Geena Davis Institute Fighting For Gender Equality On Screen
By April Bonds
When I heard that actress Geena Davis was scheduled to speak at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University, I was thrilled. I mean, who doesn’t love Thelma and Louise and A League of their Own?
I am mesmerized by her – as an actress and as a woman. Did you know that she speaks fluent Swedish, is a member of Mensa, and an Olympic level archer? And her career is characterized by her successes and failures. She isn’t known for the number of movies in which she has starred in but rather for the quality of the work she does. She’s also the rare actress that’s bigger than the big names she’s been with. It’s not Renny Harlin’s ex-wife but Geena Davis’s ex-husband.
But for me the real beauty in Davis’s body of work is Earth Girls Are Easy. Don’t judge. You’ve probably got a few stinkers in your closet too.
So when my last class ended late the day she spoke, I literally ran from class to take a seat in the back of the packed auditorium, and as I sat there watching Geena Davis speak on the roles of women in media, three things stuck out to me.
She is still flawless. As a pimple faced, large pored teenager, I would have given my right arm for her skin. She literally radiates. When she speaks of her daughter and on the subject of the afternoon, that glow becomes only brighter. It is truly incredible.
The guy snoring in the seat behind me. Yes, ladies and gentlemen – there was a man snoring during 2/3 of a program about womens’ roles in media. And I don’t mean a light, cat-nap snore. Oh no – I mean a “somebody please get this guy a Breathe Right strip” snore. I chose to find it ironic.
The audience was not 100% female. Females most definitely were the majority, but there was sooooooo many men. And the women were a diverse group of ages and colors.
Did you know that:
- Female characters wear just as much revealing clothing in a G Rated film as in an R Rated film?
- That movies like Thelma and Louise, A League of Their Own, Sex and the City, and Mamma Mia did nothing to increase the presence of women and roles for women in movies?
- That we see just as many women in films now as our grandparents did in 1946?
- That women are drastically underrepresented in roles behind the camera (7% are directors, 13% are writers and 20% are producers)?
That’s why Davis created the Geena Davis Institute. To study this woeful lack of diversity, and it’s why the See Jane Organization works hard to remind people of miles we have to go before equality is real.
Davis managed to release these woefully depressing facts while keeping a sense of humor. Like the look on her face when one of the attendees asked about the relationship between women’s roles and their lack of strong parental figures. Geena Davis’s response went something like this:
Geez, (long heavy sigh) They kill the mother (another long heavy sigh) ALL THE TIME!!!
And she struck a real emotional cord when she spoke about what she does with her daughter. She watches TV and movies with her. Together, they count the number of females in the movie/TV show. She asks her daughter,
Why do you think that girl is wearing THAT outfit if she is going to rescue someone?
This conversation has become so common that her daughter, now 9 years old, just says,
Yeah, Mom, not enough girls.
Geena Davis is working hard to become the advocate for all of us. Put more women on film! Make the balance of men to women not 3-1 as seen now but a 50-50 split! Don’t feel that you need to have the “token female” in a male dominated film or the male sidekick in show about women!
And let’s make it so that when she leans over to her daughter the response will be,
Yeah, Mom, there’s the same amount of girls.