Until early this year, there was just one lone female M & M. The green one.
Then just before the Superbowl Time Magazine reported on the debut of another, bringing the female-male ratio to 1: 3:
“M&Ms already has characters based on the other colors in its candy rainbow (red, yellow, blue, orange and green), but until now the candy has gone largely male-centric. Green has been the lone female. Brown will join her, with high heels in full view.”
I suppose we grateful she’s not Mrs. Brown and that she’s wearing glasses. I hope with those pumps that it’s before Labor day.
Unfortunately, M & Ms are just another product where female characters are not only sexualized but presented as a minority.
Here’s a Goldfish package from Pepperidge Farm showing three males and one female.
Here’s a new set of LEGO minifigs. Harley Quinn, on the far left and not shown in her underwear is also female, making the ratio four males to two females. In the whole set, I count three times as many males as females.
In her film, Miss Representation, Jennifer Siebel Newsom argues that there’s a connection between sexualized images of women in the media and lack of women in power positions.
I agree with this, but it goes beyond sexualized images. It’s images at all. The imaginary world has done something really scary. Females are 51% of the population, but in cartoon images marketed to kids, except for the pink ghetto, females are presented as a minority. This illusion is dangerous, because it normalizes the lack of females. We expect it and accept it.
We’ve become so used to seeing females presented as a minority that we hardly notice it anymore. We don’t question it. Even worse, our kids don’t.
Look at this poster for “Arthur Christmas:”
It’s typical of movies made for kids for males to star and also to represent the majority of characters.
Here are some stats from the Geena Davis Institute on the lack of girls in animated films. Here is Reel Girl’s Gallery on Girl Gone Missing From Kids Movies in 2011.
Do you think the lack of female imaginary characters could have anything to do with what Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg calls the aspiration or ambition gap between boys and girls?
The other place in America besides the imaginary world where females truly are a minority? Leadership positions. In almost all professions in the top positions, women don’t make it past 16%. Here are stats on that.
Could the lack of females in these two worlds be connected?
Why do you think in imaginary worlds created for kids– worlds populated by singing lions who befriend warthogs, rats who cook, and toys who come to life, worlds where anything should be possible– females are restricted to a minority? Why does the lack of females in the imaginary world, of all places, reflect the same lack of females as in power positions? How do you think this gender gap affecting kids imaginations and aspirations? Why are we allowing this gender gap to happen?