As consumers of media we know that things are biased. That's why it is so important that we have data to backup what we are seeing and feeling. And it's great that we have people like Geena Davis who are willing to stand up and say, yes, things are biased and they must change.
The Institute that bears her name released its latest study on the status of women and girls in the media at the third Annual Symposium on Gender Media.
The study was conducted by Stacy L. Smith, PhD with Marc Choueiti, Ashley Prescott & Katherine Pieper who are all from the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism at USC. These fine people analyzed 11,927 speaking characters for gender roles across three media: films rated (G, PG, PG-13); prime-time programs on 10 channels; and 36 children's TV shows.
Here's a shocker. The media is rife with sexism. Overall, there are many more males characters across all media. Here's a quote form the excutive summary that should give us all pause: "Few stories are "gender-balanced" or show females in 45-55% of all speaking roles. Only 11% of family films, 19% of children's shows, and 22% of prime-time programs feature girls and women in roughly half of all speaking parts."
And from the conclusion:
Female characters are still sidelined, stereotyped, and sexualized in popular entertainment content...Females are not only missing from popular media, when they are on screen, they seem to be there for decoration—and not engaging in meaningful or prestigious employment...
Digging down into the data:
Here's a quote: "Females, when they are on screen, are still there to provide eye candy to even the youngest viewers."
And forget playing a president or high profile political figure:
In politics, not one speaking character plays a powerful American female political figure across 5,839 speaking characters in 129 family films. Men, however, held over 45 different prestigious U.S. political positions (i.e., President, Vice President, Chief of Staff, Advisors, Senators, Representatives, Mayors, Governors) in G, PG, and PG-13 movies. As a point of comparison, over a quarter of the politicians in prime time are female (27.8%).
Every time I read these studies it just reminds me how much work still needs to be done. It is imperative that we keep pushing and pushing and reminding people that this work is vital for both boys and girls and their futures.