Female athletes gone missing: Sports Illustrated’s objectification of plus size women isn’t progress

The internet is abuzz with joy and celebration because the new Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue features plus size model, Ashley Graham, on its cover.

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Isn’t this great, girls? Even if you aren’t skinny, you can pout doggy style in the surf! Yes, apparently, it’s true that even if you’re not a size zero, men will still want to fuck you. No worries, sweeties, you still have value in the world.

Maybe we can get a woman over 50 to pose in a bikini. Helen Mirren? Never mind that she’s a great actress, it’s her body we want to show off. What about a plus size woman of color? Now that would be a real leap towards equality.

In 2013, researchers from the University of Louisville found that out of 716 SI covers, all of them from the years 2000- 2011, only 35 featured a female athlete. Of those, only 11 featured a female athlete of color.

Despite females’ increased participation in sport since the enactment of Title IX and calls for greater media coverage of female athletes, women appeared on just 4.9 percent of covers. The percentage of covers did not change significantly over the span and were comparable to levels reported for the 1980s by other researchers. Indeed, women were depicted on a higher percentage of covers from 1954–1965 than from 2000–2011.

Do you see we’re going backwards here? Putting a plus size woman on the cover of the SI swimsuit issue isn’t any kind of progress.

When Serena Williams made the cover of SI in 2015 as sportsperson of the year, she was pictured in stilettos and a black body suit, one bare leg slung over a chair.

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Some defended Serena’s cover claiming it’s important to show that a woman can be powerful and sexy. But for men, it is their skill that makes them attractive. For women athletes, if they happen to be “attractive” it is in spite of their talent, not because of it. Men’s bodies are valued for what they can do while women’s bodies are valued for how they appear.

If you’re going to tell me this sexism is just innate, tritely quoting: “Women use sex to get power, men use power to get sex,” listen to me carefully: People who are not in power learn to survive and be successful by pleasing those who are in power. That need is the only thing innate about reducing talented, skilled, brilliant women to body parts. Men, as a group, not individually, are able to stay running the world as long as women, as a group, stay weak.

Here is what I blogged in 2014:

Memo to the world: objectifying fat women is objectifying women

Just saw this from Buzzfeed on Miss Representation’s Facebook page:

Plus-size swimwear company Swimsuits for All set out to prove that “sexy curves go beyond a size four” by shooting its own swimwear calendar, including a picture reenacting this year’s Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.

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Are you kidding me? Do you think I’d be any happier if my 3 daughters saw that picture in the Safeway checkout line instead of this one?

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All right, maybe I’d be a smidgen happier that my kids wouldn’t have to see more starving women defined as beautiful, but my goals and expectations are so much higher than what this image from Swimsuits for All represents. I want to see images of women where they are not defined by their sexuality, by whether whomever is looking at them finds them sexy or not, where what they look like in bathing suits is not the be-all end-all, where who thinks they are attractive only matters in a very particular context, like when they are with someone who they love or want to have sex with.

Swimsuits for All is in the business of selling swimsuits. The company has got to sell its product, so posing women in the merchandise that it’s marketing makes sense. I’m not indicting the company, but pretending as if seeing this image all over the internet is liberating is ridiculous. Also, it might be nice to see the women swimming in their suits. What about playing volleyball on the beach? Building awesome sandcastles? Doing something? There could be a shot of a woman or two sunbathing, as long as the “aren’t I sexy” poses were not the dominant, ubiquitous ones.

I’ve written this for a long time, but “fat” women beauty contests don’t represent progress. Women no longer paraded as meat is progress.

 

Still confused or want to see more images to make this point? Please take a look at Reel Girl’s recent post: Why do men in America feel entitled to women? A gallery of reasons. You’ll see this famous painting by Manet (look she’s got fat rolls and she’s naked, isn’t that cool?) along with contemporary images of dressed men paired with naked women.

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If we can imagine talking bunnies as police in ‘Zootopia,’ why can’t we imagine gender equality?

After posting about the sexist ads for Disney’s “Zootopia” 3 minutes ago, I decided to do a little more research on the movie.

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The following headline came up on my Google feed from The Verge:  “The latest Zootopia trailer takes on workplace sexism against bunnies.”

I don’t know if it’s the idea of “workplace bunnies” that made me nervous, or simply my lack of confidence in the idea of Disney taking on sexism, but my heart sunk as I proceeded to read the Verge post:

At this point, the Walt Disney Animation Studios deserves praise for producing work that can arguably sit comfortably next to some of Pixar’s own efforts. Zootopia, at first blush, takes that all-too-familiar anthropomorphic animals idea and builds a whole world around it. But, at least with this new trailer, it looks like the studio is trying to tackle gender and race in a cute but really effective way.

Once Upon a Time‘s Ginnifer Goodwin stars as Officer Judy Hopps, a rabbit who joins the Zootopia police force. She quickly has to contend with stereotypes that women in the real world have long had to deal with — like being called emotional or unprepared for what’s out there — when the truth is she’s incredibly capable. And her skills will probably come in handy when she and Nick Wilde the fox (Jason Bateman) are forced to solve a crime together. Zootopia hits theaters on March 4th.

So can anyone tell me what the problem is here?

In a nutshell, “Zootopia” is a movie about talking bunnies. Lots of talking animals actually. There’s a fox, a buffalo, a lion, badger, elephant, moose, shrew, I could go on. Knowing Disney, all these animals probably sing and dance and hang out together even though in the real world, they’d eat each other. So why, why WHY if we can all stretch our imaginations to believe in loquacious animals, must we suddenly revert to reality when it comes to sexism? Instead of showing a lone female battle a majority of males, why not show a majority of females being heroic? Do you see what I’m going for here? In a fantasy world where anything is possible, why not create gender equality? Why not let kids experience females and males treated equally? If you can’t even imagine it (which apparently, we can’t) you cannot create it. Oh, is that the point, Disney?

You might say, there’s an important place for the narrative of a female struggling against sexism a la “Mulan” or “Brave.” While I agree this story has value, it can also become an excuse to continue to replicate sexism in the fantasy world, to always show a minority of females and majority of males because “that’s just the way it is in the real world.” After I saw “The Lion King” I asked: why did the lionesses have to wait around for Simba to come around and save them? Why did they have to get bossed around by weak, old Scar? Well, I’m such an idiot! Males lead a pride, of course. That’s just how it is in the real world. OK, so I’m just supposed to overlook that Simba is BFFs with a warthog and a Meerkat but when it comes to sexism, we’re all sticklers for reality?

In “Ratatouille” there is one female chef in the movie, Colette, who works in a kitchen with four male chefs. As far as I could tell, all the rats are male. Certainly, every rat who spoke is male. Colette delivers a speech about sexism, but wouldn’t it be so much more powerful to show kids a female running a kitchen of great female chefs, helped along by a female rat who can cook?

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This strong, lone female is a pattern in contemporary children’s movies. While appearing on the surface to fight sexism, her role actually ensures that sexism will continue for another generation by keeping sexist stereotypes alive. While she appears to be battling sexism, she’s illustrating it. Her character repeats so often in children’s media, I’ve given her a name: Minority Feisty. She differs from the Smurfette Principle in that she is often a “strong female character” and sometimes there are a few strong females in the narrative but they always exist in the minority. Not much for a patriarchy to be threatened by, but we can still call her a feminist. Isn’t that convenient?

 

Disney’s ‘Zootopia’ ads promote gender stereotypes

So I’m reading the new Us Weekly with Eva Longoria on the cover, and on page 32 I see a promotion for Disney’s upcoming movie “Zootopia.” The ad features a super-skinny gazelle girl, staring at me submissively, blonde curls flopping in her face. She wears super high pink heels, sparkly leg warmers to match a sparky dress with a hem so high I can almost see her privates.

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Right across from the sexy gazelle, page 33 shows another promotion for the movie. This one features 4 male characters. All get to be fully clothed in T-shirts and pants. They are in action poses, doing yoga. In spite of their exercise, they also get to be chubby. I guess this is how males get “red carpet ready.”

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Let’s hope the 4 to 1 ratio in these ads is not reflective of the gender ratio in the actual movie, but my hopes are low given that in most movies for kids, females are reduced to the Minority Feisty role.

My three daughters and I were excited to go to “Zootropia.” We saw the preview, it looked pretty funny, but this ad has me gagging. Even if kids don’t see the movie, this sexy gazelle will be unavoidable. She will be a toy, a halloween costume, an image in a T-shirt, a band-air, a sippy cup, or a diaper. Disney, please stop exposing children to gender stereotypes where females bodies are valued for how they appear while male bodies are valued for what they can do. Portraying females as sex objects while males get to be funny and have fun is so misogynistic. The problem isn’t that you rely on this trope once, or twice, or a even a few times, but that gender stereotypes are a repeated pattern in most of your movies. Don’t you want to be more creative?

Update: I turned the page! Look what’s on page 34, surprise, surprise. Another fully clothed male character.

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If Judy Hopps, a police officer, is one of the main characters, why isn’t she in an ad? Why the sexy gazelle? Because, I imagine, the sexy gazelle is a sexy gazelle and that’s how Disney wants to sell the movie. Gross.

After I did 3 minutes of research on the movie, I had to blog AGAIN about more sexism in “Zootopia.” Read my new blog: If we can imagine talking bunnies as police in ‘Zootopia,’ why can’t we imagine gender equality?

New study shows Disney movies teach sexism: Even when females star, males get more lines

Linguists Carmen Fought and Karen Eisenhauer released statistics showing that even when females star, males get more speaking time in Disney Princess movies. Quartz reports:

Even Frozen, the 2013 mega blockbuster starring two princess sisters, gives women only 41% of the dialogue. The only exceptions to the female-minority rule are Tangled and Brave, whose female characters speak 52% and 74% of the lines.

Back when “Frozen” came out, I blogged: Just as marketing intended, boy thinks central character of ‘Frozen’ is the Snowman. Olaf, a talking snowman, was featured front and center on most of the movie posters my three daughters and I saw around our city of San Francisco.

Frozen-movie-posterOlaf was also the major character in the previews my kids and I saw.

Now Fought and Eisenhauer have published a study to show that even when females star in movies, males get more lines. This particular kind of sly sexism found in contemporary kids’s media is a version of what I call the Minority Feisty.

What is the Minority Feisty? If you see an animated film today, it will usually include a strong female character. Or two. Or maybe even three. But however many females there are, there will always be more males. Females, half of the human population, will be depicted as a minority.  Females will get less lines and less screen time. The token strong female character (or two or three, you get the point) who shows up in the film, reviewers will call “feisty.” (In “How to Train Your Dragon,” Astrid; in “Toy Story,” Jessie; in “Ratatouille,” Colette.) She’s supposed to make us feel like the movie is contemporary and feminist, unlike those sexist films of yesteryear.

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The problem is that because Pixar or Disney has so magnanimously thrown in this “feisty” female (who may even have some commentary about sexism or male domination) we’re no longer supposed to care that almost all of the other characters in the film are male.

“Feisty” isn’t a word that describes someone with real power, but someone who plays at being powerful. Would you ever call Superman “feisty?”  How would he feel if you did? (The Quartz article I link to in this post refers to these characters as “sassy” and “plucky.” Same idea– strong for a girl.)

In this century, Katha Pollitt’s Smurfette Principle has evolved into the Minority Feisty. There are a few more females than there used to be, but imagine if the gender ratio presented in kids’s movies was reflected in the real world. Is that a world that you want your kids to live in? Parents, be on the look out for the Minority Feisty. Teach your kids how to identify her. Don’t let the sexism fool you or them. Don’t let a new generation of kids experience sexism as normal and grow up to expect and accept a world where girls go missing. And don’t forget to ask your kids this: Why does the imaginary world have to be sexist at all? If rats can cook, unicorns prance around, and lions befriend warthogs, can’t we picture gender equality?

 

 

See Reel Girl’s Gallery of Girls Gone Missing From Children’s Movies in 2014

See Reel Girl’s Gallery of Girls Gone Missing From Children’s Movies in 2013

See Reel Girl’s Gallery of Girls Gone Missing From Children’s Movies in 2012

See Reel Girl’s Gallery of Girls Gone Missing From Children’s Movies in 2011

 

See Peggy Orenstein’s post: “Pixar’s female problem: Please stop asking ‘What about Jessie?,” on the Minority Feisty issue

 

 

‘Pan’ bombs at box office, proving movies with male leads can’t get an audience

Warner Sisters big budget movie “Pan” cost $150 million to make, yet had just a $15.5 opening, proving that movies with male protagonists can’t attract an audience.

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Groups advocating for boy empowerment and claiming sexism have been asking Hollywood to make more movies with strong male protagonists, but after the financial failure of “Pan,” it’s obvious that movies starring boys aren’t profitable.

A Warner Sisters spokesperson tells Reel Girl, “Unfortunately, while both boys and girls want to see movies starring girls, only boys are interested in stories about boys.”

Perhaps “Pan” went too far trying to please special interest groups who want more male characters in movies. Female characters are left out of “Pan” almost completely. In one scene, Blackbeard, the male villain, who commands a boat of all male pirates, addresses thousands of all male orphan-slaves, saying his audience belongs to “every race, creed, and color, every age and era.” He never mentions females aren’t represented in the crowd at all.

While the movie does feature Tiger Lily, a white woman playing a Native American inspired role, one major female speaking part apparently isn’t enough to bring girls in to see the movie. Warner Sisters will be sticking to mostly female casts in the future: “It comes down to dollars.”

Reel Girl rates Pan ***SS*** for Gender Stereotyping.

Please don’t comment to me about how Tiger Lily or Peter’s mother (who has about two lines) are feminist characters. They represent typical Minority Feisty, a trope seen in almost every children’s movie made today where there will one, two, or three (a minority of)  “strong female characters” so we’re somehow not supposed to notice that all others in the movie, including the protagonist of his eponymous movie, are male.

In case you didn’t get it, the point of this post is that movies starring males and directed by males fail all the time, but unlike with female stars or directors, the inability to bring in money is never attributed to gender.

11 yr old girl frustrated by sexist ‘Star Wars’ Halloween costumes

I got this comment on Reel Girl today, ARGH!

Thank you for your brilliant comment, Maya. So sorry you have to grow up in a culture that is so horrifyingly sexist, but your imagination will continue to protect you. Your costume sounds great! Please send me a pic of you on Halloween.  And you can call me Margot : )

Dear Mrs. Magowan:

My name is Maya, and I am an eleven-year-old girl. I am a big fan of Star Wars, and having read your blog for a long time, I am fully aware of the sexism in the movies. I could go on for hours about Princess Leia, Padme Amidala, the sparse females, and their sexual objectification (such as in Leia’s metal bikini), and I thank you for bringing attention to that issue.

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Yesterday, my mom and I were browsing the website of Five Below and saw a very cool Star Wars T-shirt with pictures of many of the iconic characters, such as Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Darth Vader, and R2-D2. I was psyched looking at the shirt, until I realized something. “Where’s Princess Leia?” She was one of the main characters of the series, in addition to being the ONLY female. She needed representation. So on a shirt dominated by males, where the heck was she? I had the same problem when we were looking for Star Wars shirts at Wal-Mart. One of them had Star Wars characters in 8-bit pixelization. It was a really cool and fun shirt, but it had the same problem: although it depicted Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Stormtroopers, and even R2-D2, Leia – the only female character (and a totally kickbutt one at that, a perfect role model for girls AND boys) – was nowhere to be found.

Females need representation, in both girls’ AND boys’ merchandise, to show BOTH genders that in the world of fantasy, both males and females can do amazing things. So even if it IS a “boys’ shirt,” that’s no excuse for Princess Leia not to be there. I’m so glad Target realizes this, by showing Star Wars fans of both genders playing together. That advertisement sends the perfect message, and I’m grateful to Target for doing so. I would also like to thank you, Mrs. Magowan, for blogging about it and spreading the word to even more people.

I also have one more thing to share with you. Since I love Star Wars so much, I am probably going to dress in a Star Wars-themed costume for Halloween. The problem is, girls don’t have many options for Star Wars Halloween costumes. Boys have tons of Jedi, Sith, aliens, rebels, troopers, and even droids to choose from. Girls have Leia, Padme, Hera and Sabine from “Rebels,” and Ahsoka from “The Clone Wars.” That’s it. And although Padme practically has a new costume in every scene change and Leia’s wardrobe is nothing to sneeze at either, that is still very few options compared to the boys. Don’t fault the girls for that; fault the makers of Star Wars, for giving them so few choices in a franchise girls can love just as much as boys.

Even worse, my mother and I were browsing Star Wars costumes on the Internet, and almost every female costume for adults that we saw was SEXY. For every Darth Vader costume for males, there was a Sexy Sabine or Sexy Leia costume in revealing dresses that they were NEVER portrayed as wearing in the movies…or, even worse, a Sexy Darth Vader, complete with skintight “armor” and a miniskirt. Boys could have actual costumes that were actually relevant, true to the movies, heroic-looking, and covered them up well. If they were real heroes, they would be able to move, fight, and win in the outfits. Girls’ costumes needed to be sexy, skintight, and disturbingly explicit. There would be no way they would be able to move around or fight in those costumes, let alone do anything but LOOK pretty. The boys looked like heroes. The girls looked like objects for the boys to win. (On another note, wouldn’t people who wore those costumes be cold on Halloween? I mean, it’s an autumn night at the end of October. It’s going to be cold. People need to be covered up and warm, and sexy costumes are disturbingly impractical.) I decided to dress as a Jedi for Halloween. Since so many people were going to dress as human Jedi, I decided to do something different and go as an alien Jedi – a Twi’lek, which is the alien race of Hera from “Rebels”. We were browsing pictures of Twi’leks online, and all of the shown pictures looked disturbingly sexy and explicit – anorexic, supermodel-looking extraterrestrials with impossibly large breasts and barely anything to hide their privates. We had to look and look to find a picture of a Twi’lek that was actually well-covered-up, in cool Jedi robes, that actually looked appropriate. That is what I’m going as for Halloween. Interestingly, all the male Twi’leks were muscular, heroic, and not explicit at all. Hmm…I wonder why?

In conclusion, I would like to thank you for starting up this blog and making the sexism that plagues our society known to the world, especially in the fantasy inhabited by kids. When we are children, our minds are most vulnerable and open to new ideas, and when marketers shape those minds with sexism, that is a terrible thing. Thank you for helping make those ideas known to society and doing your part to eradicate sexism, empower women, and ultimately, lead to true gender equality.

Sincerely,
Maya Blumenthal

Reel Girl’s blogs on sexism and ‘Star Wars’

Florida mom, I’d rather see my 4 yr old in orange jumpsuit than dressed as slave Leia

Slut-shaming Princess Leia or protecting childhood from adult sexuality?

Responding to #WeWantLeia campaign, Disney will stock stores with Leia toys

From the Disney store to Stride Rite to Whole Foods: the degradation and annihilation of Princess Leia in kidworld

Trade in your tiara for a light saber this Halloween

If you won’t buy your kids racist presents, don’t buy them sexist ones

In revolutionary new ad, Target shows girls and boys playing “Star Wars” together

Star Wars, where are the women?

Gender stereotyping leads to bullying

If a stormtrooper had no epic, would he exist?

My daughter teased for ‘boy’ shoes on soccer field

 

 

Sexism and Riley Curry

After Warriors MVP Stephen Curry showed up at the post game press conference with his 2 year old daughter, Riley, I became a Warriors fan. Curry is showing the world that he’s a basketball star and a dad, He’s multitasking, something moms are more known for. (Women are “naturally” better at doing several things at once, right?)

I was impressed and touched that the stellar player brought his daughter to work. While Riley tried to grab the mike, made faces, and clowned around, Curry answered reporters’ questions, all along taking obvious delight in his spirited offspring. While I was so grateful for this public image of the Currys, others criticized the player, his daughter, and his parenting claiming Riley should have been better behaved. The criticism reached a point that Riley’s mom, Ayesha, wrote an essay defending her family:

Last week, Riley joined her father in a press conference, and some thought she stole the show. I thought it was beautiful, and I wouldn’t change a thing. There can be more than 50 people and 10 cameras—not counting camera phones—in the room during press conferences, so it can be overwhelming. But my husband handled his duties on the podium with ease and class. And my daughter was who she is—vibrant, spunky, and full of life. I hope she carries this with her through adulthood.

Stephen attends practice every day, and gives his all during the games on an almost-nightly basis. When that’s over, all he wants is to see his family, and on the day of that press conference, our daughter wanted to be with her father. I thought it was beautiful for him not to push his daddy duties to the bottom of the list just because all eyes were on him. I believe you should let your children be children, and don’t be afraid to be a parent, regardless of who’s watching.

Family matters! Our children matter! At the end of the day, when all the lights dim, and the cameras are gone, we are still here as his biggest, loudest, and most supportive cheerleaders. We are also extremely proud that in spite of some criticism, Riley was able to share in that experience with her father and bring joy and laughter into the lives and homes of many all over the world.

I’ve blogged endlessly about how the public prefers that girls are seen and not heard. We like our girl children “quiet” and “well behaved.” We will tolerate “boy energy”– boys wrestling, yelling, or clowning around– because that’s “natural,” it’s just how boys are. What’s “natural” for girls? They’re “artsy” and “verbal.” Girls prefer quiet activities like writing, reading and making pictures, they’re just better at that stuff than boys are.

Those stereotypes are bullshit. I don’t know how to be more clear. They have everything to do with sexism and nothing to do with reality. The question I’ve asked often on Reel Girl is this: If females are artsy and verbal, why throughout human history, are the “great” artists and writers mostly men? The answer by the way, is more sexism of course. It’s OK for girls to be good at art and writing as long as there is no power, money, or status involved.

Quiet kids can be easier to be around. I get it. My three daughters are loud. They are active, play instruments, and sometimes yell. I enjoy silence and solitude, and sometimes my family is challenging for me. Did I mention my husband is a drummer? On occasions, I do validate my kids behavior simply because that’s what I need. When I give my daughters positive affirmation for being quiet and negative for being loud, it’s important to realize I’m doing this for me, I’m valuing my kids and training my kids to act in a way that is useful to me, not because its their “true nature.” My goal is to let my kids be kids. They have their whole lives to be grown-ups, though like Ayesha Curry writes, I hope they never learn to stay quiet to make other people comfortable. (I’m not talking about misbehaving in restaurants, obviously.)

On the blog What If We Were Free?: Riley Curry and Blackgirl Freedom, the writer also delves into the racism around Riley Curry, and this image is captioned:

So, since this didn’t cause a controversy, I guess this is what “respectable blackgirls” look like in public.

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‘Book of Life’ ticks off tropes in most sexist kids’ movie of the year

“Book of Life” is so retro-sexist, if I weren’t with my kids, I would’ve walked out. Instead, I sat there in the theater with my mouth hanging open, trying to focus on the movie’s dazzling animation instead of the cliched plot.

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Manolo, the protagonist of the movie is a bullfighter/ musician. He competes with his rival, Joaquin, a war hero, to marry Maria who is the prize to be won. That’s right, in 2014 children are shown a movie where the female’s role in the narrative is to be a trophy. Typically, as in most contemporary animation, “the girl” actually has a personality! Maria is educated, she likes to read and she likes art. Isn’t that great, parents? Maria is a smart prize. She can fence too, which she gets to do for about 2 minutes of the movie.

“Book of Life” is inspired by Mexico’s Day of the Dead, art I love and used to collect. The characters and scenery are so gorgeously colorful, I tried hard to overlook the sexism. The point where I didn’t think I could take anymore came when Joaquin is at a party with Maria by his side. He is going on and on about himself and Maria mocks him, “I bet you want a wife who can just cook and clean.” She walks away in a huff. At this point, Joaquin’s buddy comments: “Oh, she’s a feisty one!” If you read Reel Girl, you know I use the term “Minority Feisty” to describe the fake feminism that crops up in almost every animated movie made for kids:

If you see an animated film today, it’s likely to include a token strong female character or two who reviewers will call “feisty.” In “How to Train Your Dragon,” Astrid; in “Toy Story,” Jessie; in “Ratatouille,” Colette. She’s supposed to make us feel like the movie is contemporary and feminist, unlike those sexist films of yesteryear.

 

The problem is that because Pixar or Disney has so magnanimously thrown in this “feisty” female (who may even have some commentary about sexism or male domination) we’re no longer supposed to care that almost all of the other characters in the film are male, including the star who the movie is often titled for and usually his best buddy as well. The crowd scenes in the film are also made up of mostly males.

 

“Feisty” isn’t a word that describes someone with real power, but someone who plays at being powerful. Would you ever call Superman “feisty?”  How would he feel if you did?

 

The Smurfette Principle has evolved into the Minority Feisty. Now instead of a “token” female in a children’s movie, we may see a few females sprinkled around, a “minority” of them. Parents, the next time you watch a children’s movie, try not to let the Minority Feisty population distract you from the limitations female characters are almost always forced into. Ask yourself: Is the female the protagonist in this film? Does the narrative revolve around her quest? Or is she there to (play a crucial role in) helping the male star achieve his goal/ dream?

At the end of the movie, there is a wedding. I’m not going to call that information a spoiler. After the ceremony, Maria is referred to as “Mrs Sanchez.” She has no quest. Instead, “Book of Life” ticks off gender tropes to become the most sexist children’s movie of 2014.

Reel Girl rates “Book of Life” ***SS***

Florida mom, I’d rather see my 4 yr old in orange jumpsuit than dressed as slave Leia

Susan Schrivjer, the Florida mom who started the petition against Toys R Us for selling “Breaking Bad” toys to adults, tells CNN, “Kids mimic their action figures, if you will. Do you want your child in an orange jumpsuit?”

Toys R Us banned the toy almost immediately after Schrivjer started her protest, so I want to know: Do we all finally agree that kids imitate their toys? And if we do, why are toy stores selling half-dressed, belly-baring, high heel wearing sexualized figures to little kids?

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If Monster High were atypical that would be one thing, but these outfits worn by female dolls are standard. Polly Pocket is marketed to girls age 4 and up. All that kids are encouraged to do with Polly is to dress her, change her from one short skirt to the next. It was Polly and her endless tiny plastic outfits who inspired me to start this blog about the sexism marketed to kids.

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The Winx girls are also marketed to little kids.

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When Melissa Wardy, founder of Pigtail Pals saw this backpack on a first grader, she  blogged:

Try this test: If the image can be lifted from the child’s toy/backpack/t-shirt and placed on the billboard for a strip club and not look out of place, then things are seriously fucked.

 

Wardy, myself, organizations like Let Toys Be Toys for Girls and Boys, and parents have created and signed petition after petition about sexism, only to be ignored in the USA. After shopping at Toys R Us, one mom wanted to know why Slave Leia was the only available Leia. Jezebel reports:

Over the weekend we received a tip from a concerned mother who had come across something very disconcerting while perusing the aisles of Toys R Us. Apparently the only available toy or figurine of the Star Wars character Princess Leia is of her in the “Slave Outfit” from Return of the Jedi. Bikini? Check. Loin cloth? Check. Chain around the neck? Check. And in case you were wondering if it was actually geared towards children, it’s listed for kids ages 4+….This is a perfect and heart-breaking example of how ingrained sexism is in geek culture. It’s not like there’s a Chewbacca toy in a banana hammock.

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Yesterday I wrote a blog thanking “Breaking Bad” star Aaron Paul for calling out Toys R us hypocrisy with his Tweet:

 Wait, so @ToysRUs pulled all of the Breaking Bad figures from their shelves and still sells Barbie? Hmmmm…I wonder what is more damaging

The more we all rail against “Breaking Bad” toys, the more we ignore the sexism and affirm it as normal. It is shocking to me, as a mom of 3 young daughters, that sexism in kidworld is accepted so completely. And this acceptance goes beyond toys to media, which of course loops back to inpsire more toys. In Disney’s movie “Planes,” the fast plane, the hero of the movie, mocks the slower planes for being girly.

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.

As with the toys, this kind of sexism in movies for children is typical. In “Madagascar 3” a scene features a male penguin mocking other male penguins, “You pillow fight like a bunch of little girls.”

As with “Planes” this sexist scene is so hysterical, it’s the one chosen for the preview.

Training a new generation of kids to learn this kind of sexism is dangerous. In the New York Times, Frank Bruni writes about his discussion with Chris Kilmartin, author of “The Masculine Self.”

 “When the worst thing we say to a boy in sports is that he throws ‘like a girl,’ we teach boys to disrespect the feminine and disrespect women. That’s the cultural undercurrent of rape…It’s not DNA we’re up against; it’s movies, manners and a set of mores, magnified in the worlds of the military and sports, that assign different roles and different worth to men and women. Fix that culture and we can keep women a whole lot safer.

 

I want Toys R Us– and parents– to know that it is far more damaging to sell sexist toys to kids than to sell Jesse to adults. The Florida mom asked CNN if we’d prefer our kids in orange jumpsuits. I’d like to reply with this story. A while back my 4 year old daughter was looking through a magazine, and she saw an ad for “Orange is the New Black.” She cried out, grinning, “Look Mama, so many girls!” It’s that rare for her to see an image of a group of women together in the media, no belly buttons, no cleavage, and also, by the way, not all white. She was so excited, she wanted to be in a picture with them, so I took this.

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Does my daughter know these women are playing convicts? Nope. Would I allow her to watch the show? Of course not. If I saw “Orange is the New Black” action figures sold at “Toys R Us” would I buy them for her? Absolutely, because Florida mom, I’d rather see my 4 year old in an orange jumpsuit than thigh high boots.

I’m a fan FCKH8’s ‘F-Bomb Princess’ viral video

From the first time I saw FCKH8’s video, I really liked it. Perhaps, I’m a fan because of bias. When I started my blog, Reel Girl, I wrote on my “About” page:

One more reason I started Reel Girl– our movie rating system, and the values associated with that rating system, is totally messed up. So many G movies perpetuate the absolute worst kinds of gender stereotypes, yet they are supposedly “for kids.” In my opinion, this kind of repetitive imagery is way more dangerous for children than hearing the word “shit.”

 

“Cinderella” and all of its endless, infinite adaptations and reincarnations, in my opinion is bad for kids. “Whale Rider” in spite of swearing and drug use is good for kids. Simple concept, yet so hard to convince people of it, that I write and write and write. When I watched the FCKH8 video, I felt like: YES, this is the point I’ve been trying to make: Pay inequity is way more offensive than the word fuck. The video shows what I’ve been trying to tell. It is art. And unlike many writers out there, I am THRILLED when I see my idea coming from someone else as well because it makes me feel like I’m not crazy, like people ‘get it.’ Furthermore, I realize that in order for the world to change, people other than me have to ‘get it.’ If it’s just me with my ‘original’ idea that I’m going for, all I have is my ego, and that is a lonely, static, boring place to be plus nothing much changes at all.

So perhaps, I thought, when I read comments against the FCKH8 video by my brilliant colleagues including founder of Pigtail Pals Melissa Wardy, author of The Princess Problem Rebecca Hains, and author of Her Next Chapter Lori Day, I’m just being selfish here. I’m not thinking about the kids having no idea what they’re saying (and I do believe these girls are too young to understand what they’re talking about.) Perhaps I’m so happy not be so isolated with my vision, I’m blind to the exploitation, hypocritically exploitation I’m trying to prevent.

But after thinking this through, I still like the video. As I wrote, I agree the kids don’t understand what they are saying, this is a job for them. I never thought the kids in the ad were not acting or not reciting lines, and I don’t think the video’s intention is to make viewers assume that. So the question is: Does the ignorance of the kids make the video exploitative? My answer is still no, unless all child actors from the ones in sitcoms who speak in language far beyond their years to any commercial, all who often don’t understand what they are saying, are exploited.

The next question I asked myself: Is the FCKH8 ad exploiting girls because it’s using them to sell a product?

During the World Series last night and the night before, my family and I saw teen baseball star Mo’ne Davis in a Chevy ad. I thought the ad was beautiful. In the ad, Mo’ne says, “I throw 70 miles an hour. That’s throwing like a girl.” Millions of families saw her throw in a mini-movie and heard that line while watching the World Series. We also saw a Mazda ad with Mia Hamm, and my 11 year old, who is a fan of Hamm, said, “Why is she selling cars?” To which I responded, “It’s either her or a male athlete. I’d rather see Mia.” I want to see the images of powerful girls used to sell things, from toys to movies to clothing. These kids are not being exploited because they are being used to sell a product.

Rebecca Hains makes powerful points in her blog about the history of FCKH8:

The slogans found on the FCKH8 t-shirts were appropriated from other feminist nonprofits. For example, the Feminist Majority Foundation has been selling “This is what a feminist looks like” tees since at least the mid-1990s. So despite their promises to support charities with their t-shirt sales, FCKH8 is actually siphoning money away from feminist charities by stealing their ideas.

Furthermore, quality charities have refused to take FCKH8’s money in the past, because FCKH8 is incredibly problematic. They’ve been accused widely of being transphobic (as a quick google search will show), and their anti-racist work is of dubious merit. For example, their response to Ferguson raised so much ire in the anti-racist community that Race Forward—one of the charities originally listed on FCKH8’s page—announced publicly that they were refusing donations from the company.

So to those who are saying that FCKH8 is a company that’s doing it’s best to promote social justice, and we should cut them some slack? No FCKHing way.

I agree stealing a slogan from non-profits is not ethical. I also didn’t know about using the Ferguson tragedy to sell T shirts. FCKH8 sounds like a company with a bad history. But learning this history doesn’t change how I feel about the video. I still like the video. I still like that the video is going viral and, just like the Mo’ne ad, spreading important slogans out into the world:

* Pay inequality. Women are paid 23% less than men for the exact same fucking work.

*Women who graduate university with straight A’s get paid only as much as men who graduated with C’s.

* 1 out of every 5 women will be sexually assaulted or raped by a man

* Stop telling girls how to dress and start teaching boys not to fucking rape

*We’re glad a women’s right to vote is here, but equality is messed up. It’s walking to the car without fear.

* Pretty is a compliment but here’s how the focus works to girls detriment. Society teaching girls that our body, boobs, and butt are more important than our brains leads us to thinking our worth comes from our waistline. My aspirations in life should not be worrying about the shape of my ass so fuck focusing on how I look and give me a book.

*Instead of cleaning these girls mouths out with soap, maybe society should clean up its act.

*Near the end of the ad, there is a boy in a dress. “When you tell a boy it’s bad to act like a girl it’s because you think its bad to be a girl.”

These are messages I work hard every day to promote, and I believe the ideas are presented in this video in a simple, convincing way, easy for adults– yes, adults– to understand.

Rebecca posts comments on her blog from people who are offended that these young girls spoke of rape and assault. I agree that part is disconcerting, and it is for this reason, I chose not to show the video to my 11 year old daughter who I have yet to tell about rape. That said,  I’ve blogged about books for kids that deal with rape, incest, and assault wondering what age is appropriate for these stories. The answer I always get is that it depends on the kid. I want to be the first one to tell my kid about rape, sexual assault, pornography, incest, drugs etc. I don’t want her learning about these issues for the first time from books or movies or other kids. When I’ve written about these kinds of books on my blog, kids and parents have written back that their young kid does know about porn or rape based on experiences that they’ve had– talking to other kids, what they’ve seen, or instances in their own life. Now that they do know, it is important and beneficial for the kid to be able to read literature about it. Here’s one comment that I got when I wrote about Graceling:

Based on the brief snippets of content she saw, I had to not only have “the talk”, but also explain a LOT of things I never thought I’d have to address at that age. Because of this, conversely, she is now very educated on both sex, misogyny, and rape/assault/child abuse.  Therefore, I think these books that are written about very serious issues — but in the comprehension style of a young person who can find the characters identifiable — is a great source of information…I have not read these books to endorse them, but now I am interested and will be checking them out at the library. Thank you.

My point is that I don’t think it’s fair to make a blanket statement that little kids should not refer to rape or assault in a video when in the real world, kids see and experience these things every day.

One more thing: As far as the video not having a trigger warning, I don’t post trigger warnings on my blog ever. My whole blog is a trigger. Everyone is unique, and I think it’s impossible to make some kind of assumption about what will trigger readers.

If for some reason you haven’t come across the video, you can watch it here.