By Joan Runnheim Olson
Actress Geena Davis is pioneering an effort to change female portrayals and gender stereotypes in children’s media and entertainment. In 2004, the Academy Award winning actor and advocate founded the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in the Media (www.seejane.org/index.php) to “spotlight gender inequalities at every media and entertainment company through cutting-edge research, education, training, strategic guidance and advocacy programs.”
Gender Stereotyping. Just take a look at television commercials and you see the prevalence of gender stereotyping. Women are portrayed as the primary caretakers for their children and those responsible for housekeeping duties. Men appear in commercials depicting them doing “manly” duties such as lawn care and auto maintenance. And then there are the beer commercials. Men are typically featured in commercials involving alcoholic beverages, and when women do appear they are often dressed scantily. According to research on the Institute’s website (http://www.seejane.org/research/), “Females are almost four times as likely as males to be shown in sexy attire.” The media also limits what girls and young women see as future career possibilities for themselves.
Why Should it Matter? Because a female is “conditioned” by what she sees in the media, if she sees someone that looks like herself doing something traditionally done by males, i.e., working on a car or mowing the lawn, she is more likely to see herself doing that as well. Taken a step further, if a female sees another female working in a nontraditional career, i.e., male-dominated, she is more likely to consider a career that is nontraditional. These nontraditional careers include architect, engineer, carpenter, etc. and typically pay 20-30 percent higher wages than those traditionally held by women. It's important for females to base their career choice on interest and aptitude not gender stereotypes.