A Woman Visible

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Thursday, February 09, 2006

Where Have All the Women Gone?

ABC News posted a story about couple of hours ago that caught my eye as I scanned my Google desktop during lunch. Apparently a study of G-Rated movies revealed that "male characters outnumbered females 3-to-1" in the 101 movies that were surveyed from 1990-2004. What concerns the sponsors at this study is that "the disparity diminishes the importance of women in children's eyes."

The goal here, according to the article, is to push Hollywood toward a more "balanced gender representation" in movies. Geena Davis, star of Commander in Chief and founder of SeeJane says, "By making it common for our youngest children to see everywhere a balance of active and complex male and female characters, girls and boys will grow up to empathize with and care more about each others' stories." Their claim is that this disparity matters because it is one part of how children learn what it means to be male and female.

Women's visibility in the media has been a concern for decades. How are they depicted? How many strong roles vs. empty roles are they afforded by producers, writers, and directors. I wonder if the lack of visible roles is as important as a lack of positive female roles. The study only looked at G rated movies, but how many children are allowed to view movies that are PG13 or R rated and how do those movies measure up? I feel more concerned that children are learning male and female lessons that involve women being very visible in very negative, demeaning ways. Do our young males disrespect women because very early on women are minimalized in their stories, or because the women they do see in the media are exposed in demeaning, unflattering ways? I could ask the same about our girls and their views on men.

I also wonder how this group wants chldren to see women portrayed once they do get adquate screen time. Most of the G rated movies I've watched portray women as

a) The mom

b) The evil witch

c) The clueless mom

d) The wise grandmother

e) The woman in peril/fairy tale princess (Disney is strong in this category)

f) The spunky younger sister

What about the girls that are looking for visibilty, but don't fit the categories presented? Ah, now I see what Davis means. Such limited options can diminish a child's options--if that's the only influence she has in her life. Children have so many other influences that are as strong or stronger than what they view in movies. Girls look to their mothers, grandmothers, fathers, grandfathers, family friends, and each other to find their own visibilty. I think we have to look at the whole experience, and measure accordingly.

So, should we worry about the disparity that Hollywood seems to support? Maybe, but we should also understand there is more than movie magic that grows a girl's (or a boy's) identity, and allows them to journey to their ultimate visibility in society.

You can read the study yourself: Where the Girls Aren't: Gender Disparity Saturates G-Rated Films .


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