Tuesday, May 02, 2006

a fictional president and real statistics.

perusing the contents of the latest ms. magazine, i came across this article about geena davis. now, of course i'm hoping that geena davis is cool because a) she was in thelma and louise and b) she's the first female president of the united states, albeit in the fantasy land of network tv. turns out there's one more (far less circumstantial) reason to think she's cool - she's started up the See Jane program, which advocates for gender equity in media.

See Jane just released a study of gender breakdown and representation found in G-rated movies. according to ms.,

[See Jane's] Research showed that in 101 top-grossing G-rated movies released between 1990 and 2005, three out of four characters were male. Girls accounted for only 17 percent of the film’s narrators and 17 percent of the characters in crowd scenes. Only seven of the 101 movies were nearly gender-balanced, with a ratio of less than 1.5 males per 1 female character. “Although many people would argue that things seem to be getting better, our data shows that this is not the case,” says the principal investigator, Stacy L. Smith, an associate professor at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication.

i include smith's quote along with the stats because i think it's important to highlight the fact that there are numbers to back up the idea that we haven't really come a long way, baby. i've complained here before about people trying to pull me up short with the "relax, already, it's just a movie/tv show/advertisment/game/etc," like the fact that something is pop culture related means that it can have no great social and political import (thanks to my ipod and janis joplin for that phrase springing directly to mind). it is dangerous to assume that because something is coded as "entertainment" that it doesn't have long-lasting, far-reaching effects.

why? because our lives are absolutely subsumed by media. the average american is exposed to over 3,000 ads a day. 3,000 ads in one day!* and what we think of as our "entertainment" is pretty much a vehicle for advertisers to reach us - $40 billion a year in advertising revenue is generated for radio and tv alone, never mind movies, magazines, newspapers, online publications, etc.** we are literally stewing in this stuff, so if stereotypical gender roles are predominant in media, it means they're predominant in our lives. period.

on that note, i got to thinking about what i would commission as a study if i ran a program like See Jane. you know what it would be? the percentage of all car commericals that show a female driver and a male passenger. i'm willing to bet that it's tiny. microscopic. hardly visible to the human eye. maybe i'll write geena davis a letter.

*from jean kilbourne's can't buy my love: how advertising changes the way we think and feel.


Stacey said...

Great information. And I definitely agree with your point about the lack of female drivers in ads. Not only that, but I've noticed that when a couple is going somewhere, the male always drives, even if it's the female's car!

I've chided my mother for this actually. "Mom, why is Dad driving? It's your car!" And my mother is not a shrinking violet, she's someone who is not afraid to ask for what she wants. Plus, she loves cars!

She didn't even realize she was doing it until I started pointing it out. Further proof that this kind of thing gets ingrained in us and affects our behavior without us even knowing it.

Cinnamon said...

Here, here! I love Geena Davis. I've been a fan of Commander in Chief since the second episode. Didn't have Tivo for the first one. See Jane is awesome, too. Swoon.

And the top-secret textbook publisher that I might have something to do with lost a sale of a middle-school social studies book to Texas (and therefore many other states in that area) because there was a photograph of a woman driving and a male passenger. This "gender-flopping" was a sure sign that the book would express a "liberal agenda." We joked that we should change the caption to read "The civil rights movement meant that women with husbands who have a broken foot could drive the couple to church."

kate.d. said...

holy crap, cinnamon, thats a crazy story! see what i mean? most people would be like "that can't be true, that's too ridiculous. real people don't behave that way."

oh yes they do. and it is a big deal!

Kate said...

That story is horrifying Cinnamon.

Just finally catching up on my blogs after being away... thanks for writing about this. More reasons to love Geena Davis! And to think, I haven't been following her show because I was worried about it being weird/cliche...

Joanna said...

I am a sox fan and I totally cracked up reading your assessment of Mirabelli getting to the game in a statie's car. And THEN, Ortiz's comments after the game is priceless and so right on! I love it. Of course, I was listening to the news last night and heard them say something like "Millar's back", in their sneaky "suck 'em in to make them listen" way, and I got all excited. And my sister tells me that no, they're playing the Orioles tonight and that's why he's "back". Stupid media.

Roni said...

geena is not the first woman president. that is for patty duke as president Julia Mansfield on "Hail to the Chief" http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0088529/

yeah...that tiny show left that much impression on my lil feminista brain. i remember being sooooo excited to watch it. esp since it was patty duke!