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Oscar Winner Geena Davis Speaks at BU Tonight

Will discuss career, media’s portrayal of women


Geena Davis isn’t just acting in her fight against gender stereotypes. Photo courtesy of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media

Her life’s journey has been striking: an insecure teenager from Wareham, Mass., self-conscious about her towering six-foot frame; a window store mannequin for Ann Taylor who was smart enough to get into the high-IQ society Mensa; an Oscar- and Golden Globe–lauded actress, with roles from titular half of the feminist anthem Thelma and Louise to the first woman president in the TV series Commander in Chief; and Olympic trials semifinalist in archery. In recent years, she has added crusader against gender stereotypes to her résumé.

Geena Davis (CFA’79, Hon.’99) returns to BU tonight to discuss her career and her gender work. Her appearance is part of the Friends of the Libraries of Boston University Speaker Series, sponsored by BU’s Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, a repository for the documents and memorabilia of achievers in a wide range of fields, from politics to film.

Six years ago, Davis founded the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, which advocates for more portrayals and fewer stereotypes of females in children’s media. She had come to believe that a problem existed after watching kids’ movies with her young daughter. An example of its work: the institute last month released a study by University of Southern California researchers that looked at 122 family films made between 2006 and 2009. They found that females made up just 29 percent of the speaking characters and tended to be “eye candy,” depicted in “sexualized attire” or as physically attractive.

Her campaign has inspired a student project at her alma mater. The College of Communication’s student video company Hothouse Productions is preparing a short film for a symposium sponsored by the Davis Institute next month. The film focuses on Boston baker Joanne Chang, a Harvard math major who now makes mathematically perfect baked goods as owner of Boston’s Flour Bakery. The film quizzes young children about how easy it is for them to believe that the mathematically gifted baker is a woman, says Olivia Neir (COM’11), the film’s associate producer.

“This is one of the largest projects Hothouse has worked on,” Neir says.

When not acting and working on behalf of her institute, Davis lobbies publicly on behalf of women’s school sports and the federal Title IX program supporting them.

She won her Academy Award for best supporting actress in 1988’s The Accidental Tourist and was nominated in 1992 for best actress for Thelma and Louise. Among the films she’s starred in are The Fly, Beetlejuice, and A League of Their Own. Davis is a member at large of the California Commission on the Status of Women and works with UNIFEM, the women’s empowerment fund of the United Nations, on media gender issues.

Past Friends of the Libraries speakers include novelists Sue Miller (GRS’80) and Elizabeth George, stage actress Betty Buckley, journalists Bud Collins (COM’09), Christopher Dickey (COM’74), and Dan Rather (Hon.’83), opera singer Grace Bumbry (CFA’55), and Irish tenor Ronan Tynan.

The Friends of the Libraries of Boston University Speaker Series presents a talk by Geena Davis at 6 p.m. tonight, November 30, at the George Sherman Union’s Metcalf Ballroom, 775 Commonwealth Ave., second floor. General admission is $25; BU students may attend free by presenting their student ID.

Rich Barlow can be reached at barlowr@bu.edu.


2 Comments on Oscar Winner Geena Davis Speaks at BU Tonight

  • Anonymous on 11.30.2010 at 9:15 am

    I kind of wish I didn’t have class tonight because I’d really like to attend this talk.

  • Anonymous on 03.29.2011 at 11:02 pm

    eye candy

    Did Ms. Davis know that BU had it’s own coed sex magazine? Wonder how much impact that magazine had on the Craig’s list killer?
    Pornography trashes women. It is seductive, addictive and leads people to violent action.
    A town near us recently put a 13 year old on trial for the sexual assault and murder of a two year old. This behavior doesn’t come out of nowhere, it comes out of widely accepted soft-porn and then a gradual addiction to harder and harder stuff, until it has to act itself out.
    It’s more than a little disgusting that BU let it go on for 5 years and only folded because it wasn’t making enough money.

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