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Geena Davis Can Fix Hollywood Gender Stereotypes in Two Steps

posted by Nell Minow

Oscar-winning actress Geena Davis has been a leader in understanding and improving the role of women in media.  The founder of her namesake Institute on Gender in Media wrote a piece for the Hollywood Reporter citing data showing that there are three male characters for every speaking female in family-rated films: “We are in effect enculturating kids from the very beginning to see women and girls as not taking up half of the space.”

She proposes “two easy steps” for change.

Step 1: Go through the projects you’re already working on and change a bunch of the characters’ first names to women’s names. With one stroke you’ve created some colorful unstereotypical female characters that might turn out to be even more interesting now that they’ve had a gender switch. What if the plumber or pilot or construction foreman is a woman? What if the taxi driver or the scheming politician is a woman? What if both police officers that arrive on the scene are women — and it’s not a big deal?

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Step 2: When describing a crowd scene, write in the script, “A crowd gathers, which is half female.” That may seem weird, but I promise you, somehow or other on the set that day the crowd will turn out to be 17 percent female otherwise. Maybe first ADs [assistant directors] think women don’t gather, I don’t know.

As Davis says, “If they can see it, they can be it.”

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