From 2006 to 2009, not a single woman in a G-rated film was portrayed as a doctor, business leader, lawyer or politician, according to a study by the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism. In fact, the study concluded that women are outnumbered 3-to-1 by men in family movies. And when they are included, women are more likely to be donning ‘sexy’ clothes and have an unrealistic figure.
The study was commissioned by Geena Davis, an Academy Award winner best known for her roles in Thelma and Louise and A League of Their Own. Davis noticed a disparity of women in film while watching shows with her young daughter—a disparity that the Annenberg study confirmed—and later started the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. The actress will be in St. Louis on Wednesday, Nov. 28, to speak on changing that trend at ‘Making A Difference: Women, Girls and the Media,’ the largest annual fundraiser for Women’s Foundation of Greater St. Louis.
“The hope is that we’ll raise some awareness, and people will start watching shows a little more critically, rather than just assuming this is how things are—because it’s not,” says Women’s Foundation president Pat Rich. The foundation, one of 160 around the world that make up the Women’s Funding Network, raises awareness of women’s issues and supports nonprofits that make life better for women and girls. “The Women’s Foundations were started because the percentage of foundation money going directly to women and girls is less than 8 percent,” she notes, adding that while the local chapter’s funding stays within the St. Louis metropolitan area, there are chapters from “the Midwest to Mongolia” supporting women’s issues. In many cases, that means working to help raise women and girls out of poverty and help them become self-sustaining, as well as making sure they have a chance for an education and tackling difficult issues, including sex trafficking and assault.
According to national studies, the chance of a disabled woman being sexually assaulted is between 65 and 85 percent. The Women’s Foundation helped fund a study led by the YWCA to discern the prevalence of this problem in the St. Louis community and find ways to deal with it. As a result of the study, “Both the city and county are funding efforts to train staff to start working on this issue—it gives systemic change, not only helping victims but changing some of the baseline numbers,” Rich says. “It will promote prevention programs, increase awareness and work with counselors who are often already trained in sexual assault, but are not necessarily trained in working with developmental disabilities. They’re working across the board to solve—or at least lessen—this problem. It’s an issue people don’t really like to talk about.” The Foundation also has recently provided funding to Safe Connections, a counseling agency for victims of assault; ROW (Redevelopment Opportunities for Women), which provides financial counseling; and Marian Middle School, just to name a few.
In addition to its annual fundraiser, the Foundation receives funds from Rung, a resale fashion boutique in Rock Hill that helps women find professional clothing to start their career. “Women can donate articles they no longer wear to someone who can use them, and the proceeds get donated to helping women again,” Rich says. It’s a circle of helping that just needs one donation to get it started, she adds. “It’s a win-win-win.”