Help me find an article about seeing 50% women as "mostly women"?
December 10, 2013 2:37 PM   Subscribe

A few years back I remember reading an article that talked about female characters in media, specifically that a fifty-fifty split of men and women was seen as "mostly women", and a lower ratio (1/3? 1/4?) was seen as "even". I seem to recall "The Simpsons" was used as an example? Maybe it was just mentioned. Anyway, I would like to read that article again but my google-fu is failing me. Halp?
posted by insufficient data to Media & Arts (15 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
I believe the thing about crowd scenes was part of the research done by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media.
posted by rmd1023 at 2:51 PM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Here is an interview on NPR where Geena Davis talks about it, but I can't find the study itself.
posted by Llamadog-dad at 2:55 PM on December 10, 2013

It's been all over lately. I recall the numbers being a group that's 1/3 women is seen as mostly women, and only at 18% did it "feel" equal, but I can only find people asserting this with similar numbers, not a study.
posted by jeather at 3:14 PM on December 10, 2013

I recall this exact issue but don't remember the context in which I came across it. I found this study – Majority, Minority, and Parity: Effects of Gender and Group Size on Perceived Group Variability – but I can't parse the language well enough to figure out if it is discussing your topic or something else.
posted by amanda at 3:56 PM on December 10, 2013

Anecdotally, it really does seem to be true. I've heard people discuss "a lot of women" in typical male-dominated settings as actually being a relative small proportion of individuals. 25% of women in a typical male space is like a "Whoa! Watch out!" level of women. And just having 1 lone woman on a board or in upper management means that they are friendly to women.
posted by amanda at 4:06 PM on December 10, 2013

Dale Spender's book Man Made Language references her studies on this, primarily about speech patterns and time spent conversing in groups. It's old(ish) though (and doesn't reference The Simpsons).

The Geena Davis Institute research is primarily about media representation, not group representation.
posted by geek anachronism at 4:14 PM on December 10, 2013

Response by poster: @amanda - hmm, I'll see if I can access that article at home through my uni login... Looks promising? I think... *squints*

and yeah, anecdotally I notice it a lot- even in myself! Once when I was writing I found myself thinking "Woah, there are almost no dudes in this story!" Then I actually counted and it was almost 50/50. I'm halfway tempted to do a study myself, just so I could have something to reference- how hard could it be to program a website to show a picture for a second or two, then ask what percentage of women were in it? But I *know* I read a thing and it's driving me nuts.
posted by insufficient data at 5:08 PM on December 10, 2013

Lucy Gillam mentions this but doesn't have a source for the stat. I've seen lots of people link to her essay, though -- could you have read it there?
posted by paperback version at 5:13 PM on December 10, 2013

Not super helpful, but I've seen this in a definition of oppression or discrimination I think? I read it in a civil rights class, and I wish I could find the quote again! It definitely had something to do with race, not gender, but it used an example of gender. To help narrow it down for someone who may be better at googling, I remember it referred to African Americans. I do remember that is was a specific definition--when this happens, it is X.
posted by obviousresistance at 5:27 PM on December 10, 2013

I can't find it right now, but I think Sheryl Sandberg also mentions this in Lean In. The book has an extensive citations sections.

I've always wondered if there might be similar results in other majority/minority situations. For instance, if you have a minority of white people in India with a majority Indian group.
posted by troytroy at 9:04 PM on December 10, 2013

This essay (with citations) discusses a related topic--women are perceived as dominating conversation in situations where they are talking the same amount as men.
posted by kagredon at 9:57 PM on December 10, 2013

Maybe you could contact the researcher behind much of the information gleaned for the Geena Davis Institute. Stacy L. Smith's contact info is in this paper. You could also contact the Geena Davis Institute as well. Now I'm very curious!
posted by amanda at 11:11 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Can't search easily now, but I have recollection of such a stat coming out of a study in a classroom setting, presumably university level.
posted by PMdixon at 8:20 AM on December 11, 2013

This article with Davis talking about ending sexism name-checks "Dr. Stacy Smith at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism" for the research.
posted by rmd1023 at 10:55 AM on December 13, 2013

Aaaaand I totally missed that amanda posted that a couple of days ago. MAD OBSERVATION SKILLS! I HAS THEM.
posted by rmd1023 at 11:18 AM on December 13, 2013

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