Geena Davis
Credit: Mike Coppola/Getty Images

Academy Award winner Geena Davis on Monday waded into the ongoing controversy over this year’s Oscars ceremony by saying host Seth MacFarlane’s routine was disrespectful to women, particularly the performers who were being honored.

The Thelma & Louise star said MacFarlane’s much-criticized routine last month overshadowed the win of an animated film with a strong female character.

“It’s a shame that that triumph was enveloped in an awards ceremony containing disrespect for women,” Davis told members of the California Assembly during a ceremony in Sacramento. “But it helps illustrate how tone-deaf we can still be regarding the status of women.”

She commended Brave, which won best animated picture, as setting a positive example for girls.

Davis, who won a best supporting actress Oscar for The Accidental Tourist in 1988, was in the state capital as one of 11 California women honored for their achievements.

She is chairwoman of state Commission on the Status of Women and Girls and founded a nonprofit that promotes gender equality in the media.

Last week, two female state lawmakers sent a letter to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences asking it to condemn MacFarlane’s quips about nude scenes and the attractiveness of several female actresses as degrading toward women. At one point during the Oscars ceremony, MacFarlane performed a song about “boobs” and referenced several rape scenes among his list of movies with actresses appearing topless.

The academy issued a general statement defending MacFarlane and saying the award show is about “creative freedom.”

Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, a Santa Barbara Democrat who co-authored the letter, said Monday that she was disappointed the academy did not address her concerns.

“I might say after last Sunday’s Academy Awards, we need you more than ever,” said Jackson, referring to Davis’ work on gender issues as she introduced the actress and other honorees on the Senate floor.

In her remarks to Assembly members, Davis said much work remains to ensure equal opportunities for young women. The state commission she leads is focused on the areas of women and families in the military, in business, health and safety, education, and gender equality in the media.

Davis also referenced Lavonne “Pepper” Paire-Davis, a women’s baseball league star in the 1940s and the inspiration for A League of Their Own. The Los Angeles native, who passed away last month, once described playing baseball as being as second-nature to her as breathing, she said.

“Every girl in California should be able to pursue a dream that’s as natural to her as breathing,” Davis said. “We need to support them to make sure they have the messages and the tools to get there.”

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