Friday, 5 August 2011

Feminist Friday XIII: Television

I think anyone who's watched tv ever can have something to say about how sexist it is. Music videos, reality tv, hell even the BBC---you don't have to look hard to see the patriarchal influences on your screen. How many of you think about if what your toddlers watch is sexist? I sure as hell didn't until I chose this theme.

All Blondie Boy watches in Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. He loves it. He points out Mickey and friends when we are out and about and you've never seen his little face light up so much when you give him something with Mickey's image on it. Don't even get me started on how ridiculously cute it is when he gets up to do the Hot Dog Dance. We love Mickey Mouse so please as you read this know I don't have an axe to grind with Disney--I'm just trying to look at what my son watches from a feminist vantage point.

I was thinking about all the various episodes I've seen over and over and I couldn't think of any overtly sexist storylines. I was tweeting to Ellen about it and she asked if Toodles was a woman--I could see where she was going with this since Toodles is at their beck and call--but NotBlondeHusband pointed out Toodles was created by the Professor and "he's here for meedles and youdles." As NotBlondeHusband and I drove down the M77 towards Ayrshire though we realized while the mouse might not be overtly sexist, he wasn't completely free of patriarchal control.

Take a look at the female characters on the show: Minnie, Daisy and Clarabelle. They all wear high heels and they all wear bows. Donald doesn't even wear pants let alone shoes, but Daisy is always in heels walking around "like Marilyn Monroe in dress that's too tight" as NotBlondeHusband described it.  When the gang goes on a treasure hunt Goofy hopes it's stickers, but Minnie hopes it's handbags. So maybe Mickey Mouse Clubhous isn't overtly sexist it's certainly perpetuating gender stereotypes.

Maybe it's accidental, maybe it's a deliberate marketing decision to sell more pink branded items but whether direct or indirect, what kind of message is it sending? Am I going to stop Blondie Boy watching his favourite show? No, but it will make me question what he does watch in the future more closely.

What about the shows your children watch? How do they portray boys and girls? Men and women? Males and females?

Feminist Friday XIII: Television

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Kim Prather Strazis said...

I am sensitive to gender stereotypes and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse is pretty amazingly bad.  Minnie and Daisy are busy with: fashion, cooking, gardening and getting rescued whilst the guys solve problems.  On today's episode, the crew discovers that their telescope is dirty.  Mickey was trying to clean it but couldn't hold onto the soap/sponge because it was so slippery.  Minnie took it from him and said "Let ME handle this!"

Melaina25 said...

I often wonder if they just fall back on "well that's how they were originally drawn back in the day" as their reasoning?

Melaina25 said...

Do not get me started, does tinkerbel need to have th body she does?  Do the fairy's all need to be curvy?  My boys love Tink, other than the way she looks she is a great empowered female role model, but ho hum.  

Melaina25 said...

Oh gosh I watch both of those shows which I know is horrible. Even the "fiesty" girls' lives revolve around men or are bipolar. NBH watched Yo Gabba Gabba as some kind of prep for Blondie Boy being born and I remember finding it really, really trippy!

Melaina25 said...

My sister loved Minnie Mouse when we were little and I always hated her.  Not sure why, but I didn't really feel like there needed to be a separate "girl" version of things.  

I've been watching Fraggle Rock with the boy (He's just over a year) and I really like how the characters don't rely on lazy gender stereotypes.  There are 2 girls that I can tell, Red, who is super-competitive and maybe should get checked out for ADHD and another character who is kind of a New Age Earth Mother type. Yo Gabba Gabba has 2 female characters and even though one is pink and has a flower on her head, I don't feel like in either case the creators decided the personality was "Girl".  

Of course maybe we should just be grateful the kids aren't pre-teens yet and watching 90210 or Gossip Girl.  That's going to be a much tougher hill to climb :) 

Melaina25 said...

I only like the Hot Dog Hot Dog Hot Diggity Dog song in that show.  As soon as I saw the image you have, I knew you were going to mention their attire.  I don't think that their "traditional" gender roles are intentional but I think they want to keep Micky as close to his roots as possible to keep making money.  There is no way they could totally change the look of their money-making characters because it would alienate the adults that watch the show with their grand kids and kids.  We all have a very clear image of Micky and Minnie in our memories and it is one of those things that a big change would make Walt Disney turn in his grave.  But you would think since all those characters are well over their 50's that the lady's would be tired of heels, Donald would have finally put pants on and Micky would be wearing a shirt with his gloves, shoes and shorts.

Melaina25 said...

I wonder if it's not just children's programmes that give the wrong impression. I make the point in my contribution that women in television haven, generally, to be young & thin while men can go on for pretty much ever. My daughter is 12 now & watching more grown up tv. I'm worried about the stereotypes she's exposed to.

Melaina25 said...

It's definitely not just children's tv. Have you noticed on shows like 90210 the girls are played by young actresses but the boys are played by 30-something men?

Melaina25 said...

I don't think this is limited to children's programming. All you have to do is look at the news channels, where the women are younger and more attractive than the men (is there any woman John Snow's age presenting as much or as widely as he does? Look at Top Gear too). I think it is insidious and we've talked ourselves out of noticing it. A good topic, but I've not got the time/energy to post. Thanks, Blondie, and LONG LIVE CARTOONS. At least Velma Dinkley gets to solve the crimes.

Melaina25 said...

Great post. I do think this is important. We can't just say that kind of stuff goes over kids' heads. They are picking up messages from a really young age.