Sunday, September 27, 2015

Geena D. Speaks

Some time back, the Animation Guild co-hosted a seminar on gender bias in the animation business. It continues to be an issue for Ms. Davis.

... When Davis’s daughter Alizeh was born in 2002 she started noticing something else: when she watched animated or children’s films, Davis was struck by the lack of female characters on show.

It's an image we have that women only need to take up a certain amount of space and then we've done right by them.

“It was really shocking,” she says. “I first just mentioned it to my friends and said, ‘Did you notice in that movie that just came out there was only one female creature in the whole movie? Besides the mother who dies in the first five minutes?’ And none of them had noticed. Feminist friends, mothers of daughters, none of them noticed until I pointed it out.”

She started talking to studio bosses and industry figures. Across the board, she was told gender representation was not a problem. It had been fixed: “And very often they would name a movie with one female character as proof.”

So Davis sponsored the largest ever study on gender depictions in family-rated films and children’s television (“I take everything too far,” she admits). The research spanned a 20-year period. It found that for every female speaking character there were three males, while female characters made up just 17% of crowd scenes.

“I told somebody that just the other day and they said, ‘Well it seems like you’d have to work at making it that few,’” Davis says with a chuckle.

Her point is that even in a fictional setting, created from our collective 21st-century imagination, we seem – subconsciously or otherwise – to believe a 17% female representation is the natural state of affairs.

“That ratio is everywhere,” Davis says. “US congress? 17% women. Fortune 500 boards are 17%. Law partners and tenured professors and military are 17% female. Cardiac surgeons are 17%. That’s the percentage of women in the Animation Guild. Journalists, print journalists, are 19% women. So why, across all these major sectors of society, does this percentage of women in leadership positions stall at about the same range? ...

Happily (but only a little) the ratio of women to men in TAG has crept up a bit from 17%. But it's still remarkably low. If it climbs to 35% in the next few years, I'd say we're getting somewhere.


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