Breaking Barriers in Film With Geena Davis

It’s no secret that while gender equality exists is so many fields; the one that arguably has the biggest impact on young girls is the movie industry. Not only is there a lack of girls and woman in movies but the ones we do see are not offering a very realistic portrayal of girls in general.

That’s why we here at SheHeroes were happy to see Lisa Belkin’s article on the Motherload about actress Geena Davis and the institute she founded in 2006, the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. Davis enlisted professors at the U.S.C. Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism to analyze the content of 101 children’s movies released between 1990 and 2004 for an academic study. Last year she followed up with an analysis of films from 2004 to 2009.

The findings of the study were not surprising but staggering nonetheless. Of the 5,554 speaking characters studied, 71 percent were male and 29 percent were female.

Aside from the lack of female leads, researchers found, that in crowd scenes and group scenes only 17 percent of characters were women. They also found that 25% of the female characters were wearing tight, provocative, revealing clothing, compared with four percent of males and that the females were far more likely to be “hypersexualized.” The study also found that the female characters were younger than their male counterparts, and that most of those females were usually out to find or fix romance. And of course none of the animated female characters had a body shape that was possible in real life.

While Geena Davis is using her institute and star power to make changes in Hollywood, there is also real work that is going to have to come from parents of kids who watch these Hollywood movies.

Sit down with your son and daughter and visit website for the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and look at some of the studies they’ve done. Once you’ve talked about the results have your kids flip through the movie channels on the TV and do some research of their own.

Ask them to count how many female leads they see. Then ask them to count how many female leads aren’t looking to find or restore love. Think up some more points based on the studies and let your kids experience it for themselves.

By simply encouraging kids to recognize the differences in how men and women are portrayed in movies is making huge strides in establishing change in the way we all look at gender in movies.

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