We all know that the TV we share with our children is important. Jackie and Lucy Rivers discuss the influence and cultural impact TV has on children and what changes we need to see to have a more well-rounded representation on TV.
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1: Research in 2020 carried out by the Geena Davis Institute on gender in media identified that 45% of children’s television episodes have a female lead, down from 52.0% in 2018.
2: Female characters are three times more likely to be shown in revealing clothing or partially nude.
3: Male characters are more likely to be shown as violent and twice as likely to be depicted as criminal than female characters.
4: Male characters are more likely to be shown in professional positions, such as doctors and lawyers, while female characters are more likely to be shown in service positions. For STEM professions, male characters outnumber female characters two-to-one (70.2% / 29.8%).
5: In live action, female characters account for most of the screen time (58.7%) and speaking time (58.8%), higher than any previous year.
Two-thirds (62.6%) of children’s TV episodes pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test
6: Children are being trained to harbor unconscious biases from a very young age. Tweens consume up to 6 hrs media a day, while teens up to 9 hrs (Common Sense Media).
7: The Geena Davis Institute found an alarming degree of sexualization in kids’ tv. Now sexualization is a descriptor thrown around a lot. Still, in essence, it boils down to representation wherein a person’s value is primarily or even entirely derived from their sexual appeal – or, as they write: ‘when physical beauty is equated with sexiness, when sexuality is inappropriately imposed on someone, or when a person is sexually objectified.’ The results were concerning. There was an emphasis on physical appearance for women. Female characters were almost twice as likely to be better than average looking or stunning (37.9% / 18.9%). They wore more revealing clothing and were more likely to be shown as partially nude.
8: Another study found that female characters in kids’ tv were more likely to use magic to solve their problems in children’s tv, while male characters were more likely to use STEM skills or physical strength, which set troubling ideas for what women can achieve in reality, as well as potentially limiting men’s prime attributes to the physical. https://www.cbc.ca/news/entertainment/childrens-tv-study-diversity-1.5118385
9: This all sets up disturbing tropes and expectations of real girls and women.
10: An alarming experiment discovered that gender biases were present in really young kids because when they were asked what they would be when they grew up, the level of ambition was so much higher in boys and, even worse, when asked what they’d be grown up as another gender, a girl came up with more options while a boy said ‘If I was a girl I’d have to be nothing’ despairingly. These biases are being taken to heart unconsciously and very young.