was fascinated to learn about the work that Geena Davis is doing with her foundation, the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. In fact, she commissioned the largest research project on gender in film and television ever undertaken which confirmed the presence of gender disparity on both the large and small screens. The Institute and its programming arm, See Jane, are working diligently to change gender stereotypes in media and entertainment, particularly among children’s programming.
Geena Davis has become a tireless advocate for having strong female characters in the media. Gender stereotypes in media, as in life, should be a thing of the past. As she spoke at the Summit, she mentioned that See Jane has a heartwarming video learning series for children to raise awareness about gender stereotypes and it wasn’t until watching this that I truly understood the impact that gender stereotyping in television and film can have on children.
I am so very grateful that Geena Davis has found her marbles and adore the great work of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. Are you ready to learn more? Just go to SeeJane.org or follow along on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/GDIGM.