The Wonders of Wonder Woman

In an interview at the Jimmy Kimmel Live show, Gal Gadot, who plays Wonder Woman in the movies Batman v Superman: Dawn of JusticeWonder Woman, and the upcoming Justice League, shared a story about her five year old daughter. While they were playing in a park, her daughter told the parents of other kids that her mother was Wonder Woman. When the parents looked at Gadot, not recognizing her, she told them, “You know, every mother is a Wonder Woman!”

The funny part of this story is, of course, that Gadot is actually Wonder Woman in the movie. However, the sentiment behind her response of “every mother is a Wonder Woman” may be the main reason why the film Wonder Woman has gotten so much positive feedback: the fact that Wonder Woman embodies the truth that women have the power to make a positive impact – whether that’s saving the world from villains, or being a caring mother and wife.

Unlike so many female characters, Wonder Woman is a multidimensional and complex character. She’s naive about basic social norms, such as dress codes in World War I England, the fact that women are not allowed in some places, to how to dance with a man. She’s also extremely tough and physically strong, surprising men throughout the movie with her incredible fighting skills. Emotionally, she shows hate towards evil, but also an ability to see the good even in people considered evil by others. She is a total idealist, wanting to help everyone along the way, but her idealism and kindness towards others is based on her own strong convictions and belief that there is indeed good among the bad.

Despite positive reviews, the movie has received some criticism regarding its attempt to be a feminist movie, citing, for example, Gadot’s model-beauty as perpetuating a stereotype that female heroines must be physically attractive. However, I believe the movie has more positive than negative aspects, perhaps best exemplified in Gadot’s own life as a model, wife, and mother of two (she even filmed part of the movie while pregnant!), who served two years the Israel Defense Forces.

Women can be intelligent and athletic, sexy and caring, all at the same time. Gadot’s own life is proof of all that women are capable of, and the complexities that make us as human as men.

It’s also worth mentioning that the movie was directed by a woman, Patty Jenkins – the first woman to direct a movie that had a budget of more than 100 million US dollars.

In October 2016, to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Wonder Woman’s first appearance in comics, the United Nations appointed her as UN honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls, a controversial decision that ultimately led to the end of Wonder Woman’s role representing the UN.

On this controversy, Gadot stated: “There are so many horrible things that are going on in the world, and this is what you’re protesting, seriously?” […] When people argue that Wonder Woman should ‘cover up,’ I don’t quite get it. They say, ‘If she’s smart and strong, she can’t also be sexy.’ That’s not fair. Why can’t she be all of the above?

I would be cautious to call Wonder Woman a “feminist” movie—she is, after all, a fictional character, portrayed by a white model-actress. But I would still praise it for the positive and hopeful message it gives about humanity as a whole— that we shouldn’t give up on the good humans are capable of just because at times humans can be evil. The main message I left the movie with is this: regardless of gender, race, social status, talents and abilities, we are capable of making the world a better place – and that can include sexy and physically strong women too.

Movies to Make You Feel Bold!

Ever since this year’s International Women’s Day we’ve been celebrating our brilliant Girls’ Globe network – the individuals and organizations committed to making the world a better and more equal place to live.

We asked each of our contributors to share their secrets of feeling BOLD. They told us about books that inspire them, songs that embolden them and quotations that move them. Last up, here is Girls’ Globe’s big, bold movie list. Why not treat yourself to one of these tonight?!

  1. Spotlight, 2015
    The true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese.
  2. Queen of Katwe, 2016
    A Ugandan girl sees her world rapidly change after being introduced to the game of chess.
  3. Juno, 2007
    Faced with an unplanned pregnancy, an offbeat young woman makes an unusual decision regarding her unborn child.
  4. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, 2013
    When his job is threatened, Walter embarks on a global journey that turns into an adventure more extraordinary than anything he could have ever imagined.
  5. Sarafina, 1992
    South African teenagers fight against apartheid in the Soweto Uprising.
  6. She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry, 2014
    A documentary that resurrects the buried history of the outrageous, often brilliant women who founded the modern women’s movement from 1966 to 1971.
  7. Wild, 2014
    A chronicle of one woman’s 1,100-mile solo hike undertaken as a way to recover from a recent personal tragedy, based on the incredible book by Cheryl Strayed.
  8. Le Grand Bleu, 1988

    The rivalry between Enzo and Jacques, two childhood friends and now world-renowned free divers, becomes a beautiful and perilous journey into oneself and the unknown.

  9. Selma, 2014
    A chronicle of Martin Luther King’s campaign to secure equal voting rights via an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965.
  10. Brave, 2012
    Determined to make her own path in life, Princess Merida defies a custom that brings chaos to her kingdom. Granted one wish, Merida must rely on her bravery and her archery skills to undo a beastly curse.
  11. Hidden Figures, 2016
    The story of a team of African-American women mathematicians who served a vital role in NASA during the early years of the US space program.
  12. Far from the Madding Crowd, 2015
    In Victorian England, the independent and headstrong Bathsheba Everdene attracts three very different suitors: Gabriel Oak, a sheep farmer; Frank Troy, a reckless Sergeant; and William Boldwood, a prosperous and mature bachelor.
  13. Million Dollar Baby, 2004
    A determined woman works with a hardened boxing trainer to become a professional.
  14. Run Lola Run, 1998
    After a botched money delivery, Lola has 20 minutes to come up with 100,000 Deutschmarks.
  15. Pray the Devil Back to Hell, 2008
    A group of women rise up to peace to Liberia and help bring to power the country’s first female head of state.

    Which movies would make it onto your own list? We’d love for you to share your ‘Movies to Make You Feel Bold’ recommendations with us – please leave a comment or connect with us on FacebookInstagram or Twitter

Cover photo credit: Jeremy Yap

Do you watch TV? You’re not getting the whole picture.

Let’s picture this:

  • In family rated films, for every one speaking female character there are three male characters.
  • Females are over two times as likely as males to be shown in sexually revealing attire (24.8% vs. 9.4%), thin (38.5% vs. 15.7%), and partially or fully naked (24.2% vs. 11.5%).
  • There is virtually little or no difference in the sexualization of female characters between the ages of 13 and 39 years.

These harsh statistics are not a thought experiment, rather the realities of the current global entertainment industry. On Monday, the Geena Davis Institute on Gender and Media hosted the 2nd Global Symposium on Gender in Media to discuss the underrepresentation of women in the industry. It was an honest, concise and transformative event that is sure to alter the way I consume media for the rest of my life.

IMG_9453Academy Award winning actress, producer, writer, model, and athlete, Geena Davis, founded the Institute at Mount St. Mary’s College after spending time watching television with her young daughter and discovering the extent of gender imbalance in television shows and films – particularly those geared towards children. It is the only research-based organization working within the entertainment industry to highlight the need for gender balance and create necessary female characters in children’s programs.

Davis’ speech began by presenting the gender disparity in the media and its effects on youth today. As a result of female underrepresentation “we are saying that women and girls are less valuable than men and boys.” The more television a girl watches, the more her self-esteem drops because she thinks she has fewer options. For boys, it’s quite the opposite. The more television a young boy watches, the higher his self-esteem.

“The change must be dramatic. What reason can we possibly give to children to explain why women and girls are missing from their TV shows and movies or devalued?” – Geena Davis

The Gender Bias Without Borders report compiles findings from 120 global films from Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Russia, South Korea, the U.K. and the U.S., the most profitable territories worldwide, and compares data based on female roles, sexualization, and sectors represented by a female leader. In the movies examined, there are very few (if any) lawyers, judges, doctors, professors, journalists, sports figures or clergy female characters.

If young girls do not see all the potential opportunities in the media, where else will they find these role models?

“We tell [kids] that boys and girls are equal, but if they don’t see it, it doesn’t sink in,” Davis adds. As a result, the message becomes boys are more important than girls and this skewed representation is a disservice to all children.

Davis also noted that the ratio of male to female characters has been exactly the same since 1946. In the U.S. and the U.K., the percentage of women in leadership positions stalls out at nearly the same percentage of women depicted in media – approximately 17 percent. Even in overhead shots of crowd scenes, the percentage of women shown remains a mere 17 percent. Although there has been a slight improvement in gender equality in the media over a 20 year study, if gender parity continues at the same pace, we will not receive gender equality in the media for 700 years.

Also in 1946, the UN Commission on the Status of Women was established with a mandate to “set standards of women’s rights, encourage governments to bring their laws in line with international conventions and to encourage global awareness of women’s rights.” Fast forward nearly 70 years and we are still discussing similar issues regarding women’s rights. It is no coincidence that the representation of women in the media has not changed in the same time frame.

But the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media is arming itself with information to represent women accurately and abundantly by creating original content for children under 11 and disseminating their reports to industry executives.

“Media itself can be a cure for the problem it’s created.” – Geena Davis

Davis concluded with an inspirational call to action: “In the time it takes to make a movie or create a television show, we can change what the future looks like.” Media images are a very powerful force for shaping how women and girls are viewed around the world, and how they view themselves. Unlike other areas where women are underrepresented, the shift in the entertainment industry can happen immediately and the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media is spearheading this revolution. Don’t sit back and watch.

September 21st-26th Girls’ Globe will be in New York for the 2014 UN General Assembly. We are partnering with FHI360, Johnson & Johnson, and Women Deliver in support of Every Woman Every Child to amplify the global conversation on the Millennium Development Goals and the post-2015 agenda. Follow #MDG456Live, raise your voice and join the conversation to advance women’s and children’s health. Sign up for the Daily Delivery to receive live crowd-sourced coverage of these issues directly to your inbox.

All facts and statistics were found in the Gender Bias Without Borders report from the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media.

The Hollywood Problem

Source: WikiMedia Commons
Source: WikiMedia Commons

In developed countries, we tend to speak of the status of women in less developed countries as oppressive and beyond comprehension. For many of us, it is self-evident that women are equal to men in terms of our capabilities, status and dignity. Yet, the uncomfortable truth is that in our own countries, there exists a persistent and clear gender bias which, though acknowledged, is proving difficult to fully eradicate.

Within the mainstream media, more and more voices are emerging which point out the numerous institutions and standards that exist in the developed world that operate on an implicit gender bias. In no case is this more obvious or unapologetic as in Hollywood. The women in Hollywood are subjected to a reduction of themselves as a sum of their physical features. A woman is far more prized in Hollywood for her attractiveness than her acting chops, with the majority of magazine covers dedicated to women featuring their faces, their bodies and their love lives rather than their insights or accomplishments. This could be attributed to a simple superficial interest in celebrities, but male actors, while also subject to a fair amount of objectification, are under far less scrutiny. Their physical attractiveness plays a significantly smaller role in their success if they are particularly talented in comedy, writing, directing or acting.

This seems superficial, but the modern world is saturated by media and women are strongly affected by depictions of themselves in popular culture. Everyday, we are bombarded with messages repeating that our bodies aren’t thin enough, our faces aren’t pretty enough, and by extension, we ourselves are not good enough. This is a harmful and damaging message, and one that is having real effects: the representation of women in media has been blamed for a spike in the number of eating disorders and increasing demand for cosmetic surgery. Apart from their focus on superficial appearance, Hollywood is apparently suffering a general scarcity in the number of strong female leads they offer as roles. Joss Whedon, director of the hugely successful blockbuster The Avengers, has spoken of his desire to make a superhero film with a female lead, stating his frustration with the state of the industry as the father of a young girl himself. NPR writer Linda Holmes did an analysis on the number of movies screening in theaters on a given weekend; 90% of them were about men, and only one of 617 was directed by a woman. As she states:

Dudes in capes, dudes in cars, dudes in space, dudes drinking, dudes smoking, dudes doing magic tricks, dudes being funny, dudes being dramatic, dudes flying through the air, dudes blowing up, dudes getting killed, dudes saving and kissing women and children, and dudes glowering at each other…what we have right now is a Hollywood entertainment business that has pretty much entirely devoted itself to telling men’s stories — and to the degree that’s for business reasons, it’s because they’ve gotten the impression we’ve devoted ourselves to listening to men’s stories

Holmes makes an important point. A large part of the success of Hollywood’s body-shaming and lack of prioritizing is our culture’s acceptance of such behavior. Hollywood is not an independent entity with its own agenda; it responds almost exclusively to public demand. The industry’s lack of preoccupation with authentic women is an ugly reflection of our own lack of preoccupation with authentic women. Hollywood responds to what we, as consumers, demand.

It seems contradictory, but women can be their own worst enemies. We ourselves need to take responsibility of rejecting the way women and girls are portrayed in media, TV and movies if we’re to take control of it. The unrealistic standards of beauty and lack of representation are clearly skewed, but the media and Hollywood have little incentive to change if we, as consumers, continue to fill their pockets in exchange for their products. Too often, we have assumed we need to change men’s minds to change the status quo, but with women having achieved the status we have, we are entirely free to choose to reject what offends us, and we have the freedom to put ourselves, as real women, in the beauty magazines and in the movies.

It is possible that in today’s world, by continuing to allow ourselves to feel inferior and continuing to allow ourselves to be controlled by an industry which responds directly to our actions, we are oppressing ourselves.
While it is important to recognize gender discrimination everywhere in the world, sometimes we also need to remember to look to our own countries and cultures and recognize the harmful norms and values that hit closer to home.

Cover image: WikiMedia Commons