The Rule of the Minority Feisty From Politics to Animation

Slate recently posted “More Than A Woman: The unwritten and silly rule that allows one woman to run for office at a time,” about how Juliette Kayyem, candidate for Governor of Massacusettes, was supposedly expected to drop out of the race when another female, Martha Coakley, announced her candidacy. This post goes on to describe how the idea of “one woman at a time” is an expectation that happens all the time in politics.

Often in politics there is an automatic, unspoken, assumption that only one woman can run at a time.  For example, stories about Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren that speculate about whether she will or won’t run for president, generally take it as a given that Warren can’t possibly enter the Democratic primary if Hillary Clinton decides to run. But why is this the automatic assumption? Warren is an utterly different kind of politician with a distinct biography and a passionate following. She and Clinton have even had substantive disagreements in the past about bank regulation, one of Warren’s central issues. Nobody ever told Howard Dean to get out of the race because John Kerry was running. What law dictates that there can be only one woman per major race at a time?


This limited perception dominating our cultural imaginary reminded me of the comment from the head animator of “Frozen”  that “having a film with two hero female characters was really tough.” Here they are, and I’ve got to say, I can barely tell the difference between them. Now do you think the similarity is because females look so much alike in the real world, or do you think the issue is the artist’s limited perception of how female heroes can look?


I’ve been blogging for a long time about the Minority Feisty, a term describing the current state of the fantasy world and the real one: strong females are allowed to exist, but only in a limited way. Today, if you see a movie for children, most feature a male protagonist, while females, who are, in fact, half of the kid population, are presented as if they were a minority. Within that minority, there will be a strong female or two who reviewers will invariably call “feisty.” I call these characters the “Minority Feisty.” “Frozen” is one of 4 movies for children in 2013 with a female protagonist, while 21 feature a male protagonist. And still, in our feminist movie, we have the animator say how hard it was for him to make two females and they look like this? I know they’re sisters, but come on.

So here’s a few more questions I have: Why are we conditioning a new generation of kids to accept the rule of the Minority Feisty? Why is the fantasy world, where anything is possible, so sexist?

And how many of our kids have seen images like this one?


Check that out: four powerful women pictured together and their facial features are different. From In This Together Media:

“The Four Justices” was unveiled today at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.. Painted by Nelson Shanks, the portrait depicts the four female Supreme Court Justices, Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Sandra Day O’Connor, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The painting was commissioned to show young women what is possible.


If our children grew up surrounded by images like this, how do you think it would affect who they are and become, how they perceive themselves and each other?


5 thoughts on “The Rule of the Minority Feisty From Politics to Animation

  1. Here is an article that talks about sidekick characters being male by default, especially if the sidekick in question is an animal.

    The Default Male Sidekick:

    BTW (by the way), Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 is one of the few movies of 2013 that managed to get even one female animal sidekick character (Barb the orangutan) into it. She is also of a species of animal that is usually male in fictional works.

  2. I’m not that bothered by the two characters in Frozen looking similar as they are supposed to be sisters and in my mind, CGI human characters in the same movie tend to look similar. They both have heart-shaped faces and large eyes… which is kind of expected for Disney princesses anyway. But they have different eye colors, hair colors, and brow shapes. The Snow Queen character also seems to have longer lashes, a longer nose, and a fuller bottom lip.

    Anyway, speaking of the Minority Feisty, we might have a new one. Now, this is just the trailer for Mr. Peabody and Sherman but right now this is the vibe the female character is giving off. And, this is going to sound odd, but I’m getting a kind of Biblical Eve vibe from her as well.

  3. Hi Sarah,

    Totally relate, I’m the middle of 3 sisters, they looked alike and I didn’t. Everyone asked me why I looked different. How the fuck do I know? And I was called “the dark one” for my hair, not to mention my rotten ways.


    • Forgive the derail, but I have to ask: have you seen The Secret of Roan Inish? Would love to hear what it means to you to watch a story where the ‘dark ones’ in a family has a very specific meaning!

  4. Ugh. God forbid one of the sisters have a narrower face, or smaller eyes, or a more prominent nose. As a girl who looks almost nothing like her sister, this would have just confirmed I’m the “ugly one” as a child, because my sister has the rounder face and littler nose and chin. Now I’m an adult and I know I’m perfectly attractive to plenty of people, but I still fear when I meet children that they’re thinking I’m a witch based on how women who look like me are portrayed in their stories. Kids pick up on this “there is only one way to be beautiful,” crap and it makes me furious it is pushed on them so strongly.
    Also, the “feisty” characterization bugs me, because my sister was ALSO the “feisty one.” I’m so tired of these Madonna/Whore characterizations. Women are just not characterized as people. We’re rarely shown as being complex unless the story is “just for girls.”

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