×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Geena Davis Wants More Girls in Toons

Institute on Gender in Media head challenges conference to alter view of femmes in toons

What do Congress, Fortune 500 boards and the Animation Guild have in common? Women account for about 17% of their members, and according to Geena Davis’ keynote address at the annual Conference of the Society for Animation on Wednesday, that 17% is true for children’s media, too.

“Seventeen percent of film directors, producers and writers are female,” Davis said.

“And guess what the percentage of females in crowd scenes in animated movies is? 17%,” Davis said at the USC-held conference. The same stat goes for live-action pics. The Bono-proclaimed “factivist”  went on to explain that the ratio of male to female characters hasn’t changed since 1946.

“What if by consuming these vast amounts of media that we do, increasingly so, that ratio of males to females of 6-to-1 looks normal?” Davis said. By continuing to make those films, “we’re in effect saying that women and girls are less important than men and boys––that they don’t take up half the space in the world.”

At the helm of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, Davis seeks to assess and alter the representations of female characters in TV and film, with particular attention to programming for children ages 11 and under. According to Davis, the worst segment of programming with regards to gender parity is TV shows aimed at viewers aged 7-11.

“The sexualization of female characters is rampant,” Davis said. “In G-rated animated movies, female characters wore same amount of revealing clothing as the female characters in R-rated movies.”

As a result, women are learning to self-sexualize by age 6, she said. Davis was referring to a 2012 study published in the journal Sex Roles.

Davis compelled animators to change these statistics by making a few key changes. For one, she advised that writers go through their scripts and simply change male characters to female ones.

“You don’t even need to but a giant bow or giant lashes to signify that it’s female,” she said. “You can just change it. They can be just as quirky and unusual as the male characters.”

Davis cited “Finding Nemo’s” Dory as a remarkable character and an example of how animated females can still be funny.

Davis also turned to her own body of work for an example of how strong depictions of women can affect change, citing a survey conducted after the airing of “Commander in Chief,” in which Davis played a female president of the United States. Sixty-nine percent of those polled said that after watching the show, they were more likely to vote for a female prexy.

Another rousing example: the “CSI” effect. Shows depicting forensic scientists have a strong female presence, and perhaps as a result, studies show that about 75% of graduates from forensic science programs are women. As Davis put it, “if they can see it, they can be it.”

“Media is incredibly powerful. Images are incredibly powerful and can have an incredibly positive effect. They can create opportunities to overcome these unconscious biases and social barriers.

“We were able to measure progress and discovered that if we add female characters at the rate we have over the past 20 years, we will achieve parity in 700 years. We are dedicated at my institute to cutting that in half,” Davis quipped. “And I hope that I can ask you to join in our fight.”

Popular on Variety

More Biz

  • Harvey Weinstein

    Weinstein Can Get a Fair Trial in Manhattan, Says D.A.

    The Manhattan District Attorney’s office argued on Friday that Harvey Weinstein can get a fair trial in Manhattan, and blamed the producer’s defense team for much of the pre-trial publicity in the case. Weinstein’s attorneys have asked an appellate court to transfer the case — which is set to begin on Sept. 9 — to [...]

  • Leonardo DiCaprio Madonna

    Leonardo DiCaprio, Madonna Call for Action on Amazon Wildfires

    As wildfires rage at an alarming rate in Brazil’s Amazon rain forest, celebrities are using their platforms to bring awareness to the deforestation’s impact and to call for action. In the past week, stars like Leonardo DiCaprio, Madonna, Cara Delevingne and Ariana Grande have taken to Instagram to express their frustration with the lack of [...]

  • 'The Durrells' TV Show

    Greece Sweetens Production Incentives as Struggling Country's Economy Rebounds

    It’s taken the better part of a decade for Greece to show signs of recovery from the crippling crisis that almost pushed it out of the Eurozone. Now, with the economy slowly on the mend, the government is doubling down on efforts to jump-start the local film industry, giving a dramatic overhaul to the incentive [...]

  • Warner Music Group Partners With Audiomack

    Warner Music Group Partners With Audiomack

    Warner Music Group announced it has entered a partnership with the music streaming and discovery service Audiomack, marking the platform’s first licensing deal with a major label. According to the announcement, the two companies will work together on content concepts and explore ways to break emerging artists, connecting music fans with rising talent before they [...]

  • Scooter Braun Congratulates Taylor Swift on

    Scooter Braun Congratulates Taylor Swift on ‘Brilliant’ Album and Campaign

    Two days after Taylor Swift fired off the latest salvo in her battle with Scooter Braun, the manager congratulated the singer on the campaign around her “brilliant” new album, “Lover,” which arrived last night. The message came after Swift said she will be re-recording songs from her first six albums, which are now owned by [...]

  • David Koch Obit

    David Koch, Libertarian Activist and Billionaire Philanthropist, Dies at 79

    David Koch, brother of Charles Koch and one of the owners of Koch Industries, the second-largest private company in the U.S., has died at 79. According to the New York Times, Charles Koch announced the news of his brother’s death in a statement. Though he did not attribute to David’s death to a particular cause, [...]

  • Beverly Hills Realtor Accused of Stealing

    Beverly Hills Realtor Accused of Stealing From Usher, Adam Lambert

    A Beverly Hills real estate agent has been arrested on charges of stealing from the homes of celebrities, including Usher, Adam Lambert and “Real Housewives” star Dorit Kemsley. Jason Emil Yaselli, 32, is accused of encouraging an accomplice, Benjamin Ackerman, to enter homes during open houses in order to steal from them. Ackerman allegedly sold [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content