Geena Davis Tells Idaho Parents To Talk With Kids About Hollywood's Portrayal Of Women

Aug 1, 2014

Geena Davis spoke to an invited audience Thurday at an event to honor Idaho women who are leaders in business, politics, nonprofits and the arts.
Geena Davis spoke to an invited audience Thurday at an event to honor Idaho women who are leaders in business, politics, nonprofits and the arts.
Credit Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

You probably know actor Geena Davis from movies like "Thelma and Louise," "A League of Their Own" and "The Accidental Tourist." But you probably don’t know her as a crusader for gender equality in kids movies.

Davis was in Boise Thursday to speak about her work. Her visit was sponsored by Zion’s Bank in partnership with the Sun Valley Film Festival.

Davis is the founder of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. The institute commissions research from the academic world on the ways women and girls are depicted in movies and TV programs aimed at young people. Davis then uses those studies to lobby Hollywood for change.

Here are some of the stats listed on her institute’s website seejane.org:

·  Males outnumber females 3 to 1 in family films. In contrast, females comprise just over 50% of the population in the United States. Even more staggering is the fact that this ratio, as seen in family films, is the same as it was in 1946.

·  Females are almost four times as likely as males to be shown in sexy attire. Further, females are nearly twice as likely as males to be shown with a diminutive waistline. Generally unrealistic figures are more likely to be seen on females than males.

·  Females are also underrepresented behind the camera. Across 1,565 content creators, only 7% of directors, 13% of writers, and 20% of producers are female. This translates to 4.8 males working behind-the-scenes to every one female.

·  From 2006 to 2009, not one female character was depicted in G-rated family films in the field of medical science, as a business leader, in law, or politics. In these films, 80.5% of all working characters are male and 19.5% are female, which is a contrast to real world statistics, where women comprise 50% of the workforce.

Davis says there are ways  Idaho parents can help counteract the messages Hollywood sends to kids.

“One is limit how much time they spend watching screens because it’s very hard to find something that’s empowering for girls."

Davis says she watches movies with her kids, and points out things they might not pick up on.

"I’ll say ‘hey did you notice that group is mostly all boys except for one girl? Why do you think that is? Shouldn’t it be half girls?’ and ‘do you think a girl could have done what that boy just did?’ and things like that. And they’ve actually really become media savvy.”

Find reporter Adam Cotterell on twitter @cotterelladam | Copyright 2014 Boise State Public Radio