On a billboard


I saw this billboard while on a bus yesterday; it was urging adoption of pets from shelters, and it was a big banner portrait (not a photograph) of five Yellow Lab puppies. Four of the five are looking straight out, while just one of them is tilting the head…and has a pink bow behind the ear. Well gee, guess what we’re supposed to think – the one with the bow is A Girl.

So why is there only one girl then? Why four forthright direct Boy puppies and just one flirtatious coy bow-behind-the-ear Girl?

(And why single her out? Why signal her sex? Why put a bow behind her ear? When the fuck do puppies ever wear bows behind their ears?!! How would you even attach it? And why would you try when you know the puppy would yank it off in two seconds flat? What is your point?)

I’ll tell you why: it’s the Smurfette Principle. It’s the Muppets principle, the Toy Story principle, the Lion King principle, the Ice Age principle, the Winnie the Pooh principle, the Wind in the Willows principle. It’s the everybody is a boy except for a very rare weird stupid coquettish thing in skirts or with a bow behind her ear principle.

The Smurfette Principle was named by Katha Pollitt in the New York Times magazine in 1991. Not a god damn thing has changed in those 21 years.

Take a look at the kids’ section of your local video store. You’ll find that features starring boys, and usually aimed at them, account for 9 out of 10 offerings. Clicking the television dial one recent week — admittedly not an encyclopedic study — I came across not a single network cartoon or puppet show starring a female. (Nickelodeon, the children’s cable channel, has one of each.) Except for the crudity of the animation and the general air of witlessness and hype, 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.

Contemporary shows are either essentially all-male, like “Garfield,” or are organized on what I call the Smurfette principle: a group of male buddies will be accented by a lone female, stereotypically defined. In the worst cartoons — the ones that blend seamlessly into the animated cereal commercials — the female is usually a little-sister type, a bunny in a pink dress and hair ribbons who tags along with the adventurous bears and badgers. But the Smurfette principle rules the more carefully made shows, too. Thus, Kanga, the only female in “Winnie-the-Pooh,” is a mother. Piggy, of “Muppet Babies,” is a pint-size version of Miss Piggy, the camp glamour queen of the Muppet movies. April, of the wildly popular “Teen-Age Mutant Ninja Turtles,” functions as a girl Friday to a quartet of male superheroes. The message is clear. Boys are the norm, girls the variation; boys are central, girls peripheral; boys are individuals, girls types. Boys define the group, its story and its code of values. Girls exist only in relation to boys.

And it even applies to puppies for christ’s sake. There are four male dogs for every female – ask any biologist; this is a known fact about canine reproduction.

Not.

Boys are the norm, girls the variation; boys are central, girls peripheral; boys are individuals, girls types. And it would be nice to see that change, one of these days.

Comments

  1. unbound says

    Very sad indeed. Reminds me of the Bechdel Test that would put out in jest in a comic strip in 1985. Sadly, it tells me how much further this world needs to grow up. Even today, nearly 30 years later, few movies even meet the Bechdel Test (which is a very, very low bar to get over).

  2. says

    That’s for sure. I’m getting tired of responding to every movie ad I see on tv with “Oh good, another movie starring a man, a man, a man, a man, and a man.”

  3. nothingon says

    The reason for this seems to be ‘money’. Girls will watch movies and tv shows starring only boys or with few girls. Boys, after a certain age, do not want go to a movie or watch a tv show starring girls. You see it in adult movies too. Girls seem to be attracted to girl stuff but also adventure, action, scify. Boys are not attracted to any type of girl topics in shows. And part of the problem is how tepid and uninteresting they make girl shows.

  4. a miasma of incandescent plasma says

    My recently deceased dog Max, a shepard/chow mix, would go to the groomers and he’d get a pink bandana almost everytime. So does my other (still living) white terrier mix boydog Rolen. I think the place I go to just thinks pink looks good on dogs.

    But that doesn’t really argue against your main point, that singling one dog out with feminine props is pretty stupid and unaware.

    But to this point:

    Not a god damn thing has changed in those 21 years.

    Take a look at the kids’ section of your local video store. You’ll find that features starring boys, and usually aimed at them, account for 9 out of 10 offerings. Clicking the television dial one recent week — admittedly not an encyclopedic study — I came across not a single network cartoon or puppet show starring a female.

    In my admittedly non-scientific study of the Sprout channel, they do a great job of gender balance. The morning show has 3 female hosts and 1 male. Chicka is genderneutral. The goodnight show features Nina, with a non-gendered Star as co-host. The programs they show also are pretty balanced, with an obvious show here or there that leans toward reinforcing stereotypes… But the little “we’ll be right back” things they show are balanced in showing both little girls and little boys. The only real problem I have with Sprout is a minor nitpick of a online promo, where they say “there’s a place/just for you/and your mom/and your dad/here on sproutonline.com” – with my feelings that the kids that have different living arrangements than “mom and dad” might feel excluded. But really, I think they generally do a great job. (Can you tell I have a 15 month old??)

    I guess the problems really start when you get to age 5+ stuff (that is the stuff that Katha was more looking at).

  5. Ant Allan says

    @ Sunny : I’d only heard of her because Torbjörn, a frequent commenter over at WEIT, is a big fan of hers.

    Re kids shows (and fiction), there are some counter examples, but lamentably few… The Famous Five springs to mind, reincarnated as Scooby-Doo (and echoed in Buffy).

    And C. S. Lewis (argh!) gave us the Pevenseys in the Narnia books (and films).

    /@

  6. 'Tis Himself says

    How would you even attach it?

    Haven’t you ever heard of staplers, nail guns or superglue?

  7. eandh says

    I think of it as the 20% rule and it shows up in all kinds of contexts: anything more than 20% of a minority in the mix and the majority start feeling threatened. Works for POC’s too, the 1 out of 5 at most rule.

  8. jamessweet says

    April, of the wildly popular “Teen-Age Mutant Ninja Turtles,” functions as a girl Friday to a quartet of male superheroes.

    This reminded me of a conversation I had a couple years ago with a friend from my childhood. She and her brother were close family friends, and I played with them from a very young age.

    She reminded me that when we pretended to be the Ghostbusters, we always made her be Janine. (Actually, I think she said we made her be April when pretending to be TMNT, which is what made me think of it, but I don’t remember playing TMNT with them, I remember playing Ghostbusters, and yeah, I do kinda have a vague memory of telling her she had to be Janine) And also that she hated it.

    No fault of mine, I was like 8 years old! But yeah, kinda makes me sad thinking back on it. Made perfect sense at the time that she had to be the secretary — that was the only female employee at the Ghostbusters place of business after all! — but how unfair that was to her!

  9. jamessweet says

    I do have to echo miasma, however, that it’s not quite true that “not a damn thing has changed”. It seems like it’s slightly better, at least in programming aimed at very young kids.

    If it persists in programming for older kids, that would be consistent with nothingon’s points about profitability: The makers of these programs have nothing at all to lose with being more gender egalitarian in shows aimed at kids who are too young to really even grasp the concept of gender to begin with.

  10. Melody says

    If I had a child (never happening!), I would choose more gender neutral clothing. With my dog, everything is pink. Pink is my favorite color (although, I almost always wear black or grey). I don’t see much harm in pink collars and even the occasional frilly dress for a dog (which she ripped off in less than two minutes, but I got a photo!).

  11. Phledge says

    I have four sisters and one brother, but most of the kids in our neighborhood were boys. I remember well the fights over who was Princess Leia.

  12. Pierce R. Butler says

    ‘Tis Himself @ # 9: Haven’t you ever heard of staplers, nail guns or superglue?

    Of course not: those are boy toys!

  13. says

    My middle Hellion, a five year old girl, has started to become really into superhero cartoons, both the classics like Spiderman and his Amazing Friends and the new generation stuff we can find on Netflix. To a middle aged geek like me this is cool, something we can share. We watched 4 episodes of “Young Justice” this afternnon, which we loved, but Carolina was a little perturbed. The opening credits showed 2 female hero’s, Ms. Martian and Artemis. But the first two episodes feature the 4 boys in the group who bond together to form a team. Ms Martian is just added on in ep 3. Artemis has yet to arrive. And the whole time Carolina kept asking “Where are the girls?” I didn’t know what to tell her.

  14. Gingerbaker says

    Sigh.

    I designed that billboard. As it turns out, all the puppies were females. The one with the pink bow was the one we were allowed to grill up for dinner.

    I’m kidding, they were all boy puppies. The one with the pink bow was gay, and that was the one we ate.

    Not really. We didn’t know what the gender was of any of the puppies, as they were all neutered and we don’t spend a lot of time looking at puppy genitals anyway.

    I jest. They were all girl puppies, except for the one with the bow, which in reality was a green bow, which we had to replace with a $500.00 blue bow just to be gender profilers since it was the first Monday of the month. Then, the art director changed the bow from blue to pink in PhotoShop because artistically pink gave a more artistically pleasing overall color balance.

    You know that’s a joke, right? We do shelter pet billboards new every month. Most of the time there is only one bow, and we use blue, because we like blue, and besides it shows our preference for human boys. Yes, we know these are puppies, not real human boys, but is there really a difference? Every once in a while, we throw a pink bow up on the billboard, just so we won’t be accused off being too biased and leaving the (ugh) girlie puppies out on all the fun.

    Jeezum, Ophelia take a chill pill. You realize you were spitting out triple punctuation marks because a puppy had a pink bow?

  15. eric says

    @5:

    Girls seem to be attracted to girl stuff but also adventure, action, scify.

    Ummmm…maybe one part of the problem is people subtlely implying those things aren’t girl stuff.

    I agree there’s still a huge overrepresentation of male protagonists in those genres. But in terms of the sex of authors, there are a lot of really great women sci-fi writers…and have been for decades. It is by no means ‘boy stuff’ if you include the producers of it as well as the consumers of it.

    Boys are not attracted to any type of girl topics in shows.

    I think part of the issue is men co-opting anything they think of as good, intellectually deep, or interesting as male. “Girl topics” does not just mean talk about shoes and dates with boys. Mary Shelly wrote about a monster built from body parts, about what it means to be human, about the creation of new life etc… Somehow, that story is now seen as “male stuff.” But give me one good reason why ‘what it means to be human’ is a male theme. There isn’t one. That’s a book which is just as (or more) ‘girl stuff’ than ‘boy stuff.’

    Le Guin, Butler, Tepper, and many many others have written spectacular fiction about a variety of topics that you probably wouldn’t classify as ‘girl topics’…but should, because they are stories written by women, about women, about topics those women found important in their life.

    The deep stuff which appeals to both sexes is not, by default, ‘male topics.’ But that seems to be a very common assumption.

  16. platyhelminthe says

    Why do you assume the puppy with the bow is the only girl? Why do you assume the others are intended to be male? Why do you assume pink = girl?

    Why are you making both (a) sexist assumptions and (b) assumptions of sexism, and then complaining about your own assumptions as if they are facts?

  17. Josh Slocum says

    Platy and Ginger – You’ve got to be kidding me. You’ve seriously got to be intentionally trolling. There’s no way you’re so stupid you don’t understand O’s complaint.

  18. says

    Gee, I don’t know – why do I assume the Barbie doll is intended to be a girl? Why do I assume Woody in Toy Story is intended to be a boy while Bo-Peep is intended to be a girl?

    I just can’t imagine. I must be crazy.

  19. says

    And it’s media literacy 101. It’s Semiotics for Beginners. It’s glaringly obvious. I couldn’t find the billboard via Google images so I didn’t include it, but I assure you it was glaringly obvious – we were supposed to see (without thinking about it, of course) four Boy puppies and one Girl puppy. It wasn’t subtle or ambiguous. The four Boy puppies were naked except for collars, the one Girl puppy was picked out by a Special Marker along with a coquettish (or sluttish/manipulative, or both) tilt to her head. The boys were normal, the girl was a simp.

    Why do I assume pink=girl – jesus christ, have you looked at any little girls lately? Have you seen any little girls’ bedrooms lately?

  20. The Ridger says

    I remember complaining about Ice Age – all boys. “They’re cartoon animals! It doesn’t matter!” people would say. “Then why aren’t they all girls?” I would ask.

  21. Frou says

    the one Girl puppy was picked out by a Special Marker along with a coquettish (or sluttish/manipulative, or both) tilt to her head.

    LOL! Is this a Poe website? Are you seriously seeing “coquettish” behavior in a dog? Definitely a Poe or else the poster has serious (damn serious!) issues with seeing anti-feminism anywhere. It’s like the atheist version of seeing Jesus face in an egg yolk.

    And PS, why even bother with this post when you don’t have the billboard to show us, sh!t that’s a real religious trick: “believe me, this happened/I saw this, and it is terrible and you must take my word for how bad it was”.

    *Despair at lack of rigorous methodology*

  22. Nihilismus says

    It’s possible the advertisement is so progressive that some of the other dogs are female as well, and each of them was free to choose their own outfits and gender roles. Can’t a female dog choose to dress like a male dog? Can’t she choose to dress “girly”?

    It seems that since the Smurfette Principle still applies in today’s society, you have assumed that the advertisers were acting in conformity with it. But if society eventually gets to the point where male and female characters are equally represented in non-stereotypical roles, and you saw this same advertisement, would you still automatically assume that the dog with the bow is a girl and those without are boys?

  23. M.Nieuweboer says

    As a child when reading the Smurfs comics I already found it utterly silly that the village only had one female. But I was used to Asterix and Obelix, with lot of different female characters. Sure they are stereotypical as well but so are the males.
    While I prefer female dogs – they don’t run away – one of the most stupid things I can imagine is dressing them up in a girly fashion. So yeah, this billboard sucks.
    Btw I didn’t dress my son in blue as a baby either. Boy-blue and Girl-pink association is also utterly stupid.

  24. A. Noyd says

    It must be ever so much fun to pretend to not know how advertising works. Let me try it:

    How could we ever be so crass as to think advertisers are promoting consumption and utility of specific products or services through the use of easily-recognized stereotypes and cliches? No, they are surely all stealth iconoclasts working to overturn our basic assumptions, shared symbologies and ingrained mores in an effort to move society forward into a new era of true, enlightened egalitarianism, which they already inhabit. But, alas, we are not able to receive their benevolence; we see only the simplest of interpretations: those conditioned into us by the likes of the feminists and civil rights activists who want to drag society into a new Dark Ages.

    Tee hee hee, how droll.

  25. wytchy says

    This sort of thing always irritated me when I was a kid. I just decided to play boy roles, and if my male friends argued, I wrestled them into submission. Ha ha, not really but I do remember having serious arguments about it in those days.

    Also, I love Geena Davis for her interest and work in this area, so props to her: http://www.thegeenadavisinstitute.org/

  26. RowanVT says

    To those saying that a pink (color socially associated with women) bow (hair ornament associated with women) is NOT a way of declaring that puppy to be a “girl” puppy:

    Does being that stupid *hurt*?

    My work will play off the social-norm color associations. If we have a client who’s been a real jerk and we get to draw blood on their dog… sometimes we’ll put the opposite color bandage on them. And I’ve heard many a time: “Ugh, PINK? But he’s a BOY dog!” or “Blue? But Fluffysnugglesfroofroo is a girl!”

  27. says

    If I had a child (never happening!), I would choose more gender neutral clothing.

    Good luck with that.
    As Cordelia Fine notes, you can either defy stereotype dressing, or you can be treated like a sane person.
    Apart from the fact that there is virtually no gender neutral clothing to be bought, you need a strong stomach for doing such a thing. You get hate for not dressing your toddler in a way people can tell hir gender at first sight or, even worse, mistake them for the other sex.

    Having said that, having small children (and because I’m such a failure both of them are girls) makes me hate this world.
    My current most hated TV-programm “The Little Prince” animated series. You all remember Saint-Exupery’s wonderfull (all male) story, sure. And now they made a series loosely based on those characters. So, the rose, the only permanent female character is on his planet and waits for letters in which the little Prince tells his adventures together with fox (guy, of course). They need to save planet after planet from the Snake. And even though snake in German is a female noun, it is male. Usually on the planet a leader (guy, always) is mislead and seduced by the snake to do bad and the Prince, Fox and one or two local helpers (there can be a girl as one of them, isn’t that charming) need to bring him to senses.
    Not only the numbers are vomit-inducing, so is the whole set-up: she sitting at home while he goes out to do stuff.

    And there’s The wild soccer bunch. You can’t get around that shit in Germany. So recently I saw the episode where Smurfette, eh, the girl joins.
    She leaves her girls soccer team because they are too soft. The boys are the best. She so hates being a girl, and being treated like one. She wants to play with the boys, who play real soccer. Bottomline: If you wanna play with the boys (and you better do, because girls suck) you just have to hate being a girl.

    Cool stuff:
    Mona the Vampire
    Female, non-pink lead, her best friends (boy and girl), fun and imaginative stories.
    Bali
    No clue wht he’s called in English. Although there’s a male lead the cast is pretty mixed and non-traditional stuff like dad being the main caregiver.

  28. Matt Penfold says

    LOL! Is this a Poe website? Are you seriously seeing “coquettish” behavior in a dog? Definitely a Poe or else the poster has serious (damn serious!) issues with seeing anti-feminism anywhere. It’s like the atheist version of seeing Jesus face in an egg yolk.

    Well we are clearly not as culturally illiterate as you. Do you really think that advertisers do not make use of visual clues ?

  29. Ysanne says

    Spot on and thanks for posting about it!
    At least some girl characters (e.g. Princess Leia) are just as tough as the boys, which can confuse the hell out of kids, btw: In a new card game, my boys were totally shocked to discover that the “yucky girly” card — an extremely kitschily drawn rainbow-maned unicorn — beats all the cool cars — ninjas, pirates, mutant hamsters, mermaids, etc — hands down. It was fascinating to watch them come to terms with this extreme contradiction to the toy/TV program universe as they knew it. I wish there were more games like this, instead of the usual “girls’ job is to look pretty for the boys” trope.
    On the bright side, the Smurfette Principle is still way better than the blatant “any other job for a woman than ‘housewife and mum’ is evil and horrible” message of Mars Needs Mums.

  30. says

    At least some girl characters (e.g. Princess Leia) are just as tough as the boys, which can confuse the hell out of kids

    But that’s part of the problem:
    As a girl, you can be one of the girls or one of the boys. You can’t just be you.
    I suppose that this is true for boys, too with the added level of “sissy”, because yuck girlstuff.
    It is actually part of misogyny that every single time that women are important, tough, strong leading characters, they’re also protrayed of the exception of their gender.
    Eowyn is the tough strong woman, and her bitter dialogue with Aragorn is one of the best I think that exist on the subject, but she’s still the exceptional woman.
    Patriarchy doesn’t have much of a problem with the exceptional strong woman, it just means that the top women are almost as good as the men.
    It takes a war to wake their spirits.
    It makes the girls who identify with those characters not only identify with the heroIne, but also with a femal figure who is not very female. It still carries loathing of women, everything associated with them and masculine superiority.

    Oh, what game is that?

  31. Nihilismus says

    I was playing devil’s advocate of course. The advertiser most likely intended the bow to represent a girl dog, and the lack of a bow to represent boy dogs. Since an advertiser’s job is to relate to as many people as possible, this may have been an effective way to do it. Some people do dress up their dogs, and if this advertisement spurs them to adopt an animal that needs a home, I say a greater good is accomplished.

    For the sake of argument, though, what if there were an equal number of girl and boy dogs, the girl dogs were wearing things like church hats, head bands, tiaras, etc., and the boy dogs were wearing things like top hats, propeller hats, newsboy caps, etc. Was the original problem that the one girl was the “extra” dog, and that a dog without accessories (i.e., a normal/default dog) was implied to a boy? Or was the problem that the advertiser reinforced gender clothing stereotypes?

  32. Hertta says

    I was playing devil’s advocate of course.

    Of course!

    For the sake of argument, though

    Oh FFS.

    Did you not read the post? Ophelia quite clearly explained what the proplem is.

  33. says

    For the sake of argument, though, what if there were an equal number of girl and boy dogs, the girl dogs were wearing things like church hats, head bands, tiaras, etc., and the boy dogs were wearing things like top hats, propeller hats, newsboy caps, etc. Was the original problem that the one girl was the “extra” dog, and that a dog without accessories (i.e., a normal/default dog) was implied to a boy? Or was the problem that the advertiser reinforced gender clothing stereotypes?

    Yes, yes and yes.
    For fuck’s sake, we’re talking about puppies.
    Though I admit that there are sensible reasons to get a dog of one sex or another, I suppose that a shelter has enough of either sex to satisfy demands.
    Stereotyping is a serious problem in society, and it’s worse for women than for men because of that female=inferior crap.
    There’s a big need for less stereotypes. Reinforcing them with puppies on a billboard is definetly the last thing we need. The Smurfette-principle only adds another layer to it.

  34. says

    Girls seem to be attracted to girl stuff but also adventure, action, scify. Boys are not attracted to any type of girl topics in shows

    I think that has more to do with the fact that the girly shows are so stereotypically girly. A show with an all male cast is a show, but a show with all female cast is a girl show and written as such.
    If the main character is a guy, the show might be about how you relate to friends. If the character is a girl, the show will be about how to relate to friend if you both have a crush on the same guy. The shows have a narrower scope and therefore more narrow appeal.

    I don’t think it would actually be all that difficult to write stories with predominately female characters and make it interesting for both genders. It’s just that its rarely done.

  35. says

    A show with an all male cast is a show, but a show with all female cast is a girl show and written as such.

    And we have winner!
    Don’t you see the problem with that?
    No, for fuck’s sake.
    An all-male show/movie isn’t any more about general human life* or stories than a “chick-flick”. It’s just that women have learned to suck it up.
    Unless, of course you tell me that men never long for love, have relationship troubles, find themselves in difficult job/family situations and stuff.

    *It cuts out 50% of human population, how can that be a general “show”?

  36. says

    Giliell I think you misunderstood Lyke’s point – or maybe I just mean I understand it differently. A show with an all-male cast can be about anything, including angst and relationships and “girly” stuff like that there; the same privilege is not extended to shows with all-female casts, as if there even were such a thing. Lyke is describing the imbalance, not saying men are about everything and women are just about womany stuff.

  37. says

    A show with an all-male cast can be about anything, including angst and relationships and “girly” stuff like that there; the same privilege is not extended to shows with all-female casts, as if there even were such a thing.

    And my point is that it’s simply not true.
    It’s the disdain for all things female that shows. Because the angst and friendship-troubles have to start somewhere, and usually for the male-centred shows, that is not any more “universal” than for the female-centred shows. Yet women (and girls) will still relate to the angst about an important football-match, or friendship troubles about a comic book.
    The awefull Princess Lillyfee (kid’s programm, hate, hate, hate her) is about friendship and helping friends and caring for animals and a more than generous amount of pink and glitter. The stories are not less universal than those of other male-centred series I know, yet that’s “for girls only”.
    Green Tomatoes is a “chick flic” even though it deals with damn serious topics. But somehow domestic abuse is not a subject universal enough to concern the men.

  38. says

    But the first two episodes feature the 4 boys in the group who bond together to form a team. Ms Martian is just added on in ep 3. Artemis has yet to arrive. And the whole time Carolina kept asking “Where are the girls?” I didn’t know what to tell her.

    Greg Weisman (one of the shows producers) has discussed this question. He started with those four (Speedy, Kid Flash, Robin, Aqualad) because they were the earliest sidekicks of the Justice league members historically. Cadmus being introduced early on was important to the plot of the series. Artemis first appears in episode 6(?).

    However, Ms. Martian and Artemis (later, Zatanna and eventually Rocket) are not Smurfettes. I’m admittedly too insensitive to comment on just how well the series protrays it’s female heroes, I’ll leave that for people better tuned to such things. However, the girls do get their own acts of heroism, their own unique abilities, their own adventures, their own struggles. Several episodes pass the Bechdel test (one has as the primary focus Artemis and Zatanna). In that respect, I don’t think they are treated much differently than the boys (I suppose technically, Speedy/Red Arrow is not a boy).

  39. says

    Giliell – well I think we’re saying the same thing, but phrasing it differently (or something). Then again maybe that’s just my confirmation bias.

    I’m thinking partly of that series…which I can’t remember what it’s called but it’s four guys being angsty. I think Andre Brauer is one? From the trailer it looked like the kind of thing that’s normally pegged as “girly”…but it was yet another All Male show, while women are portrayed as “Housewives” (even when they have outside jobs) like no human beings I’ve ever seen. It’s lose-lose-lose. Men get the adventure stuff AND the serious conversation stuff, and women get the look at my tits while I scream into the camera stuff.

  40. says

    Men of a Certain Age.

    The series follows the bonds of friendship among three life-long friends – Joe, Owen and Terry – who are now in their late 40s. (The Joe and Terry characters turn 50 in Season 2.) Joe (Ray Romano) is a slightly neurotic separated father of two (Brittany Curran as Lucy, and Braeden Lemasters as Albert) who had hoped to become a pro golfer but now owns a party supply store, and has a gambling addiction. Owen (Andre Braugher) is an overstressed, diabetic husband and father, who manages a car dealership owned by his father (Richard Gant), a former NBA player. Terry (Scott Bakula) is a struggling actor who sells cars at Owen’s dealership to make ends meet. He has never married, and usually dates much younger women.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Men_of_a_Certain_Age

    The trailers for that just annoyed the bejeezis out of me because why why why THE FUCK couldn’t they do that with three women? The answer is depressingly obvious – because the men could be human and relatable, but women would be weird. Women are just weird.

    As Katha said, more than twenty years ago – Boys are the norm, girls the variation; boys are central, girls peripheral; boys are individuals, girls types.

  41. says

    Of course, one could say that it takes four males to equal one woman…

    One could, but one would risk being accused of being patronizing and/or condescending, and one wouldn’t want to risk that, would one?

  42. Ysanne says

    As a girl, you can be one of the girls or one of the boys. You can’t just be you.
    I suppose that this is true for boys, too with the added level of “sissy”, because yuck girlstuff.
    It is actually part of misogyny that every single time that women are important, tough, strong leading characters, they’re also protrayed of the exception of their gender.

    Full agreement there! It’s still shit, it’s just a tad better than “there’s one girl, and her only skill is being pretty and needing help”.
    And it’s infuriating how real-life girls happily conform to these stereotypes, e.g. in the “what do you want to be when you grow up” drawings I recently saw in kindergarten: The boys had variation, ranging from doctor and policeman to football player and pirate (and even one “castle ghost”). All but three of the girls had princess. Of the remaining girls, two went for model, and one for vet (dressed all in pink).
    With this reality around them (plus the TV they watch), why would they see non-stereotypical girl as anything but an exception? After all, thanks to the pervasive brainwashing, they are.

  43. says

    When I was 6, I wanted to be a nurse. By the time I was 8, I had discovered that girls could be doctors, so I decided that I would be a doctor*. But this was in the 1960s, when few people encountered female doctors, lawyers, engineers, scientists etc. I’m guessing a significant proportion of these kindergarten kids *have* female doctors!

    * I ended up as an electrical engineer, but that’s a different story.

  44. RowanVT says

    From age 5 to about 11, I wanted to be a paleontologist. I love digging in the dirt, and love reptiles. :D From 11 to about 18 I wanted to be a veterinarian. In the end, thanks to a craptacular memory that is like a practice run for future alzheimer’s, I became a registered veterinary technician. And I love my job, but it’s a typical “girly” one. But what I really love is that while the job is viewed as ‘girly’, the actual work is anything but!
    I get to wrestle with aggressive dogs, take radiographs of chameleons, draw blood, run labwork… pick maggots off of animals, clean up abscesses, and give enemas to kittens and promptly get covered in diarrhea. Ick. My predominantly female coworkers also fall far outside the typical view of “girl”, and those individuals who do tend to match the stereotype rarely get through the schooling.

    That said, though, with regards to “being a boy is better”, if you happen to be one of those girls who loves catching frogs, and playing in the mud, and climbing trees… life isn’t any easier. The stereotypical girls view you with disdain and the boys view you as some sort of mutant freak because you aren’t playing with barbies. So in the end, I got grouped with the ‘loners’ because they could accept me as they too didn’t fit in with a normal stereotype. I’m not a ‘loner’ by nature. I love being around people and socialising. But I wasn’t “normal” enough.

  45. Lynn says

    Sigh. Why does no one remember Skeeter? She was my favorite one of The Muppet Babies.

    Although it’s interesting that the athletic girl doesn’t get recognized as a girl.

  46. sisu says

    The Smurfette Principle was named by Katha Pollitt in the New York Times magazine in 1991. Not a god damn thing has changed in those 21 years.

    I’m not sure how much kid’s TV you watch, but in my experience (I have a 5 year old & 3 year old, girls) this is really not the case. I can’t think of a single one of the shows they like that falls into line with this. Off the top of my head – Franny’s Feet, Bo on the Go, Sesame Street, Dora, Diego, Yo Gabba Gabba, My Little Pony, Jane and the Dragon, Curious George, Super Why, Fetch!, The Electric Company, and Cat in the Hat Knows All About That ALL break that principle.

    I’m not saying that there isn’t a problem with the way that females are represented (or not) in children’s television. But to say that nothing has changed since 1991 is really not the case.

  47. says

    Thanks, that’s good to know. I stand corrected. I don’t watch any kids’ tv, really; I was thinking of movies, which I do. Oh and a documentary about the Muppets and the guy who does Elmo – which was a lovely doc, but I did notice that all the Muppets except Miss Piggy are male.

  48. Coucou says

    My experience of kids tv here in the uk is that it’s fairly gender-equal. Peppa Pig, Ben and Holly, and so on. I’d have to sit down with a list to work out if there are more male or female characters in the shows we typically watch, so it must be fairly equal.

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