Geena Davis: ‘We are teaching kids to have unconscious gender bias’

I’ve loved Geena Davis since I first saw her in Beetlejuice and A League of Their Own. (I wasn’t old enough to watch Thelma and Louise when it was released.) As much as I’ve loved Geena’s films, I’ve also been impressed with the work that Geena has done off-screen: In 2004, she founded the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, which researches and works to change and make changes on gender bias on screen. On Monday, Geena was on TODAY promoting the documentary This Changes Everything, which addresses gender inequity in Hollywood:

On women’s portrayal on film
Images have an incredibly powerful impact, especially on careers. There’s something called the CSI effect. So many women are going into forensic science because of those shows.

On if Thelma and Louise was a turning point
It really changed my life. Nobody realized what a nerve it was going to strike. It showed me how few opportunities we give women to come out of a movie feeling empowered and excited.

On her new documentary and how men have to be on our side
How are we going to solve this problem if we ask the underrepresented to solve this problem themselves? It’s not going to work, we need to work together.

How this became meaningful to her [she’s about to get a humanitarian Oscar]
It started when my daughter was little and I noticed how few female characters there were in [shows] for kids. I realized we are teaching kids from the very beginning to have unconscious gender bias if we show that boys and men are more important, they take up more space. Why would we do that in the 21st century?

[From The Today Show]

Geena is ridiculously smart and talented and I’m so glad that she’s doing this work; I’m angry that it’s even necessary, but here we are. I was reminded of this infographic from the New York Film Academy about gender inequity in the movies, updated in 2018. In 900 top films produced from 2007–2016, just 30.5% of speaking characters were women. In almost 1,000 films examined in 2017 by AI, men had over 37,000 dialogues; women had a bit more than 15,000. The study found “that in the majority of films, female roles are not central to the plot.” I’ll note here the obvious problem of framing all of these statistics as though only two genders and sexes exist, though the issue that gender inequity is a glaring problem in Hollywood comes through loud and clear. This Changes Everything premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2018, and will be released in theaters and on-demand on Friday, August 9.


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11 Responses to “Geena Davis: ‘We are teaching kids to have unconscious gender bias’”

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  1. Lynn says:

    Geena Davis is a badass. That is all.

  2. Lucy2 says:

    I follow her institute on Facebook, and it’s wonderful. They really champion women in the industry and celebrate accomplishments, as well as give out information and statistics.

  3. Lucy says:

    She’s fabulous and beautiful in every way.

  4. knotslaning says:

    She was on Maron a few weeks ago and it was great to hear her speak about this. I don’t really like Maron much but I do listen when he has a good guest. I highly recommend it because she takes you on her journey of discovery with gender bias. It is a great listen!

    • Sue Denim says:

      I came on to say this too. I was so riveted listening to her (on WTF podcast) I sat in my car long after arriving home. She’s amazing. Increasingly I think women are our future…

    • lucy2 says:

      I haven’t listened to a Maron in a long time, but I’ll seek that one out! Thanks.

  5. Harryg says:

    Love Geena! She deserves a great comeback role. (Even if she’s been busy with other things.) I’d like to see her again.

  6. Jess says:

    I have loved her since Beatlejuice. And the Long Kiss Goodnight is still one of my favorite movies. I also love what she’s doing here on gender bias.

    • Yup, Me says:

      Yes to Long Kiss Goodnight! I love that movie!

      I fell in love with Geena AND Jeff Goldblum in Earth Girls are Easy. Which I probably should be ashamed to admit. But I was a kid at the time so it remains true.

  7. Carol says:

    I love what she has been saying about gender bias in recent interviews and how women’s roles in film (both behind and in front of the camera) have not really changed in the last 30 years.

    On a side note, I mentioned to my 5-year-old godson recently about what a doctor told his grandfather, and immediately my grandson assumed the doctor was a “she.” It never occurred to him that the doctor was a male. I love that.

  8. Sparkly says:

    I love Geena Davis! I got to missing her years ago and looked up what she was up to, and that’s when I learned about this awesome work that she was doing behind the scenes. That made me love her even more.