20 years later . . .

There are some things that only get better with age . . .wine, a good friend, Thelma and Louise, WIFV.  Last Wednesday night, I was lucky enough to have all of these combined in a single evening at the Women’s National Democratic Club in Washington, DC.  I attended An Evening with Geena Davis, hosted by Women in Film and Video, DC (WIFV).  The reservation confirmation promised a full schedule including happy hour, a screening of Thelma and Louise, and Q&A with Ms. Davis herself.

It was pleasantly surprising to see how accessible Ms. Davis made herself upon arrival at the club.   She greeted WIFV members and just plain old fans alike with poise and skill.  I watched the two women I had been talking to walk right up to her, and introduce themselves.   Security was present, but not intrusive.  Everything fit with the atmosphere of the club itself, established, graceful and elegant.   It was the perfect venue.

Gradually people filed into the main reception hall, where Sandy Cannon-Brown, President of the WIFV Board, welcomed us, and Ms. Davis began answering questions related to the Geena Davis Institute, its mission, and her personal journey to found a research institute and begin advocating for healthy gender images in media.

The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media is the only research-based organization working within the media and entertainment industry to engage, educate, and influence the need for gender balance, reducing stereotyping and creating a wide variety of female characters for entertainment targeting children 11 and under. 

One thing that struck me was Ms. Davis’ statement that having a daughter raised her awareness of how females are presented in everything from cartoons to films.  As the mother of a male child, I worry about the flip side.  I try to ensure that my son has healthy male role models and a solid sense of self, and that he also respects women as individuals rather than objectifying them.  To me, the most important thing we can all do is see one another as human beings – regardless of class, gender, orientation or ethnicity.

The next part of the evening was the screening of the film itself, celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.  I’m old enough to remember seeing this for the first time at the movies, and loving the fact that two chicks took off on a road trip.  And not just any road trip, but a journey of empowerment and discovery for Thelma.  Of the two characters, it’s Thelma who has the largest arc; she is the one who makes the biggest change.  Thelma chooses not to be a victim.  And a marriage proposal does not magically solve all problems for Louise.  This film has women with guts and guns.

The theme was a refreshing change twenty years ago, and it still resonates with people today.  The room was filled with laughter, gasps and applause at all of the right moments.  And just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, Ms. Davis came onstage to dialogue with us again about the film, her role, and gender images in media.

During the evening, I chatted with Melissa Houghton, Executive Director of WIFV.  “This is one of those special member events,” she said, “Something you won’t get anywhere else.”  I nodded my head.  I couldn’t agree more.

To find out more about WIFV events, go to the calendar section of www.wifv.org.

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