Geena Davis Institute Takes on Gender Stereotypes in Children’s Media

In 2004, Actress Geena Davis founded the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, fueled by the disparity in gender roles and stereotypes she observed in family films she watched with her own daughter.

This is the largest research project of its kind. Their biennial symposium rounds up “over 300 decision makers, content creators, and thought leaders to share best practices and create a blueprint towards establishing a gender-balanced media landscape.

A recent study looked at 100 of the most popular PG and PG-13 films released between 2006 and 2011. Here’s what they found:

Across 5,839 independent speaking characters, 71.7% of coded characters are male. This translates into 2.53 on screen males to every 1 on screen female.

This means that negative or unbalanced stereotypes are being being imprinted on children’s minds for hours on end.

The media children watch predisposes them to  “sex-role stereotyping, self objectification, and body dissatisfaction.”

The following figures from the same study revealed these eye-opening demographics:

  • Characters represented in sexually revealing attire: 28.3% female, 8% male
  • Characters represented partially naked or showing some exposed skin in the cleavage, midriff, or buttocks section: 26.6% female, 8.5% male
  • Characters more likely to be represented as thin: 34.3% female, 10.7% male
  • Characters referred to as physically attractive over the context of the plot: 14.9% female, 4.3% male

The Institute recently released an infographic-style Public Service Announcement video to help bring awareness and attention to the issue and inform and educate the public. It’s interesting, informative, and makes one reflect on the family films and media we grew up watching.

Stereotypes are largely a matter of perception, both internal and external; how we perceive ourselves and how we perceive others. While they may seem normal and even funny at times, they can also be very limiting.

As adults, many work hard and succeed at breaking out of our perceived limitations or stereotypes, but many of us are still trapped in them. Habits and patterns engrained in us as children often become our default way of thinking.

Restructuring children’s media can create an environment where all children are encouraged to become whatever they want to be and do not feel limited or pigeon-holed into jobs or roles that do not serve them or society.

Are stereotypes too deep-rooted to revamp? How and where do we start? Share your comments below!

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