Despite progress, when it comes to how women are represented on television, the media still has some work to do, according to a former Federal Communications Commission commissioner and an Oscar-winning actress tackling the topic.
Deborah Taylor Tate, a former Federal Communications Commission member, and actress Geena Davis are co-chairs of the new "Healthy MEdia Commission For Positive Images of Women and Girls," a gathering of media leaders aiming to correct some of the portrayals of women represented in the media today.
The co-chairs said the commission arose from a 2010 summit on the subject, co-hosted by The Girl Scouts of USA, the National Association of Broadcasters, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association and the Creative Coalition. More on the commission can be found at this web link.
Other members include male and female executives from the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau, Discovery Communications, Cartoon Network, A&E Television Networks, Scripps Networks Interactive, Style Network, Time Warner Cable, Univision Communications and Women in Cable Telecommunications.
On a July 12 conference call with reporters, Davis, who founded the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, noted that children spend a large amount of their time (after sleeping and attending school) watching media.
She stressed the importance of everyone's involvement in the matter of media portrayal and presenting healthy, balanced images for both girls and boys.
"[Negative] images lead towards a negative effect and negative portrayal and [we want to] launch a healthy media commission [for] a positive and balanced image of women for boys and girls," she said.
Davis and Tate, each a mother of three children, raised some pointed statistics about how much image matters to young women.
"According to our research," Davis stated, "50% of girls wish they were skinnier, 75% of them feel that fashion is extremely important, and 81% of them would like to see real and natural models."
"What is startling is that many of the statistics haven't changed since the 40's," Tate added.
The commission aims to hold national discussions to promote positive and balanced images of girls and women and suggest healthier practices for those involved within the media.
The commission also hopes to increase the impact of the message by including high school-aged young women in the conversation, to tell how they feel the images portrayed in the media affect them.
The commission also hopes to provide a blueprint on how to create a positive media environment for kids. There were many suggestions made for this blueprint, including increased representation of women in director and producing positions.
That leads to an increase in positive representation of women who show up in the final product, Davis said.
Davis and Tate acknowledged many steps have been taken to educate and promote more positive and healthy media representation of women. They said they want to keep people talking about the subject, and raise awareness of it further.
"Unless you educate people and make them aware of the statistics and [the] reality of the impact of these images, then you can't expect them to change them," Tate said.
Some specific tips that have already been noted by the Girl Scouts can be found at this web link. It has recommendations for promoting healthy body images, positive and active role models and healthy relationships.
Tips include featuring and valuing girls and women with varying body types and ethnicities; showing girls in age-appropriate attire; including a diverse cast of female characters in active and ambitious roles; featuring females in traditionally male roles, such as CEOs or action heroes; and showing equality and mutual respect between female and male characters.