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Articles tagged with media

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: , , |

Video: NSBA discusses school climate and bullying on Comcast Newsmakers

BoardBuzz recommends you check out Mary Broderick, President of the National School Boards Association (NSBA), recent appearance on Comcast Newsmakers.

Broderick discusses school climate, bullying, and cyberbullying, and promotes NSBA’s Students on Board: A Conversation Between School Board Members and Studentsproject to get school board members across the country to start talking with students about school climate.

Alexis Rice|August 18th, 2011|Categories: School Boards, Teachers, Bullying, Center for Public Education, School Climate, Student Achievement, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|Tags: , , , , , , , |

Who’s to blame for negative narrative surrounding public schools?

rumorDo public schools have an image problem? Just Google the phrase “nation’s failing public schools,” and I think you’ll get an answer. Actually, 10 screen pages of answers.

There are many reasons for this perception, beginning with the very real problems facing public schools in disadvantaged urban, rural, and suburban areas, as well the challenges facing all schools as they try to prepare all children to thrive in the 21st century.

 But, as ASBJ Contributing Editor Nora Carr writes in the magazine’s November issue, this perception of school failure has gone far beyond these realities to assume a kind of mythical life of its own.

And one of many causes of this phenomenon are certain journalistic conventions — as a former newspaper reporter and current magazine writer who strives to be “objective,” it pains me to have to say this — to root for the underdog, “to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable,” to put a “human face” on a larger problem, and, in the process risk distorting its causes, scope, and possible solutions.

“Blaming educators, unions, and recalcitrant school boards for poor student performance may not accurately portray what research says about effective schools, but it sells,” Carr writes. “It also fits the human need to assign responsibility for any perceived failure.”

Naomi Dillon|November 16th, 2010|Categories: Governance, American School Board Journal|Tags: , , |

Generation Y kids harder to reach, teach

1-1232525847nXGsIn his annual address to secondary school heads, John Dunford, the general secretary of the U.K.’s Association Of School and College Leaders, acknowledged yesterday that a culture of instant gratification has made the job of teaching today’s youth harder than its ever been.

“Success appears to come instantly and without any real effort,” Dunford told the conference audience. “It is difficult for teachers to compete. Success in learning just doesn’t come fast enough.” 

Well said, Mr. Dunford, but hardly revolutionary.

For years now, I’ve heard from teacher friends and seen from site visits how much teaching has become by necessity almost entertainment like; we must engage the students by making lessons fun and relevant.

One teacher told me recently that she has to convince high school students that learning basic math concepts like multiplication and  division are necessarily skills in life, even employing popular rap stars and their lyrics about money making within her arsenal.

That’s sad … but is it inevitable given how prolific and accessible technology and media are and make everything seem? Not only do we have 24/7 media, we have an endless supply of fame-seekers willing to broadcast their lives 24/7.

Naomi Dillon|March 8th, 2010|Categories: Governance, Teachers, Educational Research, Student Achievement, American School Board Journal|Tags: , , |

Building relationships with community crucial to building support for public schools

ASBJA few months ago, the Brookings Institute released a report that had a pretty obvious conclusion to those of us in education and journalism: “Invisible: 1.4 Percent Coverage for Education is not Enough.

While the report’s main statistic—that education only gets 1.4 percent of coverage out of all the national and local newspapers the authors analyzed—has been questioned, some of its other conclusions are indisputable. One of those is that the depth of coverage is suffering as well.

In the March ASBJ, communications columnist Nora Carr shows why coverage matters. The U.S. population is aging, and about two-thirds of residents do not have school-aged children, and most of these have no connection to their local schools. Many of their beliefs center around their experiences with schools when they were students or their children attended. More news coverage is focused on policy (such as President Obama’s recent high school graduation events).

That’s why it’s so important to build relationships with reporters and find ways to get them tips about the good things—the heart and soul of education, as Carr says–that are happening each day in your schools. She points to Manuel High School in Indianapolis, where the superintendent let a local reporter have unfettered access. Some might call that a risky move, but it brought enormous rewards for the struggling school. Reporter Matthew Tully’s chronicle of the students and staff members stories has brought overwhelming community support for the school—more than 2,000 people attended its Christmas show, bringing $10,000 in donations.

Naomi Dillon|March 3rd, 2010|Categories: NSBA Publications, American School Board Journal|Tags: , , |
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