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Gender Role Content in Cartoons and Its Effect on Children's

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Fatima Yousufi

on 12 November 2013

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Transcript of Gender Role Content in Cartoons and Its Effect on Children's

Gender Role Content in Cartoons and Its Effect on Children's Perceptions of Gender
"All television is educational; the only question is: what is it teaching?" - Former Federal Communications (FCC) Commissioner Nicholas Johnson
Television is only one of many influences that can affect children's concepts of gender; peer and parental influences are important too.

TV viewing starts as early as 18 months - 2 years

Peer and Media influences stronger than Parental influences.
Peers strongly impact present-oriented gender preferences whereas media affects future expectations.
Different Cartoon Categories:
children are usually not able to distinguish between fantasy and reality
even puppet and cartoon characters are likely to be thought of as alive
children may learn that men are more important and have more status in society than women because of the over representation of male characters
Network executives have said that they don't try and provide programming that appeals to girls because boys outnumber them in the 2-11 year old audience.
If a show is to be successful, it must appeal to boys because boys will not watch shows that have girls as lead characters but girls will watch cartoons with male leads.
Teachy Preachy
2 - 11 years of age: spend an average of 28 hours each week on watching TV
Talked more
More likely to show verbal/physical aggression, bravery, leadership and rescue
More independent, assertive, athletic, important, responsible
Engaged in more violent and silly/amusing behaviours
Shown in a highly masculine stereotyped manner
Tough, and more likely to be victims to aggression
Generally rewarded for their behaviour
Engaged in problem solving activities
Placed in stereotypical jobs like firefighters or police officers
Shown to have a much greater variety of roles and occupations
Less numerous
Fewer lines and fewer "lead roles"
Less active and had less positions of responsibility
More domestic, emotional, sensitive, frail and mature
Seen as more nurturing, showing fear/helplessness and acting romantic, polite and supportive
Likely to embody 1/4 stereotypes: nerdy girls with romantic opportunities; dumb blondes; spite, catty backstabbers; and sweet, loyal girl friends of male protagonists
More likely to ask for advice/protection, show affection or emphasize relationships
Do children notice the gender differences?
Males outnumbered females 4:1
females were stereotypical and had a tendency to fall in love at first sight
generally represented the most gender stereotyped portrayals
more romantic behaviour than others
least amount of female leads and minor characters
fewer male minor leads than continuing/traditional adventure and teachy preachy
males were most non stereotypical, least competent, technical and responsible
Males were lowest on verbal aggression, leadership, achievement and showing affection
females were least competent, responsible, active and most troublesome and failed most frequently and answered few questions and rarely emphasized tasks
males outnumber females 2:1
Males are funnier, tend to make fun of people more
more romantic behaviour than others
more equal representation of gender
presented more images of stronger female characters
males and females didn't differ in physical aggression
Males were more affectionate, most emotional, romantic, sensitive and helpful
More male characters than females but females played most of the important roles
Females were the most affectionate, emotional and least technical
Males and Females are similar; more likely to see positive, nonstereotypical presentations
How can/do children perceive this content?
Over time, has the gender role content noticeably changed?
78% of children in a study thought there were more boys characters, 12% selected girls and 10% thought there was no difference
68% thought boys talked more, 16% chose girls and 16% said no difference

Boys described male characters as violent and active, such as "chase bad guys", "get in trouble" and "have safes fall on them"
Girls also described them as violent and active but also recognized boys' impact on girl characters, such as teasing and making fun of them.
Other examples of boy characters "think they are the smartest" and "try to catch girls"
Boys described female characters in the context of their relationship to/interest in boy characters (they did not describe boy characters in relationship to girls though). For example, "follow what boys say", "left out of play", "teased by boys" and "want kisses".
Boys also described females by their domestic behaviour, and their appearance. For example, they "say I'm pretty" and they "wear rings".
Girls described them as domestic, playing with dolls, dressing up and chasing boys. For example, "doing chores around the house", "being polite", etc.
Do children notice the gender differences?
"Television's portrayal of the sexes in cartoons does not accurately mirror real world events but it does reflect real world values concerning traditional gender-role assumptions." - Levinson R.M.
69% of male respondents who noticed more boys in cartoons selected stereotypically male jobs for themselves
74% of the males who noticed boys talk more selected stereotypically male jobs for themselves
39% of girls who noticed there were male characters selected stereotypically female jobs
38% of girls who noticed boys talk more selected female jobs

Preference for female counterstereotypical content among guys predicted attraction to male characters
Preference for female counterstereotypical content among girls predicted attraction to female characters however male stereotypical content negatively predicted attraction to female characters (seems like they just aren't impressed by the female characters in comparison to males)
Boys are unlikely to be attracted to female characters, regardless of what kind of content they prefer.
Research has shown that children who are exposed to gender stereotypes on television are more likely to endorse gender stereotypes and act in gender-stereotyped ways than children who are exposed to gender counter stereotypes.
Gender stereotypes/roles still exist but content has generally become less stereotypical and more gender-neutral

Female characters have become more independent, assertive, intelligent, competent and responsible that they used to be.
Also, stronger and less emotional, affectionate and sensitive.
More counterstereotypical or gender-neutral characters.
Male characters have become more intelligent, more technical than they used to be.
Also, engaged in more verbal aggression, leadership, question asking and answering and task emphasis.
Talk significantly more but no significant change in the amount of talk seen in females.
TV programming can reinforce stereotypes but also change children's gender stereotypes.
** future research will have to be done to understand the links between the content in cartoons and the children's perceptions and how it might actually affect their view of gender roles. **
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