68% of entertainment industry executives familiar with the Institute’s research changed 2 or more projects, 41% changed 4 or more projects. It is time to change this!
With the modern conveniences technology has brought us this past decade, some find it impossible to spend a day or even an hour away from their devices. iPads, iPhones, computers, even a watch you can text and browse through social media from, are basically part of our anatomy because to be separated from them just isn’t an option, and when we’re attached to these devices, the media becomes attached to us as well.
The media has a tendency to put more realistic, relatable content on the back-burner, especially when it comes the representation of minorities. The film and television industry is notorious for under representing females, the LGBQT+ community, individuals with disabilities and other minority groups. While women make up 51% of the population, “entertainment media has always been bereft of female representation on screen; a ratio of approximately 3:1.”(seejane.org). That statistic might seem strange considering, “Family films with female leads generated $10 million (7.3%) more on average at the box office than films with male leads.”(seejane.org). When females finally get the chance to take the spotlight, more often than not the focus is their sexuality, “Female characters are three times more likely to be verbally objectified than male characters, Female characters are three times more likely to be shown in sexually revealing clothing as male characters”. Women aren’t the only ones be excluding from their fair share of screen time, individuals with disabilities are barely portrayed in the media, “Only 5.0% of leading characters are portrayed as having a physical disability”(seejane.org). And when it comes to the LGBQT+ community, they’re basically non existent in the mainstream media, “ No LGBT protagonist was featured in the Top 50 family films, and LGBT characters made up only 1.4% of all supporting characters.”(seejane.org)
To some, these statistics aren’t too concerning because the media is just that, something you can turn on and off at your desire. Some might argue that if they don’t want to see something in the media, they can simply turn it off and be unaffected by it. Unfortunately, it isn’t always that simple, the media has a more profound impact on our lives than we may notice. In fact, “Consumers around the world spend an average of 463 minutes or over 7.5 hours per day with media.” from social media, to the news, to magazines, it might be more of a challenge than we think to escape the media, especially for children. (Fuller). The media targets the vulnerable, malleable minds of children because of how easily influenced they can be, “Children are engaging with media up to 7 hours a day, and consuming massive amounts of unconscious bias in the programming they’re consuming.” 7 hours if a long amount of time, so it’s important that the messages the media is sending to children is beneficial, real and something everyone can agree on.
The masterminds and backbones behind the #SeeHer movement are the Geena Davis Institute. The first research-based organization whose main goal is to educate, engage, and influence individuals in the media, as well as audiences to change the way minorities, are portrayed in the media. Geena Davis, Founder and Academy Award-winning actress for her roles in T.V and movies had been in the industry for almost 12 years before she had decided she had enough of the gender disparity and male-dominated influence on the screen as well as behind the camera. The Geena Davis Institute continues to challenge stereotypes, highlight gender balance and conduct valuable research proving the dire need for immediate action in the media.
Don’t get us wrong, technology is FABULOUS and social media outlets are amazing tools, but the media has a tendency to cloak veracity and real life. It’s easy to share and only pay attention to the joyful milestones and the cheery side of life on social media, but as we all know, everyday life isn’t always linear or facile for that matter. Seeing celebrities hopping off jets, and going to red carpet events in the media definitely doesn’t always help this cause either. We’ve all been guilty of browsing through celebrities Instagrams and thinking to ourselves, “I wish I looked this happy” or “if only my skin was as radiant as hers” like It’s easy to get caught up in false reality social media makes us believe should be our own.
The issue of a false portrayal of reality isn’t an issue many are aware of or even think is an actual issue in society. This particular issue affects women significantly more than men. History has shown the constant uphill battle women face for basic rights, and in a world where fewer women run big companies than there are men named John, it’s clear that the fight is far from over. The media has the power to reach and influence millions of people worldwide, so starting with the way women are portrayed and viewed in the media is a pretty good start.
In June of 2016, the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) launched the #SeeHer movement to change the way women are viewed and portrayed in the media by 2020. #Seeher aims to increase accurate portrayals of woman and girls in the media in an honest, unfiltered, empowering manner. #SeeHer’s message hit close to home for tons of women in the spotlight today. Icons like Jennifer Lopez, Serena Williams, Evan Rachel Wood, and Lady Gaga have all been spotlighted and deemed valuable leaders in this continuous battle to promote female empowerment, positivity and of course, honesty in the media.
In January 2019 British actress Claire Foy earned with the #SeeHer prize at the Critics Choice Awards. Presenting this award to Foy was Viola Davis, who received the first #SeeHer award back in 2016 for her roles in T.V and movies like How to Get Away With Murder, Suicide Squad, Fences, and The Help. Davis’s roles in these productions stood out to audiences everywhere, “she ’embodies the values set forth by the #SeeHer mission, including pushing boundaries on changing stereotypes and her recognition of the importance of accurately portraying women across the entertainment landscape.’”(Poggi)
Foy, a well-known actress who has appeared in a variety of films and TV productions says, “I realize that’s all I have to offer, is myself. And all I’ve ever tried to do with anything I’ve ever made and in the work I’ve been in is to hopefully make something which people recognize, that they recognize themselves on screen in some way, that they see a thought or feeling or an emotion or circumstance and they can see themselves.”(Irishexaminer). Critics and fans have admired and related to Foy in her roles playing a more atypical female character whose ideas and beliefs go against the stereotypical female role.
The #SeeHer Campaign continues to spotlight female’s in the media, applauding their initiative with hopes of inspiring more accurate and true representations of women in the media. Kristin Chenoweth, a prominent actress, well known for her debut on Broadway as Glinda in the infamous Broadway musical “Wicked” was spotlighted for staying true to herself rather than listening to what the media wanted her to be. Chenoweth talks about taking roles no one wanted to see her in. Roles in less popular shows and movies but she did them because she wanted to and felt as though it was important to her.
#SeeHer also spotlighted a familiar face in the sports world, Serena Williams. Williams has been a tennis icon and a role model for aspiring females, athletes or not everywhere. She was spotlighted not only for her Nike campaign where she calls out genders stereotypes sending a powerful message to female athletes to rise above the doubt and negativity but for her role as a working mother. Williams has always been honest when talking about her struggles as an African American female athlete and mother.
It is probably not too surprising that Lady Gaga, a queen in the world of music was also spotlighted on the #SeeHer campaign. Lady Gaga, a longtime ally to the LGBQT+ community and advocate against bullying has always been candidly honest about her struggles, triumphs, and hatred she has faced for being radically different from the hoi polloi. Known for her exuberant red carpet looks and her edgy performances and music videos, Lady Gaga has consistently promoted the notion of being true to yourself despite what others think, making her more than deserving of this spotlight.
When it comes to equal pay, women of all work fields know this frustrating, degrading never-ending battle all too well, and that isn’t an exception for women in the media. #SeeHer highlighted actress and singer Emmy Rossum not only for her phenomenal role as Fiona in “Shameless” but for the initiative she took in 2016, advocating for herself and others women to receive equal pay to their male counterparts. After succeeding in this endeavor, she inspired many other Hollywood stars to question and stand up to unequal pay.
The ’90s were a groundbreaking era for hip-hop artists, and female hip hop artists were no exception. The rap and hip-hop world was a boys club. Females were acknowledged in rap and hip-hop song and videos simply for their looks and sex appeal to promote the male rappers, but the female rap group Salt and Peppa the female changed that forever. Salt and Peppa said what they wanted, smashing the stereotypes that female musicians could not talk about sexuality, use curse words and that females had to uphold a certain “lady like” standard. If that isn’t enough justification for earning a spotlight on the #SeeHer campaign, Salt and Peppa was the first female rap group to sell a multi-platinum selling album and the first female rap group to win a Grammy with their hit, “None of your business”. Keep it up, girls!
Screens are almost too accessible these days and being on social media or other pop culture platforms has become an aspect of our everyday lives, but that’s not necessarily a negative thing! Using these platforms to share empowering messages, inspiration and personal stories, negative and positive can have an enormous impact on someone’s life. The #SeeHer campaign efforts have done a phenomenal job doing so, and their accomplishments speak for themselves with testimonials from Nina Tassler, CEO and Chairman of CBS entertainment, ““They have made great strides to change the landscape of media and programming to reflect a more accurate, gender balanced, diverse portrayal of society.”” The pressure to try to photoshop out a belly roll or a breakout can feel overwhelming and take a blow at one’s self-confidence, which is why the #SeeHer campaign strives to make the media a positive, safe environment where women can share honestly and empower other women to do the same. Thank you to all the inspirational women who continue to pave the way for other’s success! Your efforts don’t go unnoticed and we are so excited to see the incredible places the #SeeHer campaign goes.
Claire Foy delivers powerful speech while accepting #SeeHer award. (2019, January 14). Retrieved from https://www.irishexaminer.com/breakingnews/entertainment/claire-foy-delivers-powerful-speech-while-accepting-seeher-award-897381.html
Fuller, S. (n.d.). Topic: Media Use. Retrieved from https://www.statista.com/topics/1536/media-use/
Poggi, J. (2016, December 06). Viola Davis to Receive First #SeeHer Award. Retrieved from https://adage.com/article/media/viola-davis-receive-seeher-award/307033