Students with the SSND delegation (projected on the screen above) watch to Sarah Jones (lower right) perform "Women Can't Wait" at the session on arts advocacy.
Women and the Media
From left, Phumzile Miambo-Ngcucka, executive director of UN Women, and Geena Davis, Academy Award-winning actress
|Jane Fonda, actress, author and activist|
Geena Davis and Jane Fonda, two celebrities active in advocating on behalf of gender equality, provided their perspectives and experiences at sessions Thursday at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.
In an event on Women and the Media, Davis noted that there are profoundly fewer female characters in television programs aimed at children, and women are routinely portrayed hyper-sexually.
“The message being sent in the 21st century is that women take up less than half the space; women and girls don’t do anything nearly as interesting as men and boys,” said Davis, an Academy Award-winning actress and founder of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media.
Changing a Gross Imbalance
The Geena Davis Institute focuses on family-rated films and television aimed at children under age 11 because they want to change what children see first.
“If we added female characters at the rate we have been over past 20 years, we will achieve parity in 700 years,” Davis said. “The enormous impact that the media is having on our unconscious biases needs to be addressed immediately.
One area where the gross imbalance can be changed overnight is on screen, Davis said. For example, only 17 percent of the people in crowd scenes in films are women. When she brings these statistics to her colleagues, she said, they are stunned.
“Their jaws are on the floor,” Davis said. When they hear that, they want to change it immediately. It is a simple fix.”
Mitigating language also can take away nearly all of the negative impacts. For instance, parents can watch television with children and question whether a girl character is dressed appropriately for the activity in which she is engaging.
“Girls as young as six are self-sexualizing – seeing themselves through the male gaze, but if you have mothers who watch television with them and mitigate what they see, it takes it away. We have great power to change that.”
Davis was on a panel that included the director of UN Women and representatives from global media organizations
Advocating for more than 20 years
Fonda, actress, author, activist and Equality Now Adolescent Girls’ Legal Defense Fund Advisory Board member, has long been an advocate for women’s rights. She was a participant at the Fourth World Conference for Women in the Beijing 20 years ago, when the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the most progressive blueprint ever for advancing women’s rights was produced.
“I’ve seen firsthand around the world how women and girls grow, blossom and become empowered citizens when they have a sense of equal worth," Fonda said.
She noted how in the 20 years since the meeting in Beijing, 139 countries now guarantee gender equality in their constitutions; 125 countries outlaw domestic violence against women; 117 countries outlaw harassment in the workplace; and 115 give women equal rights to own property.
“Equality between men and women is the critical component for just lives,” Fonda said.”Gender equality means more peace and security.”
Women Can’t Wait
Fonda provided the introduction at the session on Arts Advocacy Campaign to End Sex Discriminatory Laws. The session featured an artistic performance by Sarah Jones, a Tony Award-winning playwright, actress and poet, who wrote and performed Women Can’t Wait. Her show was originally commissioned by Equality Now! to address the human rights of women and girls and premiered at the International Beijing +5 United Nations Conference on Women’s Rights in 2000.
In the show, Jones portrays several women from different countries and uses their experiences and struggles to expose laws which discriminate against women around the world.