Today, we had Captain Crunch with crunch berries for breakfast. (Not the healthiest choice, I know, blaming my husband who loved the “food” as a kid.) There are no female mascots on children’s cereal. That’s right, zero. You may not think that’s a big deal but it’s one more space in kidworld where girls go missing. Children spend hours studying these cereal boxes and playing the games on them. They’re like newspapers for children, and just like newspapers for adults, males dominate the stories. What if there were no male mascots on children’s cereal? Do you think anyone would notice that?
A while back, in an effort to help my kids learn not to take missing females for granted, as something expected and normal, we invented a new game: Find the Girls on the Cereal Box. It’s actually fun because it’s challenging, and you can have some great discussions about what makes a boy a boy and a girl a girl, according to cereal box creators.
Try it yourself. Here’s my 5 year old daughter with the back of a box of Captain Crunch.
The answer is: 4 girls and 9 boys including Captain Crunch on this box. The photo is not great, and details are key so don’t be too hard on yourself if you got it wrong.
Here’s a close up of the girls we found.
Girl #1 is a girl because her hair is pink, has long curls, and she has eyelashes.
Would it be construed as trespass, therefore, to state that Johansson looks tellingly radiant in the flesh? Mind you, she rarely looks unradiant, so it’s hard to say whether her condition [pregnancy] has made a difference.
Johansson was, indeed, gilded to behold. She seemed to be made from champagne.
Then came the laugh: dry and dirty, as if this were a drama class and her task was to play a Martini.
Johansson’s backside, barely veiled in peach-colored underwear …
… using nothing but the honey of her voice …
What the fuck? This is The New Yorker. I write this whole blog about gender equality in the fantasy world, and how are we ever going to get anywhere when the “best” writers for our “best” magazines repeatedly reduce actresses to objects? This guy’s job title is film critic. As Esther Breger writes in The New Republic: “Try to imagine The New Yorker running this about Matthew McConaughey, or Michael Fassbender.”
Perhaps, it won’t surprise you that Lane, though the most prestigious, is not near the first interviewer to comment on Johansson’s underwear.
In another earlier interview, after Robert Downey Jr comments on the sexist questions directed at Johansson, she says to him: “How come you get the really interesting existential question and I get the, like, rabbit food question?”
Even at the Oscars, where we celebrate the highest artistic achievements in film, reporters often focus more on a woman’s appearance than what she has accomplished. This Sunday night we’re encouraging the media to #AskHerMore!
Part of the inspiration for the hashtag was Cate Blanchett’s irritated response at a previous awards show when the camera panned her body up and down. Blanchett asked: “Do you do that to the guys?” PolyMic reported: “Blanchett’s reaction shows yet another subtle moment of sexism that even the most successful women have to deal with.”
It’s kind of sad that these moments are considered “subtle.” Enough already. When will the media treat women like actual human beings?
Let’s start with the good news. There are 5 children’s movies coming out in 2014 with female protagonists, titled for that female protagonist. This is a record since I started doing the gallery back in 2011. Those movies are: Legends of Oz Dorothy’s Return, Maleficent, Molly Moon, Annie, and The Pirate Fairy I am super- excited about the first four. I am holding out hope for “Pirate Fairy.” It’s always been challenging for me to get past Tinkerbell’s mini-dress and how she’s always smiling submissively at me when I see her on party napkins or sippy cups. But hey, the movie is called “Pirate Fairy,” meaning that is not an oxymoron, which is a huge leap forward for Disney.
Now, for the bad news. In 2014,18 children’s movies star a male protagonist, that’s more than 3 times as many movies than those starring a female.
There are 2 movies that I’m putting in their own category. For “Rio 2,” I am hoping that birds Jewel and Blu are, in fact, costars. (See how I put her name first?) Here’s imdb’s synopsis: “It’s a jungle out there for Blu, Jewel and their three kids in RIO 2, after they’re hurtled from that magical city to the wilds of the Amazon. As Blu tries to fit in, he goes beak-to-beak with the vengeful Nigel, and meets the most fearsome adversary of all – his father-in-law.” For “Island of Lemurs: Madagascar,” this is the description from imbdb: “A look at the life of wild lemurs living in Madagascar.”Because the lemur on the poster doesn’t have a pink bow or giant eyelashes, my past experience would lead me to believe it’s a male, but because the movie is about lemurs in nature, I hold out hope here too.
Why is the gender of who stars in a children’s movie important? Because girls make up half of the kid population, yet, when kids go to movies, again and again, they see males front and center, while females get sidelined and marginalized.
Today, when kids go to the movies, they will often see the narrative include a strong female or two, but rarely is she the star. The movie is not about her quest. I call these female characters the “Minority Feisty.” The trope has evolved from the Smurfette principle in that there is often more than one, and she is presented as powerful. But her power, lines, and screen time are carefully and consistently circumscribed to show that she is not as important as the male star. Still, the Minority Feisty is supposed to pacify parents, making them feel that, unlike those sexist films of yesteryear, this movie is contemporary and feminist.
Don’t let the Minority Feisty fool you. “Feisty,” an adjective reviewers will invariably use to describe this strong female, is a sexist term. “Feisty” isn’t used to describe not someone who is truly powerful, but someone who plays at being powerful. Would you ever call Superman fesity? How would he feel if you did?
All children need to see more female protagonists. Everyone is the hero of her own life. Kids shouldn’t be trained to see girls and women stuck in supporting roles. In the imaginary world, anything is possible, so why is it sexist? Why is a brand new generation learning it’s normal for girls to go missing?
Here’s the gallery.
Legends of Oz, Dorothy’s Return
The Pirate Fairy
Molly Moon: The Incredible Hypnotist (no poster yet, making my own with this pic)
Yesterday, I took 4 kids to see “The Nut Job.” Here’s the poster for the movie, featuring its star, Surly the Squirrel, front and center.
As you can see by the names on top of the poster– Will Arnett, Brendan Fraser, Gabriel Iglegsias, Liam Neason, and Katherine Heigl– males dominate this movie. Heigl plays Andie, who, like most Minority Feisty, is strong, smart, and brave, but “Nut Job” is not Andie’s movie, it’s Surly’s.
There are two more Minority Feisty I liked: Precious, the pug and there’s a girl scout who cracked me up. There is a pigeon who spoke briefly that is also female.
Typical of children’s movies, Surly, the male protagonist, has a male BFF: Buddy (ha ha)
The evil villain, a raccoon, is also a male. So are the evil rats pictured around him, at least any rats that talked.
If the gender ratio of “the Nut Job” were specific to this movie, or even half of movies for kids, it would not be a problem. It is the repetition of assigning the male as the hero and the females in supporting roles that is so damaging for kids to see again and again and again.
Here’s my 4 yr old daughter at the Metreon counting the giant men she saw.
In a fascinating discussion with director Kevin Smith, Dini relates that higher-ups at the cable network urged him to focus his storylines on his male characters and make his female characters “one step behind the boys, not as smart as the boys, not as interesting as the boys.” When Dini proceeded to create fully realized girl characters anyway, the Cartoon Network axed the show.
Here’s the relevant excerpt (emphases added):
DINI: They’re all for boys. “We do not want the girls,” I mean, I’ve heard executives say this, you know, not [where I am] but at other places, saying like, “We do not want girls watching this show.”
SMITH: WHY? That’s 51% of the population.
DINI: They. Do. Not. Buy. Toys. The girls buy different toys. The girls may watch the show –
SMITH: So you can sell them T-shirts if they don’t — A: I disagree, I think girls buy toys as well, I mean not as many as fucking boys do, but, B: sell them something else, man! Don’t be lazy and be like, ‘well I can’t sell a girl a toy.’ Sell ‘em a T-shirt, man, sell them fucking umbrella with the fucking character on it, something like that. But if it’s not a toy, there’s something else you could sell ‘em! Like, just because you can’t figure out your job, don’t kill chances of, like, something that’s gonna reach an audi — that’s just so self-defeating, when people go, like… these are the same fuckers who go, like, “Oh, girls don’t read comics, girls aren’t into comics.” It’s all self-fulfilling prophecies. They just make it that way, by going like, “I can’t sell ‘em a toy, what’s the point?”
DINI: That’s the thing, you know I hate being Mr. Sour Grapes here, but I’ll just lay it on the line: that’s the thing that got us cancelled on Tower Prep, honest-to-God was, like, “We need boys, but we need girls right there, right one step behind the boys” — this is the network talking — “one step behind the boys, not as smart as the boys, not as interesting as the boys, but right there.” And then we began writing stories that got into the two girls’ back stories, and they were really interesting. And suddenly we had families and girls watching, and girls really became a big part of our audience, in sort of like they picked up that Harry Potter type of serialized way, which is what The Batman and [indistinct]‘s really gonna kill. But, the Cartoon Network was saying, ‘Fuck, no, we want the boys’ action, it’s boys’ action, this goofy boy humor we’ve gotta get that in there. And we can’t — and I’d say, but look at the numbers, we’ve got parents watching, with the families, and then when you break it down — “Yeah, but the — so many — we’ve got too many girls. We need more boys.”
SMITH: That’s heart-breaking.
DINI: And then that’s why they cancelled us, and they put on a show called Level Up, which is, you know, goofy nerds fighting CG monsters. It’s like, “We don’t want the girls because the girls won’t buy toys.” We had a whole merchandise line for Tower Prep that they shitcanned before it ever got off the launching pad, because it’s like, “Boys, boys, boys. Boys buy the little spinny tops, they but the action figures, girls buy princesses, we’re not selling princesses.”
I heard about this story because a commenter responded on my “Powerpuff Girls” post that CN said it doesn’t want shows focused on girls because girls don’t buy toys. My response was: WTF? I thought girls were shoppers? This explanation is so typical of how actions get gendered based on power and status, for example: girls are the ones who like to cook, unless we’re talking about great chefs, then, cooking is a guy thing; girls are artsy, unless we’re talking about great artists, top selling paintings, or museum shows, then art, once again, becomes a guy thing; girls are verbal unless we’re talking about great literature in which case female writers are designated chicklit and guys are the masters. Boys buy more stuff? Wow. So I went to the link, did some research, and some of what I found I pasted above. There was also a petition based on that interview created on Change.org that has about 16,500 signatures.
Since my post about “Powerpuff Girls,” I’ve gotten lots of comments like this one:
The girls wear skin tight clothing in the show as well. They are not sexualizing them just because they wear latex. Everyone has their own style, and the artist portrayed it that way. Couldn’t the male characters being all muscular be considered sexualizing, they wear tight clothing too. you try to teach equality for all yet you claim everything needs fairly regulated so it’s 50/50, screwing over peoples free choices. People come up with their own ideas, and if theyre male heroes so be it, there is nothing wrong with that. The powerpuff girls were my favorite cartoon growing up, it didnt matter to me if they were male or female, all that mattered was that it was fun watching. Girls and guys alike loved it. And now we have this “movement” where all the ‘equal rights’ activists wanna dissect absolutely everything to feel better about themselves and bitch at the world for making women inferior, when the ONLY times I’ve heard of people refering to women as inferior are pages like this. Pull your heads out of your asses and move on with your lives.
To which I responded:
Exaggerating muscles not the same as breasts, ass etc. Muscles signify strength, what you can do. See Kevin bolks ‘if male avengers posed like the female one’ on Reel Girl or Theamats Wonder Woman– if I don’t get pants no one gets pants. That you don’t notice is the problem. Do you think you might notice if 41 out of 47 shows had female protagonists? I wish I had my head up my ass, that would be a lot less depressing
I wouldnt care if 47 out if 47 had female protagonists, its a cartoon, a show for wasting time, not some life lesson or some forced idea. God you people are fucking annoying.
To which I wrote:
That’s great that you wouldn’t care if the shows featured female protags, would you feel the same way about the movies for adults and the male/ female ratios? As far as ‘its a cartoon, a show for wasting time, not some life lesson or some forced idea’ That’s not how kids experience it. They buy the toys, wear the clothes, act out the stories, dress up as the characters on Halloween
And whos to say a girl cant dress like a male superhero? Or a male as a femal superhero? It’s the same thing. Yes, i would feel the same EXACT way of the adult movie industry. You’re claiming that males should be different than females, are you not? By saying that characters are male/female for a reason? Instead if them just being characters? As part of a show to entertain kids and feed their imagination? Now what about BET. black entertainment television? That must be some bad stuff, all those poor white kids wanting to be black because tv told them too hmm? That’s just outrageous, is it not??? I can only imagone how pissed activists would be if there was a mens television channel. OWN, oprah winfreys channel, is pretty much about her and things she believes in and likes, so why isn’t everyone complaining about that!! Or Christian channels that show services. That is horrendous to those whom aren’t christian! Imagine all the other kids who aren’t, those poor souls must be so deprived. I guess it’s a blessing that my neice, whom I love dearly is raised by parents who dont shelter her and fill her mind with radical myths and dramatic stories of all this inequality. She can watch Dora, and she can watch Spongebob, and she loves sesame street. She loves playing with cars and barbies. She is gonna grow up to be a wonderful successful and proud individual. No thanks to you so called “equalists” making everything so equal and wonderful. I am all for equality and I will stand up for anything and anyone who against my bias deserves it. But this is too much. You have taken someones art and therapy, in regards to the artists rendition of PPG, and absolutely blew it out of proportion. THAT is the problem with this world.
Cartoon Network is a channel FOR KIDS. The channels you list are for adults. Kids deserve and need a protected space where girls don’t get marginalized and sexualized.Do you get it would be messed up if there were channels with shows just for African- American kids, Christians kids etc? Yet, it’s perfectly acceptable in 2014 to segregate girls and boys and create narratives based on gender stereotypes
I reposted all of this because its typical of comments I always get. It confuses me because I thought we all understood that “separate but equal” doesn’t work. I don’t know why when it comes to gender and kids, we throw everything we’ve supposedly learned out the window. These stereotypes are ridiculous. They are not “natural” but based on power.
When kids are radically and repeatedly separated, based on gender, all kinds of stereotypes must result.
My three daughters, ages 4, 7, and 10, are huge fans of “The Powerpuff Girls.” They dress up and act out stories where they play Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup.
“Powerpuff Girls” is one of the few shows for little kids where multiple female protagonists work together to save the world, and they don’t wear revealing clothing.That may seem like a ridiculous description of a show, but the sexism in children’s media forced me to come up with my own version of the Bechdel test. The Magowan Test for Gender Bias in Children’s Media goes like this: At least two females who are friends go on an adventure and don’t wear revealing clothing. It’s scary how few shows made for kids manage to pass that simple test.
When it was announced last year that the Powerpuff Girls would be returning for a CGI special, we were thrilled. So, you can imagine my dismay when on The Mary Sue I saw this cover created by Cartoon Network and IDW for Powerpuff Girls #6.
I feel like crying when I look at this. I think I would cry if my kids saw it. How could CN sex up the “Powerpuff Girls?” It really pisses me off that after I went out of my way to introduce my children to these characters, CN exploits and distorts them.
The Mary Sue reports:
The brouhaha about the cover started when comics retailer Dennis Barger Jr., owner of Detroit’s Wonderworld Comics, called IDW out on Facebook for “taking grade school girls and sexualizing them as way older… they are wearing latex bondage wear mini dresses, which on an adult would be fine but on the effigies of children is very wrong… especially on an ALL AGES kids book marketed for children.”
Thank you Dennis Barger for not accepting this. If more comic book retailers and parents and teachers and doctors would say no, loudly and publicly, to sexualizing kids, instead of buying into this stuff, it might stop. But sadly, too many people do the opposite and act as if sexualized images of girls are just normal, which, tragically, they’ve become. Kids need to see images of girls that are not sexualized. It’s sad I had to create a blog to communicate this idea, that it’s radical and alternative while sexualizing kids is mainstream. Sexualized “make-overs” of female characters from children’s media include Merida, Dora, Strawberry Shortcake, and Queen Frostline. Yeah, this is how Candyland has changed since we were kids:
The Mary Sue reports that Dirk Woods, IDW’s VP of marketing responded to Barger with this statement:
That was actually a Cartoon Network mandated cover, by an artist of their choosing. I think they were thinking of it more along the lines of “female empowerment” than the kind of thing you guys are talking about, but certainly, we’re sensitive to the issues here. We love making comics for kids, and always want them to be appropriate. For what it’s worth, CN has been a great partner in that regard… I know an 8 year old and 10 year old really well, and always look at these kinds of things through their eyes… Half of the employees have kids here, and we pride ourselves in making comics they’ll enjoy and not give them a warped view of the world (except, you know, in a good way). Anyway, I certainly see your points, and we’ll be sensitive to these things, as I think we mostly have been.
First of all, I find it really annoying that Woods writes Cartoon Network was thinking about female empowerment as opposed to “the kind of thing you guys are talking about.” Like we’re the ones with the dirty minds here. Mr. Woods, the problem is not Barger and those who agree with them, but people who look at this sexed up image of the Powerpuff Girls and see nothing wrong with it.
Mr. Woods, you say you have two kids and that those you work with are sensitive to these issues, so let me explain the problem with seeing “female empowerment” in this version of the Powerpuff Girls you created. There’s a difference between sexualization and sexuality. Do you understand that? In her excellent book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter, author Peggy Orenstein quotes Stephen Hinshaw:
Girls pushed to be sexy too soon can’t really understand what they’re doing…they may never learn to connect their performance to erotic feelings or intimacy. They learn how to act desirable, but not to desire, undermining, rather than promoting, healthy sexuality.
Does that make sense to you? Sexualization is about performance; it’s all about being desirable to others. That’s the image your Powerpuff Girls #6 cover projects. Sexuality, on the other hand, is about understanding and connecting to your own desire. Got it? Here’s a specific example that might make sense to you. Breasts are secondary sex characteristics, and, besides feeding babies, they exist to give women sexual pleasure. Implants, while they make breasts look a certain way, are often devoid of feeling for the woman. Do you see the difference?
But why do I even need to talk about sexuality versus sexualization in relation to the Powerpuff Girls, for goodness sake? That, in itself, is the problem.
After the protest, Cartoon Network decided to pull the cover and made this statement:
In conjunction with our licensing partners, Cartoon Network Enterprises from time to time works with the artist community to reimagine and reinterpret our brands using their talents and unique points of view. This particular variant cover for The Powerpuff Girls #6 from IDW was done in the artist’s signature style and was intended to be released as a collectible item for comic book fans. We recognize some fans’ reaction to the cover and, as such, will no longer be releasing it at comic book shops.
Did I miss the apology? Because I don’t see it. It sounds to me like CN is shifting the blame to the artist which is ridiculous. Fault belongs with the network and not just because CN chose and paid for the image. The sexed up “Powerpuff Girls” are indicative of the Cartoon Network’s girl problem. CN is a channel for children and girls make up one half of the kid population, so why have female characters gone missing from CN shows?
In my count, 41 out of 47 shows on Cartoon Network feature male protagonists. I listed the shows and descriptions below. The stats get worse. Of those shows, 19 are titled for the male stars: Steven Universe, The Annoying Orange, Batman, Chowder, Courage, Dexter’s Labratory, Ed Edd and Eddy, Flapjack, Garfield, Generator Rex, Gumball, Gym Partner, Johnny Bravo, Johnny Test,Samurai Jack, Scaredy Squirrel, Sidekick, The Problem Solverz, and Uncle Grandpa. Just 4 shows feature a female character in the title. Of those, “Cow and Chicken” and “Billy and Mandy,” share the title with a male character. “Foster’s” is a show with a male protagonist, titled for the orphanage run by a woman. “Powerpuff Girls” is the only show on the Cartoon Network where girls star and get to be in the title without sharing it.
Instead of this pathetic non-apology, Cartoon Network ought to commit to creating and disseminating shows and games with powerful female protagonists. That’s what all of our kids desperately need to see.
Beware the Batman Oh, look at that, just like the movies, we get multiple Batman shows.
Beyblade Shotgun Steel The protagonist is a male champion named Zero
Billy and Mandy This show looks promising, but how about calling it “Mandy and Billy” and not making Mandy wear pink?
Boomerang is cartoons from yesteryear now owned by the Turner Broadcasting System, and we all know how feminist those are. Actually, “Scooby-Doo,” “Pop-Eye,” and “Tom and Jerry” are pretty tame compared to “Bratz.” I have wondered since I was a kid, if Road Runner could be a female.
Chowder From Wikipedia: “The series follows an aspiring young chef named Chowder and his day-to-day adventures as an apprentice in Mung Daal’s catering company.”
Courage Courage is a male dog. At least he’s a pink male dog.
Cow and Chicken CN’s second show with a female protag who is also in the title, and her name comes first, and that’s a first.
DC Nation based on DC Comics, no Wonder Woman included. Need I say more?
Dexter’s Labratory Dexter is the evil genius protag of his eponymous series
Dreamworks Dragons Based on the movie “How to Train Your Dragon” the protagonist is the male Hiccup.
Ed, Edd, N Eddy No, I did not make up this show and title to parody the male domination of Cartoon Network. It’s really a show, and yes, it really stars three males with the same name.
Flapjack Stars Flapjack and Cap’n K’nuckles, both male
Foster’s From Wikipedia:
The home is run by the elderly Madame Foster, its lovable, elderly founder; her imaginary friend Mr. Herriman, the strict rule-abider and business manager; and her 22-year old granddaughter Frankie, who handles day-to-day operations.
So that’s good, right? 2 females, their name in the title. But then, there’s this:
The series focuses on the escapades experienced by the mischievous Bloo, Mac, and the array of eccentric, colorful characters inhabiting Foster’s Home, or the obstacles with which they may be challenged.
Bloo is male. Mac is male. Oh, well.
The Garfield Show Cynical male cat stars in his eponymous show, don’t even need Wikipedia to write that.
Generator Rex Yet another Man of Action studios creation. Surprise, surprise, Rex is male.
Grojband Includes marginalized females and gender stereotyping, I would not let my kids near this show.
Grojband follows Corey and his three best friends, Laney and twin brothers Kin and Kon, as they work to propel their garage band to international stardom. When they don’t have the lyrics, Corey and his friends get Trina into an emotional diary mode to write lyrics in her diary, so that Corey and his friends can perform a perfect song.
Gumball The protagonist is gumball, a male cat
Gym Partner From Wikipedia:
A boy named Adam is expelled to a middle school established for anthropomorphic zoo animals due to a spelling error making his surname “Lion”. There, he is befriended by a mischievous, eccentric spider monkey named Jake
Hero 108 Looks like Commander ApeTrully is the protag, from Wikipedia:
The storyline in a typical episode follows a formula, although the formula varies and several episodes depart from it: Commander ApeTrully goes on a mission to the castle of an animal kingdom to make peace and ask its inhabitants to join Big Green, bringing a gift of gold as a token of goodwill.
Johnny Bravo Self explanatory right?
Johnny Test Wow, this is just like the Eddies…
Kids next Door Stars 5 kids, 3 boys, 2 girls
Legends of Chima There are several tribes, each has many more male characters than females and some have no females at all
Ninjago I count one female to multiple males. Maybe I missed one, but come on, this is ridiculous.
Pokemon Again, I count mostly male characters but I actually like Pokemon because the females I’ve seen are pretty strong. What about calling it “Pokewomon?” (Update: That was a joke, apparently some of you think I’m not up on my Japanese)
Powerpuff Girls YAY See what I mean?????
Redakai The protag is Ky, this show is all a father-son quest story about power and destiny
Regular Show Protags are a BFF blue jay and raccoon, both male
Samurai Jack No explanation needed
Scaredy Squirell BFF squirrel and skunk, both male
Secret Mountain Fort Awesome About 5 monsters, all 5 are male, I kid you not.
Secret Saturdays stars Zak Saturday
Sidekick You’d think at least this could be about a female, right? But, no.
Teen Titans 3 males, 2 females. Hey CN, what about having females outnumber males in an ensemble cast?
Teen TitansGo See above
Tenkai Knights Multiple knights and unless I’m missing something, all male.
The Problem Solverz They are Alfe, Roba, and Horace, all male
Time Squad Stars Otto and features practically all male cast
Uncle Grandpa Self-explanatory, right?
Young Justice Invasion An adaptation of the DC universe with a focus on young superheroes and just as sexist in the character make up (Update: Commenters tell me YJ has adapted to have an equal number of female and male characters)
This is how fucked up kidworld has become. Finally, parents are catching on that gender stereotyping children limits potential. So what do we get? An anti-everything pink and princess themed ad, which is great, selling a princess themed toy. WTF?
Here’s the ad.
Here’s the toy, which isn’t so great. “In this much-anticipated sequel, Goldie’s friends Ruby and Katinka compete in a princess pageant with the hopes of riding in the town parade. When Katinka loses the crown, Goldie and Ruby team up to build her a parade float as well as other fun rolling, spinning, and whirling designs.”
Read this blog by Rebecca Hains to learn more. “I have been rooting for GoldieBlox since their Kickstarter days, and I love their mission to break stereotypes and spark a love of STEM in girls. But by pandering to princess culture, this new offering just isn’t living up to the promise.”
Another good one here (though I think it’s fine to change sexist lyrics and make them your own.) Goldie Blox, no thanks. “It’s the same dumb-downed princess bullshit as the rest of the stuff they are shoving down the throats of our daughters.”
I am pretty sure I gave money to Goldie Blox’s Kickstarter campaign. I know I intended to, but I’m not positive I followed through. I certainly promoted the toy in its earliest days on Reel Girl’s blog, Facebook page, an my Twitter feed.
Once again, I like the Goldie Blox ad. I understand the product is supposed to be a step towards getting girls interested in engineering, but this doublespeak makes me feel like I’m being taken for a ride on a big, old float right down Main Street. I would not have given money or promoted a toy like the one above. I don’t know if Goldie Blox’s “success” made it become this or if this was this always the intention. Maybe, like someone on Reel Girl’s Facebook page writes, Goldie Blox is trying to “straddle the market.” If so, that kind of risk-free, inauthentic approach appeals to me even less than the product.
The toy box shown at the end of the ad is Goldie Blox and the spinning machine. You could argue that the Goldie Blox princess is just one image, or one character, of many. But what I thought is that this brand was going to be different. In a market saturated with princess/ pageant narratives, Goldie Blox was going to stand out as moving beyond stereotypes, not just in some products, some of the time. Maybe I misunderstood the message, but aren’t parents seeing this ad misunderstanding it as well?
Here are 4 previous blogs I’ve written about Goldie Blox where you can see how I progressively begin to question what is being created and sold to kids. One of the lines in the adoring media that really creeps me out states that those sweet, caring girls have “an inclination to help.” In boyspeak, we call that same impulse something more heroic: “a rescue fantasy.”
Wouldn’t it be nice if toys, and the language used to market them, was created for humans, not stereotypes?
This week, Sweden announced it will implement a movie rating system that will inform viewers if the film is sexist. Sweden will use the Bechdel test which requires that the movie have (1) at least two females (2) who talk to each other (3) about something other than a man.
“The entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, all Star Wars movies, The Social Network, Pulp Fiction and all but one of the Harry Potter movies fail this test,” said Ellen Tejle, the director of Bio Rio, an art-house cinema in Stockholm’s trendy Södermalm district…Beliefs about women’s roles in society are influenced by the fact that movie watchers rarely see “a female superhero or a female professor or person who makes it through exciting challenges and masters them”, Tejle said, noting that the rating doesn’t say anything about the quality of the film. “The goal is to see more female stories and perspectives on cinema screens,” he added.
I love the Bechdel test, but I adapted it to rate movies for children to discount the Pink Ghetto. For the Magowan Test for Gender Bias in Children’s Movies (1) at least two females who are friends (2) go on an adventure (3) and don’t wear revealing clothing. Simple requirements, yet surprisingly difficult for Hollywood to even come close to meeting in the many movies put out for little kids every year.
The real problem in movies today isn’t sex, it’s sexism — often coupled with racist caricatures for even greater effect. Imagine if our movie ratings considered sexism and racism as content that children should not be viewing without parental input. Just a thought.
I couldn’t agree more. The lack of attention to the rampant and repetitive sexism in children’s movies is exactly why I started Reel Girl. I rate children’s movies on a scale of 1 – 3 S’s to denote gender stereotyping. I would much rather my kids hear a swear word than witness more narratives and images where females are sexualized and marginalized. When I started Reel Girl, almost four years ago, I couldn’t find anything else on the internet that rated children’s movies and products for sexism.
The common defense of television censorship is the need to protect the young and impressionable. It’s all for the children. So why is it that a national broadcaster in the 21st century feels the need to bleep out a scene of a teenage girl masturbating, while the rest of television is stuffed to the gills with scenes depicting rape, torture, suicide, and sex between middle-aged adults and adolescents?
Sweden gets this hypocrisy and is addressing it. While I am so psyched this country is taking major steps to alert viewers about sexism, I’m upset that the home of the free and the brave remains slow on the uptake. I honestly think my blog, Reel Girl, is the best resource for rating sexism in children’s movies, and I do it for free, when I have a few minutes of time.
It’s not just sexist movies that our country endorses as OK for kids. While the U.S. has made child beauty pageants a national pastime, with TV hits like “Toddlers and Tiaras” and “Honey Boo Boo,” this year, France outlawed the sexist practice. The New York Times reports:
“It is extremely destructive for a girl between the age of 6 and 12 to hear her mother say that what’s important for her is to be beautiful,” Chantal Jouanno, the ban’s champion, said Wednesday. “We are fighting to say: What counts is what they have in their brains.”
Ms. Jouanno, a former junior minister for environment and a senator representing Paris from the center-right party U.D.I., wrote a report on the “hypersexualization” of children in 2011. The report was commissioned by the health minister in response to public outrage over a photo display in Paris Vogue that featured under-age girls in sexy clothes and postures, with high heels, makeup and painted fingernails. The episode drew attention to the increasing use of very young girls in fashion photography and advertisements.
Of course, child beauty pageants don’t just affect the contestants, but everyone who sees the images of these sexualized kids on TV or in magazines.
So why do you think Sweden, France, and the United Kingdom have taken leadership positions in stopping sexism while the U.S. lags behind? I know there’s some bad evidence against us, such as not one female president in our entire history, but aren’t we supposed to support equality and justice for all? Isn’t that our thing?
I have a theory on why the U.S. continues to be a leader in promoting, rather than stopping sexism. While our role as superpower slips as we move further into a global economy, the U.S. remains clearly dominant in one area: culture. American movies dominate the world. While Obama may fall from favor, everyone worldwide knows and adores Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. My guess is that because of this role as a culture shaper, the U.S. and its mutinational companies like Disney and everything Hollywood will be reticent to change and risk losing hegemony over world culture. The irony is, if the U.S. continues to lag behind in recognizing sexism, eventually, it will lose its position as #1 culture shaper. The change towards recognizing sexism, so ubiquitous that its, paradoxically, become invisible, is happening much slower than I would like it too, but it is happening. Sweden, France, and Australia are starting to get it. Women are the world’s largest untapped resource. As long as we keep selling women short, we all lose.
On a positive note, I did just get this email from Hillary Clinton.
No Ceilings has its roots nearly twenty years ago, and we hope it will have an impact just as far into the future.
In 1995, at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, 189 countries set an ambitious goal: Women and girls should be able to participate fully in the progress and prosperity of their societies. I was proud to co-lead the American delegation to the conference and to declare to the world that “Human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights, once and for all.”
We’ve made a lot of progress since that day – more girls are in school, more women hold jobs, and more women serve in public office – but we’re still a long way from the goal of full participation. Women and girls continue to face ceilings that limit what they can achieve and hold back entire economies and societies. More than 100 countries have laws on the books that restrict women’s participation in the economy. Women are nearly half of the world’s population, but hold only 20 percent of all parliamentary seats. Around the world, including in the United States, women tend to earn less than men. And nearly 5 million girls are still married under the age of 15 every year.
The great unfinished business of the 21st century is helping women and girls break through these ceilings and contribute fully in every aspect of life.
I was in Beijing in 1995. I was 26 years old. I felt inspired and hopeful. Maybe what the U.S. needs to risk making change is a female president leading the way.
These women flew over 60 million miles within a 2 year period…However, after a nasty and aggressive campaign by male pilots who wanted the WASPs’ jobs, they were the only wartime unit that was denied military status by congress…For many years the WASPs kept their achievements quiet. Their service in World War II would only be known by a few. They are not mentioned in our history books, nor is their story taught in schools.Their accomplishments of being the first women to fly in the military would even be forgotten.
I haven’t seen the documentary yet, so I don’t know the details of the “nasty and aggressive campaign by male pilots” which successfully erased the stories of these female heroes from our history books. But I am somewhat of an expert on current kid culture, and I can tell you that stories about female heroes continue to go missing right now.
Thousands of years ago, conquering armies smashed the idols of their victims and stole their stories, an extremely effective tactic to destroy a community and steal its power. Christians did this to pagans, but of course, this act is all over history. Just like the goddess morphed into the Virgin, girls are going missing under the guise of celebration. Right now, in 2013, Disney is stealing and sanitizing stories. It’s an annihilation. How long before we all forget the original story? Will our children ever hear it?
I am reeling from this WW2 story, not because of the sexism of the past, but because of the sexism today. Want to see some sexist male pilots? Check out this preview from Disney’s recent hit, “Planes.”
Plane One: What’s taking this guy so long? Is he really as good as he says he is?
Plane Two: No, better.
Plane One: Whoa! Who was that?
Plane Three: (Descending fast on top of the other two) Well, hello ladies! Ready to lose?
Plane Three goes on to leave the “ladies” in the dust.
When I saw that preview with my three young daughters, I thought the plane who mocks the slow flyers by calling them “ladies,” was having a moment of arrogance. The movie would redeem him when he went through his transition. But when I actually saw the movie, I learned that I couldn’t have been more wrong. The sexist joke is his fantasy, the fantasy of a humble crop duster with a fear of heights who wishes he were a racer. It’s the dream sequence of a “likeable” character. Can you imagine a hero making a racist joke and being likeable? In a movie for little kids? Yet, that’s how much sexism we have to wade through before a female flyer is allowed to win a race in animation.
Yesterday, I posted about a three year old girl in my daughter’s preschool who told a teacher she can’t be a pilot, but she can be a pilot’s wife. You can tell your kids, until you’re blue in the face, that they can be anything they want to be, but if you don’t show them, through images and stories, they won’t believe you. They won’t believe in themselves. Little girls are obsessed with princesses and ballerinas, and later, supermodels, because those are the few times females are allowed to be the star in the show. Everyone wants to be the star in their own movie, their own life, but girls, again and again, are literally, pushed to the sidelines.
If you look at the erasure of these female pilots from World War II, the government obviously participated in the sexism. Allowed it to happen and sanctioned it. This is not an isolated event of the past. How can we, literally, sit back and watch it happen again and again?
On my recent post about WW2 pilots, I got this comment from Abnoba
“The actual race in Planes is totally dominated by male competitors.” How shocking! You mean in real life the actual race is not dominated by male competitors?… This stuff is silly nonsense.
This feminist whine that animated movies for kids should reflect “progressive feminist” values is the kind of thing that gives feminism a bad name. Why? Because it’s silly overreach as usual.
The idea that animators see machines that race (airplanes, cars, dunebuggies, drag racers, etc.) as a male world isn’t an irrational sexist bias – it’s simply reality. Males – and especially boys – are by nature gung ho about machines to a degree that girls are not is obvious to anyone not wearing feminist blinders. That it’s necessary to point this out these days is a comment on the nuttiness of the feminist whiners who are constantly arguing that these natural differences are not natural but socially imposed. It’s B.S. Boys and girls are different from head to toe and always have been and always will be.
Please show this picture to your kids. It’s likely they won’t see it anywhere else.
Yesterday, a teacher at my daughter’s preschool told me that she saw two boys and a girl spinning the knobs of a play oven. Boy #1 says: “I’m a pilot! I’m flying a plane.’ Boy #2 says: “Me too!” The girl is quiet, so the teacher says to her: “What about you, are you a pilot?” The 3 year old girl replies: “I can’t be a pilot. I’m a pilot’s wife.”
So what do you think has happened in this little girl’s short life to make her believe it’s more likely that she would be a pilot’s wife than a pilot?
Could it be that in her world, those are the gender roles she sees? While books, movies, and TV shows for children are full of images of boys riding magical creatures into the sky– from “ET” to “How to Train Your Dragon” to Harry Potter — girls are stuck in the passenger seat if they get to soar at all. Here are three images repeated endlessly in the media.
I’m always on the look out for images in children’s media of girls flying, and they are few and far between. If I seek them out, I can find them, but these pictures rarely cross my children’s path, not in movies, or posters for those movies, or on most of the book covers they come across when we’re shopping at a local store. Here’s a picture from The Witch Who Was Afraid of Witches that I photographed a while ago, because it’s so rare.
Today, on Facebook feed I saw that Toward the Stars is celebrating Female Flying Daredevils week, posting “We wave enthusiastically to all our girls and boys that aspire to travel above the clouds.”
We also have Angela’s Airplane which my 4 year old daughter loves.
You may not have seen these books around. They may not have been made into major motion pictures for kids or toys or LEGO sets, but, please click on the links. Stock your libraries. Read these books to your kids, and that includes your sons. All children need to see far more female daredevils.
Keep watching Toward the Stars all week for more recommendations of fearless females flying the skies.
Update: So right after I post this, I see on Facebook info about the documentary:”We Served Too: The Story of Women Air Force Pilots of World War II.” You’ve got to watch this trailer.
These women flew over 60 million miles within a 2 year period…However, after a nasty and aggressive campaign by male pilots who wanted the WASPs jobs, they were the only wartime unit that was denied military status by congress…For many years the WASPs kept their achievements quiet. Their service in World War II would only be known by a few. They are not mentioned in our history books, nor is their story taught in schools.Their accomplishments of being the first women to fly in the military would even be forgotten.
One pilot says, “Such a shame that when we disbanded, they took all of our records and they sealed them, and they were stamped either classified or secret and filed away in the government archives.”
Sealed records! I am so mad about this. Again, women’s stories are repressed and hidden, affecting a new generation of kids. I haven’t seen the film yet, so don’t know if it’s good for young kids. Wouldn’t it be great to make a children’s version? A book to go along with it? A computer game? App? A LEGO set? What do you think the chances are we’ll see any of that? They’re low, because in 2013, we still live in a world where women’s stories go missing.