Geena Davis on How Baseball Improved Her Self-image

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"My fondest wish as a kid was to take up less space in the world."

Geena Davis in A League of their Own

She’s the object of many a lady crush, made us cheer in Thelma & Louise, and in the last decade, as the founder of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, has sparked important conversations about unconscious gender bias and the uneven representation of females onscreen.

Geena Davis is a Hollywood darling, perhaps beloved more than most for the roles she has chosen to play. Before you point out the anomaly, she beats you to it: “I want to play parts that I feel resonate with women. In fact, I only play role models. It’s true, I was in a movie called Earth Girls Are Easy, that was very early on,” she joked at the All About Women festival last week.

“[Baseball] finally made me feel like it was okay to take up space in the world, to have a body that can do things, to feel good about my body.”

She went on to explain her childhood dream of starring in films. Her hubris was large, but warranted; she scored the role at her first ever audition, in the 1982 smash hit Tootsie.

“Whatever the odds, I had this crazy unshakeable faith that I was going to be able to be an actor. My very first job, my first audition, turned out to be for the movie Tootsie. How impossibly fortunate is that – that my very first job, I’m in scenes with Dustin Hoffman, the director is Sydney Pollock, it was crazy.”

A late-blooming athlete

Geena also spoke of the role sports played in her life, but only after being cast in A League of the Own, directed by Penny Marshall. “The only problem being I didn’t know how to play baseball or any sport. When I was in high school, everybody has their thing that tortures them and mine was being the tallest kid in class. My fondest wish as a kid was to take up less space in the world. I was a big noodle, and I had lots of limbs and I was scared to try anything athletic.”

“For most of my life, I had never really felt truly comfortable with myself; that I deserved actually to be successful, until sports dramatically improved my self-image.”

After she was cast as Dottie Hinson in the ’90s baseball flick, Geena was training incredibly hard and coaches began to notice she had real athletic ability.

“It turns out, I am very coordinated. It just took until I was 36 to find that out. But it finally made me feel like it was okay to take up space in the world, to have a body that can do things, to feel good about my body,” she said.

What Geena took away from sports caused her to get very involved with a women’s sports foundation to help encourage girls to have the same positive body-image experience, but much earlier than she did. “For most of my life, I had never really felt truly comfortable with myself; that I deserved actually to be successful, until sports dramatically improved my self-image,” she said.

*Image courtesy of Columbia Pictures Corporation.

 

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