Just for fun, try taking your daughter to the movies this weekend. See if you can find something cheap to watch. Wreck It Ralph might be playing still, or maybe even Rise of the Guardians. Whatever movie you choose, I want you to count up all of the female characters. It won’t take long. Now count the male characters and give me the ratio of them next to the female characters.
Think it will be 50-50? Try again. Female sare disproportionately represented in films, which presents a number of problems. Firstly, it’s completely inaccurate and stupid, given that half of the population is missing from a movie. So unless it’s about, say, pod people from another planet who only have one sex, it’s irrelevant to half of the people watching it.
Secondly, our daughters have no one to look up to except the Love Interest and the Plucky but Inferior Sidekick — the two token roles that women are given in most films. You’ll see these two roles in the two aforementioned movies, as well as any other films you watch (including most adult movies, aside from romantic comedies) with very few exceptions. In 2012, Pixar released its very first film that featured a female in a lead role — and Disney’s pretty much given females the backseat lately, too. Even Disney’s last film, Tangled, had its name changed from Rapunzel because they didn’t want to alienate the boys in the audience. Heaven forbid a movie be centered around a female character!
When I demand that a movie pass the Bechdel Test, it doesn’t make me a stereotypical angry feminist; it makes me an irritated mother expecting the very basics of human normalcy. The only thing that the Bechdel Test demands, if you recall, is that two females are in a movie and they have a single conversation that is about something other than a male. The fact that movies rarely pass this “test” is absurd. It should be a natural occurrence in any movie that represents a culture made up of multiple sexes.
The good news is that although these movies are rare, parents continue putting pressure on companies to demand that they give us great lead female characters. Organizations like the Gina Davis Institute on Gender and Media and Pigtail Pals give me hope. I’m tired of hearing my daughter’s friends inquire if girls can be astronauts or cowboys or explorers “too.” My own daughter, age seven, still comes to sexist conclusions once in a while, even as I patiently raise her in a feminist household full of literature featuring strong women and healthy examples. All it takes is one friend to question her Cars sandals, one relative to make a comment about her not liking dolls, and she suddenly becomes unsure. Wouldn’t you at her age? “Why haven’t we had a girl president?” she asks again and again. Indeed.
That’s why it’s so important for us to keep moving forward not just politically, not just socially, but also in the media we use.
I will be writing for Feminspire from my perspective as a feminist homeschooling mom, and one of the things I want to talk about is not only how to change this media, but also the media we can support right now for our daughters (and our sons, who also need to see strong, multi-dimensional females in movies and elsewhere). My favorite director who routinely gives me this media over and over again is Hayao Miyazaki…
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