Articles tagged with Geena Davis

Geena Davis urges educators: Take note of women’s roles in children’s media

Is it coincidence that only 17 percent of women hold positions of leadership and authority in key sectors of American society—and that percentage also holds true among female characters depicted in today’s family oriented movies and television shows?

And what does it mean when female characters in animated children’s films often are as scantily clad as women in R-rated movies?

Those were the kind of questions raised when Academy Award-winning actress Geena Davis spoke about gender stereotypes in the media—and the impact on children—at Saturday’s First General Session.

“The invisibility, hyper-sexualization, and dis-empowerment of women and girls in the media cry out for change,” Davis told conference attendees.

Known best for her performances in such films as “The Accidental Tourist,” “Thelma and Louise,” and “A League of Their Own,” Davis offered school leaders her credentials to speak as an authority on these negative stereotypes.

“I’ve spent most of my adult life advocating for equal rights for women and girls, among other ways by appearing in movies that women might find empowering,” she said, jokingly adding, “I was in a movie, “Earth Girls Are Easy,” but that was early on. That one title aside, you can feel free to take me seriously.”

It’s likely that attendees did just that. As Davis explained, her interest in the issue was sparked nearly a decade ago while watching G-rated movies and children’s television with her then-two-year-old daughter.

“I had this ‘Spidey’ sense about the women’s roles,” she said, “I immediately noticed, with the exception of Dora the Explorer, that there seemed to be far fewer female characters than male characters in these entertainment programs that were made for kids.”

It was an issue that Davis started raising with friends and colleagues in Hollywood, all of who assured her that such stereotypes were fading. “They were very sincere in their interest in gender equity. They truly believed they were working on it … so this made me think I need the numbers.

That led to the launch of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, which has gathered a large body of research on now females are portrayed in movies and television—and has worked to put those findings in front of writers, directors, producers, and others in the entertainment industry

What’s her institute has found is that the role of women and girls hasn’t changed significantly in Hollywood since the 1940s, Davis said. One study found that, in G-rated movies released between 2006 and 2009, “not one female character was depicted as a leader in business, the law profession, medical science, or politics.

More worrisome is how this portrayal of women and girls impacts on children, she said. “The message is sinking in. The more hours a girl watches [these shows], the fewer options she feels she has in life. The more TV a boy watches, the more sexist he becomes.

The good news is that change is possible, Davis offered. When her institute shares this data with movie studies and network executives, “their jaws are on the ground. They have absolutely no idea that the worlds they were creating were so bereft of a female presence.”

School board members can do their part, she suggested. They can examine their textbooks to review how women are depicted—that women are shown just as engaged in science as boys are and that women are taking up their rightful space in history book.

“I want the day to come very soon when I can share this story with my daughter—that once upon a time girls were considered a little less important than boys, and she will look at me with this incredulous look and say, “Mom, are you making this up?’ ”

Del Stover|April 14th, 2013|Categories: Conferences and Events, Diversity, Educational Research, NSBA Annual Conference 2013|Tags: , , |

NSBA Annual Conference speaker Geena Davis on gender stereotypes

She played quirky in “The Accidental Tourist” and presidential in “Commander in Chief.”  Harried housewife-on-the-run in “Thelma & Louise,” she celebrated a different sort of rule-breaker in “A League of Their Own.”

Along the way, Academy Award-winning actress Geena Davis became something of a modern day Renaissance woman, qualifying for Mensa and taking up archery (and nearly making the U.S. Olympic team) in her early 40s.

Indeed, there didn’t seem to be anything that Davis, who will be a keynote speaker at NSBA’s Annual Conference in April in San Diego, couldn’t accomplish — except, perhaps, shielding her young daughter from the damaging female stereotypes she had so gleefully busted throughout her career.

They were watching television, she and her then-2-year-old, about a decade ago when Davis noticed how few female characters there were in children’s entertainment — and how limited these characters’ roles often were. In 2004, she founded the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, which has collected the largest body of research on how, and in what way, females are portrayed in the media.

She recently talked with American School Board Journal Senior Editor Lawrence Hardy about gender stereotyping, playing unusual characters, and why she took up archery.

Watching G-rated movies with your daughter really alerted you to the gender imbalance in entertainment media. What did you do then?

At first I just wanted to mention it to people. I didn’t think I was going to make it my life’s mission or anything. But it seemed like nobody was noticing, and when I talked to people in the industry, if I happened to have a meeting with a producer or a studio executive, I’d say, “Have you ever noticed how few female characters there are in G-rated movies?” And they would say, “Oh, no. no, no, that’s been fixed.” So it seemed that everybody either didn’t notice or thought it was already fixed.

What did the institute’s research discover?

The results were quite startling. In family film ratings — which would be G, PG, and PG-3 — for every one female character there were three male characters. And if it was a crowd scene or a group scene, only 17 percent of the characters were female, which is kind of mind-boggling. This is both in live action and animated films.

We also looked at the quality of the characters and found that the majority of female characters in these family films were either very narrowly stereotyped or hyper-sexualized. In animated films the female characters wear the same amount of sexually revealing clothing as in G-rated movies, which is also extremely strange and disturbing.

Why is this important?

We are, in effect, training kids from the beginning not to notice gender imbalance in our society. We’re training them to see worlds where female characters don’t take up half the space. This is all unconscious, of course.

Did you ever find yourself pigeonholed in your film career or asked to play stereotyped roles?

Well, my first role was in the movie “Tootsie.”  I spent most of the time in my underwear. The joke was that Dustin [Hoffman’s] character, pretending to be a woman, shared a dressing room with me, and it was very uncomfortable for him. So [the part] was just all about being sexy and whatever.

But, you know, I’ve been very lucky — part of it is by planning and part not — but I’ve always wanted to play unusual characters, characters that aren’t just the girlfriend. Certainly, I was offered those parts, but I really always wanted to say, “Yeah, but what do I do? What do I actually do?” So then, I ended up in kind of unique movies, like “The Fly.” And eventually I got to be a baseball phenomenon, and a fire captain, and a kind of a road warrior in ” Thelma & Louise,” so I feel like I escaped a lot of that from pretty early on.

How did you get into archery?

I know — it seems so random. It was just from watching the Atlanta Olympics on TV. There was a lot of coverage of archery because the American men were doing extremely well. I just was kind of taken with it, and said: “Wow, that’s so beautiful and dramatic. I wonder if I could be good at archery?” I took it up at 41, and two and a half years later I was a semifinalist in the Olympic trials. So that was pretty crazy to find myself at 43 at the Olympic trials.

You said your talks with producers and studio executives have been very positive – that they’ve been genuinely concerned about gender imbalance their works and want to do something to help. Where would you like to see this lead?

Basically, what we’re trying to do is change what kids see from the beginning. The ideal would be that if they could grow up seeing boys and girls sharing the sandbox equally, then that’s the ratio they will come to see as normal and expect in their work environment.

More information about NSBA’s Annual Conference in San Diego April 13 to 15 is available at the Annual Conference website.

Lawrence Hardy|February 19th, 2013|Categories: American School Board Journal, NSBA Annual Conference 2013|Tags: , , |

Annual Conference early registration discounts end Jan. 10–see you in San Diego!

January 10 is the last day to receive early registration discounts for NSBA’s 73rd Annual Conference, to be held April 13-15 in San Diego. Join thousands of school board members, school administrators, vendors and other school leaders at this premier event. The General Sessions boast three superstars who will discuss their work in education:

Academy Award-winning actress Geena Davis, founder of the non-profit Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, will speak at the opening General Session on April 13. The star of “A League of Their Own,” “Thelma and Louise,” and “The Accidental Tourist” now works with film and television creators to reduce gender stereotyping and increase the number of female characters in media targeted for young children. Davis will speak about the key role media plays in children’s development.

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson is one of the world’s most engaging and passionate science advocates. From PBS to NASA to Presidential Commissions, organizations have depended on Tyson’s down-to-earth approach to astrophysics. Last year, Tyson notoriously persuaded director James Cameron to change a scene in the 3D version of his legendary film, Titanic. Turns out the night sky in the heartbreaking scene where the main characters meet their fates in the frigid sea had a totally wrong starfield. (Get a sneak peek of Tyson’s expertise and entertaining style in this YouTube video where he explains the mistake.

Researcher Diane Ravitch, one of the most passionate and knowledgeable advocates for public education, will share her expertise on past and present education issues. Her most recent book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, makes the case that public education today is in peril and offers a clear prescription for improving public schools. Attendees who scored a seat to see Ravitch speak at NSBA’s 2010 Annual Conference were thrilled with her lecture.

In addition to the General Sessions, more than 200 topical sessions are scheduled on issues such as: Common Core State Standards, budgeting in tight economic times, new technologies, school climate and safety, and many others. Go to the annual conference website to view the full schedule of general session speakers, Focus on lectures, more than 200 topical sessions, and preconference workshops.

Joetta Sack-Min|January 10th, 2013|Categories: Conferences and Events, Announcements, Educational Technology, Technology Leadership Network, NSBA Annual Conference 2013|Tags: , , , |

NSBA’s 2013 Annual Conference to feature Geena Davis, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Diane Ravitch

Registration and housing for the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) 73rd Annual Conference, to be held April 13 to 15 in San Diego, is now open. Join more than 5,000 school board members and administrators for an event with hundreds of sessions, workshops, and exhibits that will help your school district programs and help you hone your leadership and management skills.

General Session speakers include Academy Award winning speaker Geena Davis, who will be speaking about her work off-screen as founder of the non-profit Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. Davis works with film and television creators to reduce gender stereotyping and increase the number of female characters in media targeted for children 11 and under. She will explain how media plays a key role in children’s development, and how her organization is making a difference.

Television star Neil deGrasse Tyson, one of the world’s most engaging and passionate science advocates, will headline Sunday’s General Session. From PBS to NASA to Presidential Commissions, organizations have depended on Tyson’s down-to-earth approach to astrophysics. He has been a frequent guest on “The Daily Show”, “The Colbert Report”, R”eal Time with Bill Maher”, and “Jeopardy!”. Tyson hopes to reach “all the people who never knew how much they’d love learning about space and science.”

Monday’s General Session features acclaimed researcher and author Diane Ravitch, who has become one of the most passionate voices for public schools. Her most recent book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, makes the case that public education today is in peril and offers a clear prescription for improving public schools.

Learn more about the common core standards, new research on differentiated learning styles, and teaching “unteachable” children at the Focus On lecture series. Learn about new technologies for your classrooms as part of the Technology + Learning programs.

Special discounted rates are available for early registrants who sign up by Jan. 10, 2013. NSBA National Affiliate and Technology Leadership Network Districts save even more.

View the conference brochure for more details. Be sure to check the Annual Conference website for updates and more information.



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