Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Do boys like stories about girls?

I've just done a guest post for the Hathor Legacy here:

Do boys like stories about girls?

The Hathor Legacy is a group blog that discusses how women are portrayed in the media. And if you've been following my blog, you know I love analyzing the movies and videos my kids watch!!! So when I found the Hathor Legacy, it looked like a great excuse to analyze their viewing habits some more!!! ;-)

Please go have a look!


Anonymous said...

Great post - I love that kind of analysis. One of my minor projects in grad school involved analyzing how girls and boys are differently portrayed and targeted, and the underlying gendered meaning, by toys and their packaging. I don't know why it's hard for people to see the function of the patriarchy in pop culture, when girls/women are so frequently (ie, 'normally') portrayed as minor or passive characters, at best.

A friend of mine just visited and brought her nearly three-year-old boy with her. His current favorite hero is Wonder Woman, and we could not leave home without her (great panic ensued when she went missing for most of a day). However, she is likely not the most popular of the Super Heroes, b/c it was nearly impossible for my friend to find a WW figurine - she was eventually located in a set that had five or six other heroes in it as well.

C. L. Hanson said...

Thanks Wry Catcher!!!

I know what you mean about how products marketed to kids are so covered with gender signals.

One can argue that little kids are interested in differentiating themselves by gender. But watching actual kids, I feel like the media and toy industry really exacerbate it. Kids are often interested in toys and stories that are marketed to the opposite gender, but feel like it's not okay to express any such interest.

It's a shame, especially since there's no reason why everything for kids needs to be categorized as "boys' stuff" or "girl's stuff."

Anonymous said...

Very interesting article - thanks for sharing!

For Christmas, my husband's grandfather and his wife gave my daughter a set of twin dolls and my son a set of blocks.

Needless to say, both babies have played with all the toys. There is no way that we could keep my son from the dolls or my daughter from the blocks, even if we wanted to!

The only current preference both babies have shown is for Elmo, Dora and Diego. So I agree with you on the character assessment.

Rebecca said...

I think so much of it has to do with the parents' attitudes. If they are unconsciously (or consciously) "programming" their kids to only like things that are gender-specific, then it's likely that their boys won't like stories about girls, and their girls will be stupid.

I've never heard of the MMM before, but now I think I'm going to have to start looking for it. On a semi-related topic, have you ever seen "The Princess Diaries 2"? It's supposed to be all girl-powery, but it just ends up being incredibly sexist and reinforcing stupid stereotypes, and I can't put my finger on WHY. You can tell it's SUPPOSED to be all empowering, but somehow it's the opposite, and I just can't come to a really concrete reason as to where they went wrong. But OH! They went wrong.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Aerin!!!

Wow, kids as little as yours, and they're already receiving learn-your-gender toys...

Hey Rebecca!!!

I think you're right. I think a lot of parents not only steer their kids towards toys of the correct gender, they "correct" kids who are playing the "wrong" games/roles.

I haven't seen the Princess Diaries 2. Is it something for kids?

T Wanker said...

I had the opposite situation, an all male childhood, followed by raising two daughters (and through their teens, as a single dad).

Being male, I've always been attuned to trying to cultivate non-sexist notions in my daughters, so they recognized sexism when they saw it. With both heading into their late teens, I look back with some humility about how lacking as a parent I was, but I'm so pleased with the results.

One of the early "indoctrinations", my ex-wife and I did was calling Cinderella and Snow White the "dumb girls." We constantly told the girls that Cinderella and Snow White were dumb, because they waited around for someone to come and save them. Disney was ubiquitous, but to this day Cinderella remains the "dumb girl" to my daughters.

I've found that media stereotypes are actually not as bad or invasive as cultural stereotypes. I know that my daughters' views are both such that neither can handle Mormon patriarchy. Thanks for the nice mid-day diversion, c.l.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey T. Wanker!!!

I'm glad to hear that your daughters have turned out well!!!

AnnM said...

My youngest son is a great fan of Dora. He's 3, maybe a year too young to be obsessively interested in gender roles. Kids reach a point where they need to categorize themselves, to understand how they relate to society and that makes them incredibly sexist around age 5. But for the moment he's sweetly innocent of gender expectations. He wanted me to buy him pink shoes with Dora on it. Sadly, I didn't. He needed shoes for school, and I didn't want him to face ridicule from older kids, which probably would have led him to scrupulously eschew pink girl stuff anyway.

My middle son was a great fan of the Power Puff Girls and KimPossible -- I don't know if they are off the air or we just don't get the network here in the states. I liked KimPossible a lot myself. He also loved Dora, although in France it is in French with Dora teaching English words, which made it more accessible than the French cartoons. Meanwhile he was trying to figure out gender roles, theorizing things like, "Moms do the shopping and dads put kids to bed, right?" and, "Girls like those toys, right?"

Sigh. You have to work hard to undo the messages they get from the media, and help them to develop a more flexible understanding of gender roles.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Sam-I-Am!!!

My kids have some "Dora the Explorer" books (in France it's "Dora L'exploratrice"), but they haven't seen the T.V. series. Actually they haven't seen broadcast programming at all -- we just have a DVD player for them.

So, from what you're telling me, it sounds like my kids will be starting to get more worried about gender roles soon. Oh joy. Well, we'll see what happens!!! :D

Rebecca said...

Yeah, "Princess Diaries 2" is a kid movie - I think it's more for the preadolescent girl group, so it might not be terribly interesting to the younger kids, but I really don't know. In any case, it's way lame. The first one is kind of cute, though. And I believe it passes the MMM test with flying colors.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Rebecca!!!

Thanks for the tip!!! So we'll think about getting them Princess Diaries I but not II.