March 6, 2014
By Molly Reger '14
Before Geena Davis set foot on the College of Saint Benedict campus Feb. 25, students were engaged in the topic she planned to address.
The CSB Institute for Women's Leadership (IWL) hosted a series of events and discussions on gender and the media. Students in "Media Effects," taught by Erin Szabo, associate professor of communication, studied the representation of women in the media.
Davis visited the campus to deliver the 2014 Renaissance Series Lecture, which, since 2006, has brought speakers to the campus to address the diversity of opportunities available for women and men and to broaden student perspecitves about traditional gender roles.
As an extra incentive, the IWL offered faculty-nominated students an opportunity to attend a meet and greet session with Davis after her presentation. In order to participate, students had to attend one of two events discussing gender portrayals in the media.
One event featured a viewing and discussion of the film "A League of Their Own," in which Davis plays a baseball catcher. The discussion was facilitated by Carol Howe-Veenstra, CSB athletic director, Janna LaFountaine, associate professor of exercise science and sports studies, and Ken Jones, professor of history.
"It was interesting to hear students' perspectives on the film," CSB senior Erin Brown said. "Many people had seen the film but have not noticed gender themes. It was empowering for women."
Another event featured a viewing and discussion of the documentary "Miss Representation."
"This discussion was eye-opening in how the media portrays women, especially in politics," CSB senior Gaby Galeano said.
CSB senior Janey Gengel attended the meet and greet with Davis after the presentation.
"I absolutely loved Geena Davis," Gengel said. "She was funny, accessible, well versed in her subject matter and very tall."
Gengel especially enjoyed Davis because of her own experience studying gender and communication at CSB/SJU.
"Meeting Davis was like meeting my spirit animal," Gengel said.
Szabo invited her class to attend the presentation and said that Davis encouraged her students to "bring a more skeptical eye to their viewing experiences."
"I immensely enjoyed Ms. Davis' presentation," she said. "I appreciated how she interspersed credible research and statistics with humor. Her presentation was inviting and enlightening."
The lecture by Davis reinforced the work Szabo does at CSB/SJU and in her personal life as well.
"More than leading me to take new actions, her presentation encouraged me to continue doing what I'm doing, both with my own daughter and in the classroom," Szabo said. "I think it is very important that this be an issue we continue to press."
Davis encouraged audience members to engage in discussion about gender in the media and to bring attention to inequality.
"I think Davis is affecting change and she is doing it in the right way," Gengel said.