The article “The Smurfette Principle” by Katha Pollitt, coins the underlying truth of gender stereotype in the popular culture. She draws her reference from various Children Media literature and finds them to exemplify the impact of media on gender roles. She also points out that almost all television children’s shows (cartoon, movies, and books) contribute to gender stereotyping (Pollitt, 1991).
From her children and media review, she observes that female characters play a peripheral role compared to male characters. Pollitt’s work tries to create awareness that the society should not accept what Children Media is promoting about gender stereotypes. She uses her daughter, Sophie, to put her points across.
After watching “The Little Mermaid”, and reading “The Cat in the Hat”, Sophie is left disgusted by the peripheral role that female characters play in the media (Pollitt 1991). She concludes by acknowledging that the media is a problem in the society. However, in the contemporary context, most of these materials have changed significantly in order to give women a leading role and avoid bias, chauvinism, and sexism.
I agree with Katha Pollitt’s observations that Children Media plays a major role in gender stereotyping. I further agree with her insinuation that the media is a problem. This is premised on the fact that the messages that the Children Media puts across fundamentally lead to anti-social effects.
Technology has advanced immensely in the last few decades. Different forms of media such as television shows, advertisements, print media, music, video games, movies, and comic books utilize both male and female characters (Hollis-Sawyer & Lorilene, 2013).
According to Ducille (1994), these forms of media exemplify women and girls playing a different role. The most notable roles include the performance of domestic chores, such as laundry and cooking, victims of assault, sex objects, recipient of harassment, love seekers and submissiveness, as well as weaknesses and need for protection. Conversely, these media use action movies to portray men as being aggressive and muscular. The children Media also portrays male characters as bosses and great inventors.
It is now twenty years since Katha Pollitt wrote “Smurfette Principle”, and yet the female characters are still portrayed to have minor roles, in both children and adult literature. Today, animated films only include one or in rare occasions two female characters. In current movie reviews, it is common to come across reviewers terming few starred female characters as ‘feisty’.
Most of the movies produced nowadays are sexist (Fischer & Bolton-Holz, 2010). For instance, the ‘Bee Movie’ changes the rule of the colony living, by depicting the colony leader to be a male, as opposed to the leader being a queen (female). The hero in this movie is a man. This is a negative sexist action that portrays male as the only leaders. It indicates clearly that the male characters are associated with good roles.
I also agree with Katha Pollitt that gender stereotypes are inherent in the society. They cause problems that need to be addressed. Children Media should stop portraying female gender negatively, and instead strengthen both genders without discrimination. As a remedy to these stereotypes, I also agree with the author that parents should play a major role in choosing the right media, channels, and programs that their children should watch.
Similarly, the media ought to be more responsible while providing entertainment for children. According to Schlosser (2012), we should look to our children and identify their personalities and talents by guiding them through their literature (Schlosser, 2012).
Parents should watch children’s movies, read children’s story books, watch children’s cartoon shows, and guide them to conceptualize what they see and learn (Lamb, Bigler, Liben & Green, 2009). This will help them in choosing right from wrong. Failure to do this will lead to continuous gender stereotypes in generations to come.
Ducille, A. (1994). Dyes and dolls: multicultural Barbie and the merchandising of differences. Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies, 6(1), 46-48.
Fischer, A. R., & Bolton-Holz, K. (2010). Testing a model of women’s personal sense of justice, control, well‐being, and distress in the context of sexist discrimination. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 34(3), 297-310.
Hollis-Sawyer, L., & Cuevas, L. (2013). Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Ageist and Sexist Double Jeopardy Portrayals in Children’s Picture Books. Educational Gerontology, 39(12), 902-914.
Lamb, L. M., Bigler, R. S., Liben, L. S., & Green, V. A. (2009). Teaching children to confront peers’ sexist remarks: Implications for theories of gender development and educational practice. Sex Roles, 61(5-6), 361-382.
Pollitt, K. (1991). The Smurfette principle. New York Times Magazine, 7, 2224.
Schlosser, E. (2012). Kids customers. English 111X F11 – Spring. Retrieved from <http://engl111-f11.blogspot.com/2012/02/eric-schlossers-kid-kustomers.html>.