Academy Award®-winning actor and advocate Geena Davis was back in Washington on Wednesday, but not as the President of the United States (her character from the award-winning television series Commander in Chief). Davis was the special guest of the MPAA for a discussion focusing on her outstanding acting career and her ongoing advocacy work, which was moderated by Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro [CT-03].
During an acting career that has spanned over 30 years, Geena Davis has played many strong and iconic women – the title role in the consummate female friendship movie, Thelma and Louise; the team leader in the celebrated women’s baseball drama, A League of Their Own; Muriel, the part for which she won an Academy Award® for Best Supporting Actress in The Accidental Tourist; and the first female President of the United States in the television series Commander in Chief (2006 Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series — Drama).
A long-time advocate for women, Davis is becoming as recognized for her tireless efforts on behalf of girls and women as for her acting accomplishments. In 2004 she founded the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media along with its programming arm, See Jane. The Institute conducts research, education, and advocacy programs to spotlight gender inequality and works within the entertainment industry to alter how girls and women are reflected in media.
Davis used Commander in Chief as an example of the power of positive female roles. “There was a study done after the show was over; people familiar with the show were 68% more likely to vote for a female candidate for president. Just seeing me behind the desk 18 times was enough to massively transform people’s thinking. That is why what we see on the screen is so important, because it makes it normal.”
Cong. DeLauro lauded Davis and the Institute, reminding the audience that change starts with them. “It [the entertainment community] is not unlike the Congress, there are lots of people internally that are doing the right thing; Geena Davis is doing the right thing. She has put an Institute together to provide the data to change policy, but it is external pressure on these institutions that make change. That is absolutely clear in the Congress. When you shut the system down and overwhelm it with letters and calls then change happens.”
CEO and Chairman of the MPAA Senator Chris Dodd concluded the evening praising Davis and Cong. DeLauro and their work in championing women’s equality. He spoke on Davis’s fight for women in the film industry by saying, “in the case of Geena, you have just been terrific, all the work you have done, all the startling statistics you have uncovered; we all need to become more familiar with this information.” Dodd also thanked Cong. DeLauro for all her hard work, “Rosa, not only did you work for me as my Chief of Staff, but because of you, the very first piece of legislation that President Obama signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, thank you Rosa DeLauro.”
In addition to her work with her Institute, Davis was recently appointed Special Envoy for Women and Girls in ICT for the UN's International Telecommunication Union (ITU). She is an official partner of UN Women and Chair of the California Commission on the Status of Women.
From left to right: Senator Chris Dodd, Geena Davis, and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro [CT-03]
From left to right: Girl Scouts of America, Geena Davis, and Congresswomen Rosa DeLauro [CT-03]
Photo Credit: Joy Asico