Thursday, July 29, 2010

Geena Davis champions feminist research

Actress Geena Davis, 54, has been Davis has been appointed to California's Commission on the Status of Women by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Davis is a Democrat.

While this is great news for the women of California, its not the most interesting part of Davis' story. Hidden in the standard press release verbiage is some much more compelling feminist research.

While watching TV with her young daughter, Davis ("Thelma and Louise," "A League of Their Own") made a keen observation: a striking imbalance in the ratio of male to female characters in children's programs.

She founded the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and went on to raise funds for the largest research project ever undertaken on gender in children's entertainment.

The result was "Gender Stereotypes: Analysis of popular films and TV" by Dr. Stacy L. Smith and Crystal Allene Cook.

What makes this research feminist?

First, if we boil down the term "feminism" to its most basic definition, what we have is a movement against sexism -- one that seeks to change our society.

Research is an impetus to change.

A hallmark of feminist research is to find things that need to change and then find ways to make that change.


Feminist research names an issue -- in this case the imbalance of male to female characters in children's movies and television programs.

Why this is a feminist issue is obvious -- gender roles and self perceptions are shaped early in life and children learn what they see. They are also great imitators and perpetuators of what they see.

Feminist research goes on to discover the extent of the issue -- through various methods both qualitative and quantitative.

And uncovers the dynamics and makes recommendations for change.

The Geena Davis institute's research does these things and much more.

Powerful stuff.

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