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Geena Davis Laments Lack of Strong Females in TV, Movies

Geena Davis

Academy Award-winning actor Geena Davis says she was shocked at how males dominated the screen when she watched movies and television with her daughter.

September 16, 2011 – Academy Award-winning actor Geena Davis spoke about her new role as an advocate for gender balance in the media today to a Georgetown audience of about 400 students, faculty, staff and alumni.

Davis said when she began watching films and television with her young daughter she was shocked at how males dominated the screen.

“Kids are seeing an incredibly narrow vision of female characters,” Davis said. “The most common reason for a female character to even be there is eye candy. They don’t have a job and their function is to be sexy.”

Gender in Media

After her initial observations, Davis commissioned a research project at University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

The study found that males outnumber females three to one in family films. It also showed that from 2006 to 2009, no female character was depicted in a G-rated film in the field of medical science, as a business leader, in law or in politics.

Now founder of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and its programming arm, See Jane, her talk was part of the McDonough School of Business’ Distinguished Leaders Series.

Negative Stereotypes

According to Davis, research shows that the more hours of TV a girl watches, the fewer options she thinks she has in life. The more hours a boy watches TV, the more sexist his views become.

“There’s clearly a very strong, negative message about girls coming through,” she said.

To combat negative stereotypes about women, Davis recommends that parents watch media with their children.

“It’s very helpful for them in a media literacy way to point out what they’re seeing,” she said. “Not just how few female characters there are, but what they’re doing and things like that.”

Levels of Awareness

Students seemed to appreciate the talk.

“Geena Davis spoke with passion about the lack of female characters, especially quality characters, in all levels of TV and movie entertainment,” said Elly Drygas (MBA’12). “This event created a real opportunity to assess our own levels of awareness on this issue.”

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