Despite the fact that the human population is pretty evenly split between males (51%) and females (49%), this balance isn’t being reflected in the kids TV universe, says Dr. Maya Götz of the International Central Institute for Youth and Educational Television in Germany.
In a new study that tracks gender representations in 19,664 kids shows from 24 different countries, Götz and her research team found that only 32% of protagonists in children’s programming are female, compared to 68% male. And drilling down into non-human leads (monsters, animals, etc.), this ratio becomes even more imbalanced at 13% female vs. 87% male.
Conventional industry wisdom says that the reason for this preponderance of male protagonists is that girls can identify more easily with boy characters, whereas boys have a much harder time relating to girls on screen. But Götz posits that this is a faulty argument: ‘The fact that male characters seem more popular is primarily a question of what is available, and hence, a self-fulfilling prophecy.’
Furthermore, the study ID’s several gender stereotypes that are common amongst kids shows from around the world. In general, girls and women are often:
* conventionally beautiful, underweight and sexualized
* motivated by a romantic interest
* shown as dependent on boys
* stereotyped in two ways according to their hair colorblondes are either the nice girl next door, or the proverbial ‘blonde bitch;’ and redheads are headstrong, cheeky tomboys.
By contrast, men and boys are often:
* loners or leaders
* more frequently antagonists
* more frequently overweight
* even more frequently Caucasian
* stereotyped in four waysas the lonesome cowboy, as the emotional soft-boy, as the clever small guy and as the dumb blockhead
Check back in on Wednesday, October 29 for the next instalment of this three-part feature, and find out what girls are actually looking for when they watch TV.