Tag Archives: gender bias

Reasons Why I Love Geena Davis

In between my much-more-serious-than-usual series of posts about combating sexual assault, I’d like to intersperse some more positive posts.  Today I just want to point out that I adore Geena Davis.  She is not exactly a STEM female role model, but she is a terrific role model overall for young people, and actively working to improve the world by using her voice to call out the rampant sexism in the U.S. media.

If you’ve never heard of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, you should check it out here.  The institute points out the disparity in on-screen representation between men and women, as well as how the women are represented.  Following their tagline “If she can see it, she can be it,” the institute pushes for more positive role models and realistic representations of women in all forms of media.

But other than her really great works with the institute, Geena Davis has a lot going for her in the awesome role model department.  Here are just a few of the reasons why I love her (yes, I know I’m resorting to a ‘top 10’ list… sorry, it’s been a busy month):

10. She takes action rather than just talking (see: the institute she formed).

9.  She is seriously talented.  From A League of Their Own to Thelma & Louise to Beetlejuice, she plays diverse characters really, really well.  I’d even argue she made the best out of her script in the incredibly campy cult classic Earth Girls are Easy.  And of course there’s that Oscar and that Golden Globe and… well, yeah, a lot of awards.

8. Did I mention A League of Their Own?

7. She goes for the great roles, even if they are controversial.  She goes for the fun and interesting roles, even if they are not ‘good career moves.’

6. She is a member of Mensa.

5. In addition to fighting inequality in the media, she fights inequality in women’s sports.  She works with the Women’s Sports Foundation to support title IX.

4. She is an activist with more than her own institute and core interests.  She’s worked with USAID, Dads and Daughters, and more.

3. She doesn’t just support sports for men, she’s also a competitor.  She’s a highly-ranked competitive archer and has been in the sport since way before it was cool in the wake of Legolas, Katniss, Merida, Hawkeye, and the Na’vi taking to the big screen with their bows in the last decade.  I mean she’s seriously competitive – she took up archery in 1997 and made it all the way to the semifinals in the trials for the U.S. team for the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympics.

2. She was a believable, tough, highly effective President in Commander in Chief.  The role fully embodied “If she can see it, she can be it.”  Every person who saw that show saw that it was not only possible, but a really good thing for a woman to be president.  And she won a Golden Globe for the role, plus a bunch of nominations for other awards.  That show was canceled way too early.

1.  She somehow manages to do all of the above while also being a mom of three, avoiding most of the major pitfalls of fame, surviving more than three decades as a successful actress in Hollywood, and… being really, really funny.  Seriously, check this out:

Ok, ten is more than enough.  That’s plenty of fangirl-ing for today.  Now I recommend you go watch Geena Davis as the President of the United States… I’ll apologize in advance for the fact that you will get completely hooked and then wonder why there are suddenly no more episodes.

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Filed under Equality, Opinion pieces, Role Models

Pink or Blue?

When I was pregnant with my daughter, my husband and I opted not to find out the gender of our child ahead of time.  We wanted to be surprised.  We picked out a girl name and a boy name, which we also kept secret, and we asked the ultrasound technicians not to tell us or let us see anything that would give it away (not that we had any clue what we were looking at on the monitor).  We were very happy with our choice.  And it drove everyone else nuts.

Friends and relatives, coworkers and well-wishers all wanted to know: is it a boy or a girl?  I would respond with: does it matter?

Apparently so.  Horrified people asked, “But how do we know what to buy for you?!  Should we get pink or blue clothes/toys/accessories/furniture/random things?”  Just when we thought the eyebrows couldn’t go any higher, we would answer, “Oh, the nursery has a space theme, and colors don’t matter but we’d prefer neutral since you’re asking.”

One relative insisted on waiting until after the baby was born to send a ‘proper’ present when she knew if it would be a boy or girl.  She sent a frilly, pink, flowered dress and bonnet set.  I think I put my daughter in it for a picture once.  Who puts a 3-month-old in layers of lace for anything but photos?  One spit-up and it’s done!

The stores and advertisers and toy and clothing manufacturers have done an amazing job of very firmly establishing the pink vs. blue thing.  Making parents buy things for boy babies and girl babies means parents won’t do hand-me-downs as much – a boy couldn’t possibly wear his sister’s old clothes!  Maybe a little sister could occasionally be caught in big brother’s cute things as a ‘tomboy’ look, but never vice versa.  Society wouldn’t allow it.  That rule is well established.  Tradition!

Except… it’s not.  Pink wasn’t a ‘boy’ color fifty years ago.  As early as a few decades ago, most kids’ things came in nice primary colors.  Now, if you haven’t been lately, go look at the toy aisles in your local big-box store.  Pink for girls, blue for boys.  Pink with sparkles, glitter, princesses, anthropomorphized appliances, butterflies.  Boys get superheroes, sports, cars, blue, maybe some red.  God forbid two children should share toys or play together.

Almost everything decorating my daughter’s room was labeled a ‘boy’ thing.  My husband and I are space geeks, and we figured infants don’t exactly know what they are looking at in the first year-ish, but like to see interesting/colorful things on walls.  And as parents, we figured those might as well be things we like to look at.  So we went with a space-themed room: Earth ceiling fan, planet and rocket decals, a rocket-shaped lamp and rug, framed pictures of the solar system, and a few various things like a monkey-shaped coat hook.  Her room theme relates to both my husband’s career/interests and mine: I am a trained aerospace engineer, and my husband writes science fiction.  And we’re both geeks who love all things space-related.  We could have gone with some of the more common ‘neutral’ themes (zoo animals, Noah’s Ark, Winnie the Pooh, yellow ducks, things in plain primary colors) but we wanted to tie it in with our lives and things that are important to us.

Is it really so important to start stuffing gender-segragation down kids’ throats as soon as they are babies.  Yeah, it’s cute and all, but do you really want your daughter growing up thinking she’s a princess, and all that that entails in the Hollywood?  To have people only comment on how pretty she looks, until that’s all she understands is important in life?  Instead, try to just let her be a kid and find her own way and her own preferences in the world – I’m pretty sure you’ll all be happier in the long run.

As for my daughter, when she’s old enough to develop her own tastes and feels strongly enough about something to be willing to empty out her precious piggy bank, she can redecorate as she likes.  Even if she decides on pink sparkles.  But I might have an extra glass of wine or three to drown my sorrows in secret on the night she tells me she wants a Barbie.

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Filed under Geek parenting resources, Opinion pieces