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Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media Promotes Gender Equality in Hollywood

When I was a teen, I was a huge Geena Davis fan. I don’t know what it was about her—maybe it was how funny she was in Beetlejuice, or maybe it was how awesomely tough yet feminine she was in A League of Their Own. Either way, she was my favorite woman in Hollywood—someone I could really relate to, and perhaps look up to, rather than the other vapid starlets of the week.

Now, Davis has founded an incredible new project that works to get females (and males) realistically and fairly portrayed in the media. The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media works with both entire companies as well as media creators to help increase the number of girls and women—as well as the variety of girls and women—in the media. It also serves to help educate the public on gender issues in the media. Reducing stereotypes about both males and females in the media is another goal of the Institute.

Davis herself seems to be a strong part of the organization. She has been speaking at public and private events, writing newspaper articles, and even preparing reports for the United Nations on her cause. She has partnered with the United Nations Development Fund for Women in working to change the way women are portrayed in the media as well.

Davis says that while watching television with her two-year-old daughter several years ago, she was “stunned to see that there were far more male characters than female characters in this media aimed at the youngest of children.” She says that these images we see in the media are a very strong influence on how we view gender in our own lives, and that she realized that “it was high time for our children to see boys and girls sharing the sandbox equally.”

Yeah! Go, Geena! I want that on a t-shirt.

To actively put her plan in motion, Davis founded the institute and started conducting research on the media and its effects on children. The results of the research were disturbing, but perhaps not that surprising to many of us: though over half the population is made up of females, the media typically shows males in a more valuable light than females. In G-rated films, for example, there is typically one female per every three males.

I can see this myself, too. Every film I’ve seen with my daughter recently—from Ice Age 3 to Up, Monsters Versus Aliens to Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs—has had several male characters with very few females represented. Of the females present, most have minor roles. Even our favorite film of last year, The Princess and the Frog, features one main female lead surrounded by male supporting characters. Looking back at past Disney films—from The Little Mermaid to Snow White to Beauty and the Beast and pretty much any others—the trend remains the same.

Most of the characters, Davis’s research indicates, are also very stereotyped and hyper-sexualized. Female characters in G-rated films seem to sport the same types of clothing that women in R-rated films do, for example.

To combat this unbalanced and stereotypical image of females in the media, The Geena Davis Institute is fighting for positive images of females in everything from movies to cartoon shows. To find out more about what this cool new institute and its staff are doing and how to get involved, visit them on the web.