Do you love Geena Davis? She’s putting her time, and presumably her money, into the cause of gender fairness in media.
Take a look at this delightful new PSA created by her organization, the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media.
New research funded by the institute evaluated almost 12,000 speaking parts in film and prime time shows. What we find is that movies and tv shows intended for children and families treat female characters the worst. Prime time shows are a little better.
Reading this, I can’t help but wonder why. Why are children’s shows particularly backward? Is this field filled with cavemen?
So I talked with Jason Tammemagi, in Ireland, who is the creator of a science show for preschoolers with a girl protagonist. He said he’s seeing positive changes in the market he works in, which is much smaller than the US market that this research examines.
“In preschool over here, I have to say I have seen very encouraging moves to get not just female characters on screen but also varied and interesting female characters,” Tammemagi said by email. (His recent post deals with this issue.)
It’s hard to turn a ship as huge as the US market. But so often this is the way change happens – working its way from the “grassroots” level until it reaches a critical mass.
Here are more details on what the study found: Only 19 percent of children’s shows and 11 percent of family films are gender balanced – that is, having close to similar numbers of male and female characters. And many stories are “extremely” male centric, casting boys and men in 75 percent of the speaking roles, – including 50 percent of family films and 40 percent of children’s shows. This should come as no surprise to anyone who has eyes.
Meanwhile, when they do appear, females are highly sexualized and stereotyped. We’re talking big numbers – like one-third of teen girls. “Females, when they are on screen, are still there there to provide eye candy to event the youngest viewers,” the researchers write.
Why would ANY characters be portrayed as sexy in children’s shows?
There is not one speaking character who plays a powerful American female political figure across 5,839 speaking characters in 129 family films. Male characters hold 45 such positions. This is at a time when the position of Secretary of State is practically reserved for women and during a time when we had a woman Speaker of the House. (The researchers look at films from 2006 to 2009.)
Why is this? What do you think?