This comment from Lisa on my post “PBS puts another male protag in coveted morning line up:”
Oh, Margot, you have just hit upon one of my pet peeves. I used to work for a PBS affiliate many years ago. At one point in the late 1990s I attended a PBS conference at which they rolled out the slate of new kids’ shows for the coming season. I was appalled not only at how few of them featured female characters, but how several of them were named for the male character: Caillou, Arthur, Franklin, on and on. As we were walking out of the ballroom and everyone was talking excitedly, the (female) VP of Development for our station said something to the effect of, “Wasn’t that great?” to me. I said, “Yeah, but where were the GIRLS? Did you notice these are all shows with boys in the lead?” She looked shocked and then as light dawned she said, “You’re right, where ARE the girls?”
I am disgusted but not surprised that even some 13+ years later, nothing has changed. I think there’s a tendency to think of PBS as more progressive, but presenting a more gender-balanced kids programming division is clearly not a priority for them.
One show that I really enjoyed on PBS once I had my daughters was Sagwa, which followed the adventures of a female Chinese Siamese cat – the title character! Notably, created by the wonderful author Amy Tan. Of course that is no longer on the air….OMG!! I just looked up Sagwa to see when it aired, etc. and discovered this (via Wikipedia, though cross-checked in a couple other places and it seems to hold up): “The name of the titular character, Sagwa, literally means “silly melon head”. Although innocuous without context, this phrase is typically regarded by Chinese to be an insult, carrying connotations of incompetence, foolishness, and even mental retardation.”
Wow. So one of the few shows actually named for a female character insults her by giving her a derogatory name. So frustrating!!
I love what Lisa says about “progressive” too, because you so often hear about the “liberal” media, especially PBS. I guess invisible females is just politics as usual. Isn’t it nice that people across the aisle can agree on something?