Geena Davis: Now Crusading For Little Girls’ Equality In Film

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If little girls took most G-rated movies literally, they’d all grow up to be helpless princesses. But most parents desire more for their little girls, and now they have a new celebrity spokesperson. Actually, it’s pretty fitting that Geena Davis, one of the women from Thelma Louise has signed on for this. Hopefully, this crusade will have a happier ending than that movie.

Davis’ newest endeavor is the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. Davis and her colleagues research G-rated media for kids and work with content creators to creative positive changes in media for kids. Davis advocates to increase the number of girls and women in television shows for children.

Known for choosing her roles with a “heightened sense about women’s roles in the media,” such as Thelma and Louise and A League of Their Own, Davis went on to become a mother and found that not much had changed:

… I was absolutely floored to see the same kind of gender bias and gender gap in what we’re showing little kids. [My daughter would] be on my lap and I’d be counting the characters on my fingers and thinking, “This is just not right.”

The research that Davis and her Institute uncovered was startling. She learned that for each female character in a film, there were at least three male characters. In a group scene, that ratio would change from five to one. Of the few female characters that did make their way onto the screen, most were “hypersexualized” or “highly stereotyped” among other things she told The Wall Street Journal:

Pretty much the only aspiration for female characters was finding romance, whereas there are practically no male characters whose ultimate goal is finding romance. The No. 1 occupation was royalty.

Little girls logging countless hours of observing heroines who only aspire to procure a partner can be troublesome for many parents when wanting as much as possible for their daughters. Consuming just these narratives has proved to be negative, as Davis’s research reveals that girls who watch more television feel that they have “fewer options” in life. These single-tracked narratives affect boys negatively too who exhibit more limited ideas of gender roles.

While many parents would opt to simply limit TV time, or grant access pending a parental viewing, Davis advises conversing with children about what they’re consuming:

[My kids are] only allowed to watch TV if I’m there. And I make a running commentary the whole time to take away the negative impact, asking things such as: “Couldn’t a girl have played that part?” And there’s reason to believe that this is actually very effective.