Being the mother of a preschooler, I watch* a fair amount of kids TV.
*I.e. I have one corner of one eye on the screen and the other either closed or scanning lines of text in the desperate hope that meaning will thereby leap off the page into my frazzled brain .
And being a feminist, I can’t help noticing that gender imbalance permeates even this *cough, cough* innocent wonderland. Of the current crop of ABC for Kids shows, here are the 11 shows with male heroes, eponymously named:
Thomas the Tank Engine
Roary the Racing Car
Rob the Robot
Bob the Builder
Shaun the Sheep
Little Charley Bear
Look at all the stuff these dudes get to do! They can be trains, cars, robots. They deliver mail, put out fires, build, make crafty bits, even orbit the earth. Even the soft toys and safari animals are male.
And another three, with heroes that are again male, though it’s not apparent from their titles:
Bananas in Pajamas
Babar the Elephant.
Three more with ‘ensemble’ casts, in which some characters are female:
One with a girl and a boy (though the boy gets top billing):
Gaspard and Lisa.
And, finally, the measly six with a female protagonist:
Dorothy the Dinosaur
Dora the Explorer
Wow, I’m really glad all my fellow feminists lobbied and picketed and petitioned and protested for this: so that, in the 21st century, girls can aspire to be princesses and ballerinas. Or, if they’re dinosaurs, they can dance and pick roses, and pour tea for guests. Dora the Explorer is good, I guess, though of course she wears pink. The only one of these shows in which a female protagonist is shown doing a variety of different activities, some of which, God forbid, actually challenge gender stereotypes, is Olivia. (She’s even allowed to dream of being a judge.) She does have two younger brothers, but they’re mainly accessories to her friendship/rivalry with Francine, her best friend, also a chick.
So, the totals.
Male heroes: 14
Ensemble cast: 4
Female heroes: 6
Female heroes in non-stereotypical roles: 3, or one-eighth of the total.
It’s enough to make me cry into my pot of rosy tea. Or down a couple of whiskys.