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Gender stereotyping in children's TV and films

(24 Posts)
nenevomito Sun 07-Aug-11 22:53:03

I am starting to give up hope of ever finding children’s TV or films that do not gender stereotype women. Even the ones where they have tried sometimes fail. Short of stopping her from watching anything (which seems a little extreme) how on earth can I ensure that DD grows up truly believing that women are equal to men and can do anything that a man can do, when she’s going to be faced by a barrage of negative stereo typing from the media from an early age?

Below are a selection of DD and DS’s favourite programs and films.

Little red tractor: 3 male main characters plus two male tractors. They do well by having a female mechanic, but the only other women are the seldom seen mother of the kids and Mrs Stumpy (long suffering wife). There are no scenes with them in together. The male characters include a rich landowner, a farmer a mechanic and a miller.

Fireman Sam: Mostly male characters. Tries with a female fire-fighter, but the two other women are a neurotic single mother, a lady who runs a cafe and a nurse. The male characters include the station commander, a helicopter pilot, bus driver and fisherman.

Numberjacks - Promising as it has an even number of male and female characters. Fails as the leaders are 6, who is male and 4, who is male and blue. 5 (female) is a worrier and 3 is pink, annoying and squeaky. They frequently tell each other to look after 3 as she needs looking after <rolls eyes>

Phinneas and Ferb – Two strong male characters. Women include a clueless mother and a girl who wears pink, is obsessed by her boyfriend and isn’t creative. Argh. Even the sodding platypus is male.

Film fails Franky, there are too many to list, but here’s a few examples.
Cars – The women are a love interest, a cafe owner and a doddery old dear.
Surf’s up – All male apart from one woman.
How to train your Dragon – Has a one female character in it. It’s a good one at first, but she still turns into the love interest (and is beaten by a man to the prize).
Bee Movie – Changes nature to have male worker bees. Two female characters are a love interest and the mother (and a couple of girl bees giggling over the “pollen jocks”)
Megamind - A male superhero, a make supervillain and a female love interest.
Thank goodness for the Incredibles, who at least has three decent female characters, but still in gender stereotyped roles.

Have I missed something? Are there children’s programs or films out there that don’t fail so miserably?

Kladdkaka Sun 07-Aug-11 23:07:49


nenevomito Sun 07-Aug-11 23:15:13

Pippi longstocking?

celadon Sun 07-Aug-11 23:17:03

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

nenevomito Sun 07-Aug-11 23:25:33

she's pre-school ATM.

I blithely went though this with DS and never noticed, but it's relentless. I thought it would be enough to try and avoid the sodding Disney Princess's rubbish, but apparently not.

Bagpuss is OK. Emily and her shop. Madeline the doll. Just a shame its about 30 years old!

Kladdkaka Sun 07-Aug-11 23:28:47

Yes, or Pippi Långstrump as we say out this way. Isn't she a model of female independence? (Can't quite remember myself)

UsingMainlySpoons Sun 07-Aug-11 23:28:55

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

HerdOfTinyElephants Sun 07-Aug-11 23:31:54

Are 6 and 4 the leaders in Numberjacks? I'd never picked up on that at all. I thought they were a kind of automomous collective (although they seem to get older as the numbers get higher).

Nina and the Neurons

Everything's Rosie, possibly?

Possibly Dora the Explorer (although I note that Diego teaches stuff about (very basic) zoology whereas Dora is largely about stories and creative stuff)

Come Outside

Bobinogs (is that on any more? It's bloody annoying IMO but quite good on gender balance)

Me Too isn't too bad (e.g. the doctor and taxi driver are both female, while the teacher is male)

Green Balloon Club

Pinky Dinky Doo

Show Me Show Me?

64 Zoo Lane

nenevomito Sun 07-Aug-11 23:39:49

Yes to come outside - lovely program, but not on often.
Show me show me is brilliant too - thanks.

6 is definitely the leader in the Numberjacks. They were DS's 'special interest' for a while and its always number 6 who decides who goes onto the mission and its always number 4 who operates the equipment, exept when out on a mission.

Thinking about it cbeebies does a pretty good job. But its certainly the minority.

sockpoppet Sun 07-Aug-11 23:46:58

Nims island
Whale rider...
when she's older.
Peppa pig isn't too bad
Nina and the neurons
Come outside

HerdOfTinyElephants Sun 07-Aug-11 23:48:55

The new Pixar, Brave, sounds reasonably promising. But I bet that except for the central character all the others will be male unless they need to be female for some pressing reason.

Interestingly, there are some really interesting female roles in the How To Train Your Dragon series of books (the plot of which is almost completely different from the film). There is still a preponderance of male characters and the central character is male, but one of the other tribes is matriarchal and their chief's daughter Camicazi becomes a close friend of Hiccup without ever being any kind of love interest. And it's clear that Hiccup's mother is a kick-ass warrior (although she never appears in person because she's always off fighting somewhere). But that's drifting off-topic.

Tangled isn't bad, I think, from memory. It subverts some of the conventions (I think the heroine rescues the hero more than he rescues her, for example)

Studio Ghibli is often good for strong female characters (but obviously not all suitable for small children). DS and DD both like Spirited Away and My Neighbour Totoro.

Lilo and Stitch?


Whale Rider (may need to be older for that)?

sockpoppet Sun 07-Aug-11 23:50:40

The princess and the frog in parts

nenevomito Sun 07-Aug-11 23:51:35

DS loves pixar, herd, so Brave could be a winner.

I liked Up a lot, but the only woman in that dies. Oh, and there's a female bird. <bangs head>

I know there are probably more important things to be worried about, but its annoying more than anything else.

celadon Sun 07-Aug-11 23:55:50

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

StewieGriffinsMom Mon 08-Aug-11 09:35:20

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Continuum Mon 08-Aug-11 09:44:38

We watched Tangled this weekend and I was shocked that was considered a good example of a Disney princess, glad I've not seen others. As far as I can see the overwhelming theme is that a virginal girl can "save" a lying cheat purely through her "goodness". And that's besides the whole having a dream to see the lights that's somehow subverted because now she's found a MAN and that's sooo wonderful, even a shit of a man.

When Bee Movie was our family movie dh ranted something shocking about the worker bees being male.

We figure this ranting discussing stuff is good for ds, 7!! I mean it's so prevalent that if you even want to watch something it's probably best to have your kids do it with a critical eye to identify it when it's present. Actually with Tangled it was interesting that as we were commenting, ds got into the spirit of things by pointing out all the men had big jaws and were basically stupid.

DontCallMePeanut Mon 08-Aug-11 10:36:03

CBeebies is "broken" in our house. Charlie and Lola aside, I couldn't find many programs I liked, DS liked AND that weren't too stupid. I'll put Nina and the Neurons on for him sometimes. But it was Justin Fletcher who finally had me disconnect the freeview.

I thought Princess and the Frog was loathesome! I mean, you have this strong, independent female lead, who has worked so hard to get her own restaurant without the help of a man, reguarly declares she doesn't want a man, and in the end, the only way for her to get the restaurant is by relying on Prince Naveen. That really peed me off...

DS flat out refuses to watch Toy Story 1, because Jessie isn't in it. To him, Jessie is the important one.

Alice in Wonderland (2009) was hailed as being a feminist film. I felt it failed in a few respects, but was a damn sight better than most disney films. But it may be a bit old for your DD.

Enchanted went down a storm in our house. Agaiin, you get a stereotypical Disney Princess, but she's quite strong, funny, and it passes the Bechdel test. She rescues the male lead, she calls the shots in her relationship (even so far as demanding a date) and by the end of the film, she's a woman who's running her own business. Oh. And she reverses one of the Disney stereotypes, but I won't spoil it if you haven't seen it.

Again, Tangled. Yes, it pissed me off something chronic that the only way she found courage to leave the tower was through a man. And pissed me off that they had to become love interests by the end. But liked the fact that Flynn seemed to change because of her, and that she rescued him several times.

I used to like Sabrina. Female dominated cast, with a moral code by the end of each film. Might be a bit older for your DD, but there is an animated series which is aimed at a younger audience.

I have a love/hate issue with the Little Mermaid. It's DS's favourite film, but it has a very male dominated cast. However, Ariel is a strong, dominant female. But then, Eric only wanted her for her voice. BUT it reversed the "women should be silent" messages, and portrayed the message that men wanted women who could speak their own mind.

We really don't watch much TV in our house. It's more films than anything.

CaptainNancy Mon 08-Aug-11 12:51:36

Mulan? Strong female role, who goes off to save her family's homour.

Kiki's Delivery Service, Ponyo, My Neighbour Totoro, all have strong female leads in them (and strong mum in Ponyo, baker's wife surrogate mum, and artist lady in Kiki). Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away for when they're older.

We like the Moomins a lot in our house, but the Snork Maiden is so wet...grr. Thankfully TooTicky and MoominMamma make up for her... and The Groke wink

My children are 5 and 2.5 and haven't watched broadcast television yet (no connexion here), so I don't have many to recommend I'm afraid. My eldest enjoyed Tangled though.

Kung FU Panda? <<clutches at straws>> Tigress is a kung fu master, and the snake (sorry, Lucy Liu's character) is also a lady...

DontCallMePeanut Mon 08-Aug-11 13:04:16

How the frig did I forget Mulan?

StewieGriffinsMom Mon 08-Aug-11 15:21:38

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

CaptainNancy Mon 08-Aug-11 15:45:38

I like the fact that all the girls queueing to see the matchmaker at the beginning are singing about bringing honour to their families and ancestors, but Mulan goes out into the wide world and brings honour to her family.

I love the Matchmaker scene actually, particularly the bit with the black marks and the moustache <<snigger>>

I'm actually pretty much anti-disney, but I like 'Mulan'- I like the messages it gives about doing the right thing not the easy thing, about how true heroes have humility and honour (Mulan's father) and how you can only improve and become good at something by working at it, hard and for a long time.
Important lessons for all, male or female.

nenevomito Mon 08-Aug-11 22:44:26

Thanks all - some really good suggestions here. I love Kiki's delivey service etc, but thats for when she's a bit older.

I'd forgotten about Mulan.

Its just ridiculous. Why on earth should I have to search high and low to find children's films that don't tell girls that their only purpose is to fall in love with a man. GRRR

<steps back off the soap box>

StewieGriffinsMom Mon 08-Aug-11 22:45:58

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

PenguinArmy Sun 14-Aug-11 20:56:06

<takes in notes>

until a thread recently I hadn't thought about childrens telly, but it's so obvious. Hopefully a lot of these points will sink in before DD watches telly proper

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