Geena Davis, actor and founder of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, spoke about her work at Ithaca College on March 31 in Ford Hall.
Diane Gayeski, dean of the Roy H. Park School of Communications, introduced Davis as the 19th Park Distinguished Visitor. The program invites esteemed individuals from important professional fields in communications to speak at the college.
Davis opened with a light joke, saying it was titled “How to Become a Movie Star.” The audience roared with laughter, and they continued to do so throughout the talk.
After taking the audience through the beginnings of her career as an actor, Davis focused on the research she’s conducted through the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. According to its website, the institute uses in-depth research to fight gender inequality in the media. Davis said the institute emphasizes gender inequalities in media for children.
During Davis’ speech, she explained an experiment that tested gender inequalities that occur in musical orchestras. She said a group of performers was asked to audition from behind a curtain for a panel of judges. Davis said the curtain was meant to eliminate any chance of gender discrimination, but she said the panel still chose more men than women. Then, the performers were asked to take their shoes off, which led to the discovery that the sound of the female performers’ heels was influencing the panel to unconsciously reject the females, Davis said.
Freshman Gabriella Malave said she was shocked by this example. She said she was unaware that this type of gender inequality existed and she appreciated Davis bringing it to her attention.
“I was shocked,” Malave said. “I thought it was very interesting how when she kept talking she was like, ‘That’s why they have carpets,’ or, ‘That’s why the women have to take off their shoes.’ But, I thought it was really interesting that she brought it up because that’s something that I would have never known.”
Among the crowd of attendees were a number of high school students, such as Ithaca High School senior Maddie Vandenberg. She said she enjoyed Davis’ unique point of view on how women should be represented in media.
“I really liked her idea that women in film, they just need to be there,” Vandenberg said. “It doesn’t matter if they’re the star or whatever, they just need to be there and be represented.”