Kids’ TV Needs to Stop With the Sexism and Gender Stereotyping

by Brenda Pitt



TV executives have been recycling the same tired excuse to justify networks’ lack of female characters in kid’s shows for years: “shows aimed at boys appeal to all genders, but boys won’t watch shows marketed to girls.” Slate’s Libby Copeland investigates, and finds that nearly all in TV hold firm to this outlandish assumption. But thanks to Copeland’s efforts, we finally have research to put this lame copout to bed once and for all. 


Copeland draws on many shows, from the ‘90s classic Clarissa Explains It All to modern hits The Legend of Korra and Doc McStuffins to point out that it’s ridiculous to assume that boys don’t like female protagonists; almost fifty percent of these supposedly “girlie” shows draw a male fan base. 


When Copeland examines what draws boys to shows that feature a female protagonist, she finds that action-oriented shows with female crime-fighters or warriors are likely to appeal to all genders. Characters who are curious, smart, and strong are popular with all kids, regardless of the gender of that character. And of course, funny story lines resonate across the board. 



TV producers hold on to false and outdated prejudices, tending to associate boys’ programing with action and girls’ with sentimentality. What they might discover when actually looking at the numbers for so-called girls’ shows is that boys also have “a robust imaginative life and a caretaking impulse that our culture doesn’t often credit [them] with having.” UM… DUH. 


It’s a tragic thing when a child is taught not to like something simply because of the gender to which it is stereotypically attached. Girls like crime-fighting action; boys like emotionally intriguing princesses. And that should be embraced and used to the benefit of children’s television; hopefully we’ll see less prejudicial and binary marketing and TV production in the coming seasons.  


What I would guess is the reason behind TV producers’ ridiculous thought that “girlie” shows only appeal to girls while “boyish” shows appeal to both genders is that perhaps female characters are more likely to be stereotypical and one dimensional because of the prejudices of the networks themselves. Nobody wants to watch a show without depth, and if males are the only characters with strength, humor, and complexity, kids of all genders will flock to those shows, regardless of whether or not they are aimed at boys. 


So now that we’re all on the same page, knowing that kids aren’t walking gender stereotypes with polarized interests, let’s get some more complexly-written girls like Clarissa and Doc Stuffins, characters in which we can all be interested!


Thanks to Slate

Images via FanPop and Cartoon Brew

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