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Sexism Is Everywhere

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Connie Rosas

Prof. Adell

Eng. 50, 10:40

17 July 2017

Sexism is everywhere

“The Smurfette Principle” by Katha Pollitt argues that in children’s television shows there are no lead characters that are women. She argues that this is a huge problem and that it should be taken seriously. She makes points about how every show with a girl character is the stereotyped pink ribboned, sidekick, little sister type of role. Pollitt explains that even if it’s unintentional it shows girls at a young age that “Boys define the group it’s story and it’s code of values. Girls only exist only in relation to boys.” (117). She argues that the lack of women leads promotes sexism and distorts the roles of women and it can make it confusing to children as they grow up.

Pollitt explains how the selection in the kids section of a video store has movies only starring boys and the content is aimed at only boys. Also with turning on the children’s television network, skimming through the channels, not finding one show, live or animated that starred a female. She compares this sexism to the nineteen fifties saying “I might as well have been back in my own 1950’s childhood, nibbling Frosted Flakes in front of Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig and the rest of the all-male Warner Brothers lineup..” (117).  

 When Pollitt explains all of these examples she gives us, she’s talking mostly about commercial television. She says “commercial television --- what did I expect?” (117) arguing that commercial television shortchanges girls. She gives the example of Mister Rogers Neighborhood and how his whole neighborhood is populated by only middle aged men. “Shining Time Station” is a cartoon in which the male characters are train engines and the female are just passenger cars. Giving off the image that women are to be held by the hand of men and their roles are to be submissive. This does not send a positive message to young preschool girls, who are very easily influenced at this age.

Although these televisions shows have only male leads we can always turn to literature for a good story with a strong female lead. Books that have strong Female leads are: Madeline, and Frances the Badger. There are even books that a female saves a prince from a dragon, Pollitt explains how possible it is to find these books. She also reminds us that these books with female leads are “subset in a field that includes a much larger subset of books about boys, and books in which sex of the child is theoretically unimportant in which case it usually “‘happens to be male.’” She also explains that male roles in Dr. Seuss books are the only ones that go beyond in the stories, and that they could have been female but simply are not.

This brings up the question: “Do kids pick up on the sexism in children’s culture?” (118) Yes. Children do pick up on the sexism demonstrated to them from an early age. Pollitt gives an example of her niece wanting to play weddings. She suggests that when girls play “wedding”  it’s to be the central figure, which gives them control, and for once aren’t the “little sister” role. She explains that her niece Sophie is starting to take notice of the back seat role women characters play, asking “who’s that?” pointing at the shy timid girl character in “The Cat in the Hat.” Pollitt believes that her niece wants the girl character to matter, to be more than name and a ribbon.

Pollitt believes that the early influence these shows have on children determine the status they choose to live life in, if a show is demonstrating females only to follow men and cater to them it might teach little girls watching, to do the same in the real world. Making them believe this is how girls act and this is their role. She gives an example of this when she suggests the role of  “Miss Piggy” from the show “Muppets” is stereotypical. “Miss Piggy, the camp glamour queen of the muppets movie.” (117) this shows the role that is placed over girls and clearly the writers and producers of this show share the same opinion as society.

Sexism in children's television shows can deform the mindset of children, causing girls to “split their consciousness filtering their dreams and ambitions through the boy characters while admiring the clothes of the princess.” (119) Due to this, it has become a societal norm for girls to grow up thinking that they need to be submissive to men. This also might contribute to the thought process of boys, assuming that women are here to serve and be submissive to men. The message that is instilled in boys from a young age is, “girls just don’t matter much.” (119)

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