Geena Davis earned an honorary Oscar for her efforts to end gender inequality in the industry

By Benjamin VanHoose and Reporting By Scott Huver
October 28, 2019 03:48 PM
Geena Davis, Tom Hanks
Credit: Steve Granitz/WireImage (2)

There’s no crying in baseball — or in winning awards, for that matter.

Tom Hanks presented his A League of Their Own costar Geena Davis with an Honorary Oscar on Sunday as part of the 11th Annual Governors Awards. Held at the Hollywood & Highland Center in Los Angeles, Hanks, 63, introduced Davis, 63, as she took home the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for her work in gender equality.

“Back in 1992, Geena and about 600 other women, and one guy — one guy — starred in a film focused directly on gender bias,” he said in his speech, referencing the film’s all-star female cast, which included Madonna and Rosie O’Donnell, among others.

Hanks highlighted Davis’ character in the film, Dottie, and her grit when fighting for her place in the male-dominated sport of baseball, linking Dottie’s determination to that of the actress.

“[Davis] has an abundance of the very best qualities any human being can share with others,” he said. “Throughout her career she has chosen roles that show women as complex characters in control of their own destiny.”

Tom Hanks
Tom Hanks
| Credit: Kevin Winter/Getty

Before welcoming Davis to the podium to claim her golden statuette, Hanks poked fun at himself speaking about her work toward gender equality with a hilarious gag about “man-splaining.”

“Not to ‘man-splain’ Geena’s commitment to gender equality — and by that I mean when a man articulates specifically and in less confusing language how males can sometimes, oh what is it, make themselves the expert in a certain topic…” he jested.

In her acceptance speech, Davis cited her 1991 movie Thelma & Louise for opening her eyes to how female characters are underrepresented in film. She pointed out how women are depicted in media compared to men, especially when it comes to the workforce, where the number of women in top jobs is way lower in entertainment than in the real world.

“However abysmal the numbers are in real life, it’s far worse in fiction — where you make it up,” she said. “It can be anything you want, and we make it worse than the crappy reality.”

A League Of Their Own
Tom Hanks and Geena Davis in A League Of Their Own
| Credit: Moviestore/Shutterstock

Davis, also known for her work in Beetlejuice and her recent stint on Netflix’s GLOW, suggested one quick, overnight fix would be to swap the genders of supporting characters in upcoming projects. She told industry members in attendance to implement this on their current scripts, going through and changing the inconsequentially male roles and switching them to female. Then get ahold of her agent.

“And then cast me. Seriously,” she joked. “I mean, ‘humanitarian,’ yay, yes … but here’s the thing: Is there a reason it can’t also benefit me personally?”

Previous winners of the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award include Oprah Winfrey, Elizabeth Taylor, Angelina Jolie, Audrey Hepburn, Bob Hope and Quincy Jones.

Davis, who won an Academy Award in 1988 for her supporting role in The Accidental Tourist, explained the importance of showcasing diverse female figures in children’s entertainment to shape young minds into accepting that everyone is inherently equal.

“I have so much passion for acting, it’s my joy in life,” she said in her speech. “I’ve also been passionate about empowering women … and girls, in part by seeking roles that I think might resonate with them in some way.”