Winnie the Pooh: slayer of feminist fantasies

I hesitated to insert this bit of commentary into my review of Winnie the Pooh because I’m dead serious about it, and I couldn’t find a way to make it work amongst the preposterous “complaints” about the film that filled my “screed.” (Though obviously not everyone can see sarcasm even when it’s staring them in the face.) But there’s this, too: what I’m about to complain about is not something that’s uniquely a Winnie the Pooh problem but yet another example of a problem that plagues our pop culture. So it didn’t seem fair to make it seem like I was piling on poor old Pooh.

Here it is now.

I was sitting there watching Winnie the Pooh and letting the silly, utterly inconsequential sweetness wash over me when suddenly it struck me, for the millionth time but with the power of a new ephiphany: Every single character but one here is male… and the only female character is defined exclusively by her motherhood.

Pooh? Male.

Piglet? Male.

Eeyore? Male.

Owl? Male.

Christopher Robin? Male.

Rabbit? Male.

Roo? Male.

Kanga? Mother.

*sigh*

Now, we’re not “supposed” to point out unpleasant stuff like this about kiddie movies. We’re supposed to just relax and enjoy them and let them wash over us and not think about it too much. But that’s why it’s so insidious — and yes, I mean that deliberately: insidious.

If our pop culture were pretty balanced among some stories that were mostly about boy characters and some stories that were mostly about girl characters and some stories that were about a fairly balanced bunch of both boy and girl characters and some stories that 75/25 boys/girls and some stories that were 75/25 girls/boys, and so on, it wouldn’t matter. But this is not how it is. The vast majority of stories are about male characters. The vast majority of stories about groups of character feature lots of different male characters — often defined by various traits: The Fat One, The Smart One, The Clumsy One, The Daring One, and so on — and perhaps, if we’re lucky, a single female character who is defined solely by her gender: The Girl One. Nothing beside femaleness is needed to define this character: she is not brave or cowardly, reckless or prudent, smart or dumb — she’s just the girl. She’s probably pretty, because that’s how you know she’s a girl: she’s there to make the world more pleasant for the male characters. She might need to get rescued at some point. She’s almost definitely the carrot dangled in front of The Leader One, with the prospect of her as the prize he wins if he succeeds.

Now, in the world of Pooh, Kanga does not serve this purpose… but she also serves no other purpose but to be mothering. She says and does pretty much nothing but deliver gentle maternal scolds to all the boys around her, who clearly — boys being boys and all — need it. (That’s sarcasm.) But there’s no reason in the universe why Owl could not be female: no story hinges on Owl being male. There’s no reason in the universe why Rabbit could not be female: no story hinges on Rabbit being male.

No, I don’t think that A.A. Milne chuckled evilly to himself and set out to exclude female characters from his stories because he hated women. He was only unconsciously regurgitating the biases of our culture: that maleness is the default, the neutral, and that there’s no reason for a character to be female unless ladyparts are required (such as, in this case, having given birth).

Here’s where the insidious comes in: When all children see are stories in which boy characters run the gamut of human potential and girl characters are only notable for their girlness, they internalize these notions. They learn that boys can do anything and girls can only be a narrow sort of “girlness.” Girls are never The Funny One or The Depressed One or The Wise One.

Kids see this in even the “inoffensive” children’s stories, like Winnie the Pooh’s tales. Like in the Toy Story movies, which grudgingly allow more than one female character in, but again only when they must be female — of course Bo Peep and Jessie the Cowgirl have to be girls — but never when the gender of a toy is absent or ambiguous: Rex or Slinky or Hamm or many of the other toys could have been female, but aren’t. Even the really good, really wonderful, really must-see stories follow the same plan.

It’s depressing to realize this, if you care about exposing children — boys and girls alike — to fairer, more humanist ideas about what they are capable of.

And that’s why it must be pointed out. When even the “nice” movies engage in this, these biases get deeply ingrained and powerfully reinforced in our individual subconsciouses and in our cultural supraconsciousness.

I’m not suggesting that anyone should have changed Milne’s characters in the name of feminism. I am suggesting that we need to be creating new stories that allow girl characters to express the full range of human experience to balance the likes of Milne out… and to make sure that when someone creates a “nice” new story, its Rex or Slinky or Hamm aren’t create male by lazy default.

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Risa Romano
Risa Romano
Tue, Jul 01, 2014 7:48am

This is interesting to me because I have a problem with Kanga in the movies after having read the books. Disney portrays Kanga as a kind and reserved moher. There’s nothing objectionable about that on the surface, until you look at the source material. She’s totally different. We first meet her when Pooh, Piglet, and Rabbit try to kidnap her son. She figures out what’s happening immediately, but plays along until she eventually turns the tables on them and it ends up as a wickedly funny prank, if a bit cruel (but again…they kidnapped her son, so…). The best chapter in either of the books and her character has as much depth as any of the others, but she happens to be a mother.

Erika Lancastor
reply to  Risa Romano
Tue, Jun 23, 2015 8:58am

Thank you!
FINALLY a valid point!

Erika Lancastor
reply to  Erika Lancastor
Tue, Jun 23, 2015 9:22am

I have (more or less) been asked to leave this site.
I will do so.
Goodbye.

SailorSerena
SailorSerena
reply to  Risa Romano
Wed, Apr 28, 2021 2:32pm

Hmmm, that may be so. But a well-developed Smurfette is still a Smurfette. There’s no reason nor excuse for there only being one female character, who also just so happens to be a mother. That’s what MaryAnn is complaining about.

Erika Lancastor
Tue, Jun 23, 2015 8:08am

uhhhmmm. love?

you DO know that A.A. Milne wrote the original Winnie the pooh stories from being inspired by watching and listening to his son (the real) Christopher Robin Milne, playing with his toys, right?

Being a little BOY, of course Christopher Robin’s teddy bear (pooh) and his other toys would be predominantly MALE! Just as any little GIRL’s toys would be “female”, in her mind.

PLEASE! I mean, honestly. must EVERYTHING be a flipping GENDER ISSUE??

Look at how many books, cartoons and the like have predominantly female characters!

Why is THAT not an issue of “sexism”? Because then it’s predominantly FEMALE characters, and, oh, THAT’S okay.

Which is SEXIST, in and of itself! How would you feel if MEN’S groups constantly whinedabout TV shows, movies, books and so-on with predominantly female characters, and insisted upon shoving male characters in, where they are neither needed or wanted? (I doubt things like “Sex and the City” would have been quite the same).

Can’t we just leave the guys alone, for a change?
And we wonder why Western men are so sick of us, refusing to marry, and are going on shooting sprees.
Anyone ever wonder about that??

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Erika Lancastor
Tue, Jun 23, 2015 8:38am

Can’t we just leave the guys alone, for a change?

Yes, they’re *so* put upon.

And we wonder why Western men are so sick of us, refusing to marry, and are going on shooting sprees.

Holy shit. Feminism makes men go on shooting sprees? Holy shit.

And I’m not your “love.”

Erika Lancastor
Tue, Jun 23, 2015 8:09am

please read what i say above, dear.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Erika Lancastor
Tue, Jun 23, 2015 8:39am

You’re new here, so I’ll give you the rules. Don’t be an asshole. Don’t be a troll. Play nicely and carry on a conversation like an adult, or leave.

Boston andMe
Boston andMe
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Fri, Feb 05, 2021 10:53am

MaryAnn, MaryAnn. A simple scrolling down in the comments reveals that you are insulting people like calling their reading comprehension bad. I agree with this comment, but take your own advice, please. Thank you.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Boston andMe
Fri, Feb 05, 2021 12:30pm

Your reading comprehension *is* bad.

Boston andMe
Boston andMe
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Fri, Feb 05, 2021 12:32pm

Thanks for admitting that I am correct, MaryAnn.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Boston andMe
Fri, Feb 05, 2021 12:42pm

You’re not correct. And I’m very close to giving you the pleasure of banning you.

Erika Lancastor
Tue, Jun 23, 2015 8:10am

YES! Thank you!!!

Erika Lancastor
Tue, Jun 23, 2015 8:13am

Okay… Why is it, that when the characters on a show, in a book or movie are predominantly male, it’s always; “Ooooh!!! SEXISM, SEXISM, SEXISM!!!”??
But when it’s the reverse, and the characters are predominantly FEMALE (or completely female), it’s all; “Oh! Now THAT’S progress, tra-la-la-la-la!”?

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Erika Lancastor
Tue, Jun 23, 2015 8:40am

Another rule: No strawmen.

You’re off to a bad start.

Erika Lancastor
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Tue, Jun 23, 2015 8:48am

No. I simply disagree with all this horse shit.
And of course, we can’t have THAT, now can we?
Dictatorship cannot tolerate dissent, can it, love?
(And I am BRITISH, so we say “Love” alot. Sorry.)

Erika Lancastor
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Tue, Jun 23, 2015 9:12am

…and no. You are not my “love”, I rather suppose.
(don’t hate you, either, but… yea)

Erika Lancastor
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Tue, Jun 23, 2015 9:16am

“You’re new here, so I’ll give you the rules. Don’t be an asshole. Don’t be a troll. Play nicely and carry on a conversation like an adult, or leave.”
Excuse me??????
Really????
You’re rubbishing a cartoon bear, You’re rubbishing an entire gender, (Men) and you tell *ME *to “carry on a conversation like an adult”?
Oh, please! Really! Come now!
Get over your *special* privilege!
Fine, though.
I’ll happily leave your site.

Erika Lancastor
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Tue, Jun 23, 2015 9:21am

Oh, One last thing before I go.
I didn’t say that “feminism” is directly responsible for men that go on shooting sprees. Don’t take my words out of context and try to misrepresent what people say.
I would elaborate on what I meant, when I said that, but your mind is so filled with Androphobic hate, it would be a waste of both our time. despite my harsh words, I wish you well, and i hope you can get past your hatred for half the human population.
That’s a lot of hate.
Take care. And goodbye.

Erika Lancastor
Tue, Jun 23, 2015 8:17am

…and the problem with stories with mostly BOY characters, becomes a feminist target.
Just putting that out there.

Erika Lancastor
Tue, Jun 23, 2015 8:23am

Yes. To what you said about A.A. Milne and his son.

No, Just because J.K. Rowlings main character was a boy, doesn’t mean she is disguising her gender, in any way.
I’m a writer, myself. Some of my main characters are male, some are female. So what does that mean?
Oh, that’s right, it means NOTHING.
What about male writers whose lead character(s) is/are female? Are they “disguising” their gender, as well?
Oh, no. of course not. As with everything when it comes to these silly ‘gender issues’ it only works ONE way, eh?

Erika Lancastor
Tue, Jun 23, 2015 8:31am

“So we are making progress”
…no we’re not.
We are just replacing one extreme with another, and shouting victory. -_-

Erika Lancastor
Tue, Jun 23, 2015 8:32am

Nope. Roo is an “evil male”.

Erika Lancastor
Tue, Jun 23, 2015 8:33am

No…. he got the point, just fine, love.

Erika Lancastor
Tue, Jun 23, 2015 8:34am

BINGO!

Erika Lancastor
Tue, Jun 23, 2015 8:36am

Oh, for G*d’s sake!
When I was a little girl and watched Winnie the pooh, I didn’t even notice or CARE that most of the characters were male.
Why? Because not EVERY SINGLE LITTLE THING was(is) a GENDER ISSUE with me.
Good grief, what utter bollocks!

Erika Lancastor
Tue, Jun 23, 2015 8:39am

Uhmm… I used to BE a feminist.

…they have no consciousness, outside themselves and their self centered little agenda.

That’s one of the BIG reasons I left.

Erika Lancastor
Tue, Jun 23, 2015 8:41am

And every sexist b–ch of a woman had a FATHER (unless the mother unlawfully refused the visitations of the father, as my Mum did with us) and it doesn’t seem to have done much for their HUMAN consciousness.

Erika Lancastor
Tue, Jun 23, 2015 8:43am

I say… You are so narrow-sighted, I am betting you can look through a KEYHOLE with BOTH eyes!

Erika Lancastor
Tue, Jun 23, 2015 8:51am

Why do men have to be “Feminists”?
Why don’t you become a Masculinist?
It’s basically asking the same thing, really.
Here’s an idea, Become an EGALITARIAN, then you really WILL be for equality.

Erika Lancastor
Tue, Jun 23, 2015 8:54am

Mmm… but I see that misandrist Neanderthals are just ducky!
No double standards here.
Noooooooooooooooo

Erika Lancastor
Tue, Jun 23, 2015 8:55am

It wasn’t the name calling, I assure you.
It’s because dictatorship cannot tolerate dissent.

Erika Lancastor
Tue, Jun 23, 2015 8:57am

Yes, Love.
But you see?
Feminists have to take such a non-issue and MAKE an issue out of it.
Because… well… Feminists have Issues.

…Did I say “Issues”. I mean they have the whole SUBSCRIPTION!

Erika Lancastor
Tue, Jun 23, 2015 8:59am

“Oscar can be cranky but if he were a woman he’d be seen as a bitch or a shrew.”

Bollocks! That is simple assumption, mary, and you know it!

qwerty
qwerty
Sat, Jun 27, 2015 3:29am

the movies have male actors but in the books only Christopher Robin is male and only Kanga is female but the rest have no genders

Bluejay
Bluejay
reply to  qwerty
Sat, Jun 27, 2015 4:28am

Except that all those other characters are referred to as “he,” “him,” etc. You’re seeing male as “neutral,” which proves MaryAnn’s point.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  qwerty
Sat, Jun 27, 2015 11:53am

Do why do the movies have male actors? Because our cultural default is male!

Heliotrope
Heliotrope
Mon, Apr 25, 2016 12:45am

Okay so officially they are these genders, but when I thought about it when i was little I thought it was:

Pooh? Male.

Piglet? Female

Eeyore? Male.

Owl? Male.

Christopher Robin? Male.

Rabbit? Female

Roo? Female

Kanga? Female

It makes no difference to the story and isn’t often firmly stated. I always imagined my teddy bears as mostly guys, but it didn’t make a difference to my opinion that girls ruled.

Hello
Hello
Thu, Mar 23, 2017 3:26pm

Isn’t Rabbit and Piglet female?

Bluejay
Bluejay
reply to  Hello
Thu, Mar 23, 2017 3:58pm

No.

Danielm80
Danielm80
reply to  Hello
Thu, Mar 23, 2017 4:06pm

No, but The Birds is coming.

bronxbee
reply to  Hello
Thu, Mar 23, 2017 6:58pm

no. the only female is Kanga, Roo’s mother.

Vladimír Brada
Vladimír Brada
Wed, Apr 26, 2017 10:51am

What the sh*t? It seems we already solved all problems of the world, when we invest time and energy to study gender of animals in fairy tales :-D

Danielm80
Danielm80
reply to  Vladimír Brada
Wed, Apr 26, 2017 11:29am

G4.

It’s pretty easy to dismiss Winnie the Pooh as a mediocre kids’ movie, but when even very young kids are getting the message that women don’t matter, and that the girls stay home while the guys have adventures, I actually do take that kind of seriously. You can decide for yourself what you want to invest time in, and you can accuse me of being humorless, but I’d say that that message is responsible for a lot of the problems in the world.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Vladimír Brada
Wed, Apr 26, 2017 2:58pm

Yes! That’s *exactly* how the world works!

I hope you don’t go to the doctor when you break your arm because there’s no cure for cancer yet…

Joey Leggett
Joey Leggett
Mon, Nov 27, 2017 8:34am

Uhhhh… talking of missing the point here… not saying you have but you very well may have. There is a lot of debate about the gender of Pooh her/himself…. many opinions land on the decision the the character is actually based on a female bear…. just sayin

Danielm80
Danielm80
reply to  Joey Leggett
Mon, Nov 27, 2017 11:01am

And if someone wants to make a film out of Finding Winnie, then we can talk about its representation of women.

https://www.hachettebookgroup.com/titles/lindsay-mattick/finding-winnie/9780316324908/

This film, however, like Milne’s books about Pooh, has a largely male cast of characters.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Joey Leggett
Wed, Nov 29, 2017 3:09pm

Please do tell: What point have I missed?

Or, is it possible that *you* have missed *my* point?

many opinions land on the decision the the character is actually based on a female bear….

That’s not opinion. That’s fact. So why isn’t Pooh *ever* depicted as female? Why does a woman *never* supply Pooh’s voice?

Just askin’…

Grace Hughes
Grace Hughes
Sun, Aug 16, 2020 4:10pm

Its true there should be more of a variety but remember this is a movie from early 2000s but i also see winnie the pooh through the imagination from cristifer Robin and its about his stuffed animals and as a kid your more likely to make your stuffed animals the same gender as you I had tones of stuffed animals and almost all of them were girls so It can be naturally obvious that his would be all boys except a mother i know their are valid points but this was also based off of a book too and I think it was based off of a MALE author and his stuffed animals he had as a kid.

Boston andMe
Boston andMe
Tue, Jan 26, 2021 7:17am

The characters of Winnie the Pooh have no sexual private parts, are stuffed animals, and are the figment of a boy’s imagination. To say that Christoper Robin, a prepubescent boy has ‘insidious’ intentions for simply having his imaginary friends also be male is not supported by any parts in the series.

Winnie the Pooh also has nothing to do with gender roles or sex.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Boston andMe
Mon, Feb 01, 2021 5:47pm

To say that Christoper Robin, a prepubescent boy has ‘insidious’ intentions

Who is saying that?

The characters of Winnie the Pooh have no sexual private parts

And yet they are all gendered. And mostly gendered male.

Boston andMe
Boston andMe
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Fri, Feb 05, 2021 10:49am

YOU are saying that MaryAnn. That reading comprehension comment you made to me is really blowing up in your face.

You say it is insidious that WP is mostly male (stuffed animals). Well, all of these animals were made up in the mind of Christoper Robin (based on the author’s son with the same name who also even had a bear like winnie the pooh), therefore you are calling him or his son insidious.

I think your problem is that you skim read the Winnie the Pooh stories. You seem to not have a grasp on some key story elements and facts on the author and his original inspirations.

You can prove me right by deleting my comments and banning me. It seems to be your go to reaction when you are not ‘winning’ the argument.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Boston andMe
Fri, Feb 05, 2021 12:41pm

That reading comprehension comment you made to me is really blowing up in your face.

What is wrong with you?

What part of this is at all unclear?

No, I don’t think that A.A. Milne chuckled evilly to himself and set out to exclude female characters from his stories because he hated women. He was only unconsciously regurgitating the biases of our culture

Or this:

I’m not suggesting that anyone should have changed Milne’s characters in the name of feminism.

Why are you so intent on not hearing what I am saying?

SailorSerena
SailorSerena
Mon, Apr 19, 2021 11:06pm

No, I don’t think that A.A. Milne chuckled evilly to himself and set out to exclude female characters from his stories because he hated women. He was only unconsciously regurgitating the biases of our culture: that maleness is the default, the neutral, and that there’s no reason for a character to be female unless ladyparts are required (such as, in this case, having given birth).

This. So much this.

One other thing I’d also like to point out is that…the problem with the Smurfette principle is that when you do include female characters that go against the mold, it will always be called into question.

Because if stories present the idea that male is the default and that female characters are only female because they have to be, it sends the message that female characters’ mere existence requires an explanation. Think of how the Transformers creators stated they wouldn’t include more female Transformers because a female Transformer apparently “requires an explanation all on its own”. Characters can never be female, just because. They have to be female because the plot required them to be. Meanwhile, males get to exist freely without being questioned for their existence. Nobody questions a male character because male is the default state of every living being, even if that living being is an anthropomorphic toy, dog, monster, or little yellow blob, even when it would actually make more sense for them to be female, like the hyenas in The Lion King or the male calico cat in Home(granted, Haruhi Suzumiya also had a male calico cat, but they specifically pointed out how weird it was in-universe, never mind the fact that it was talking, plus, the main cast comprises of three girls and only two boys, so I’ll let it slide.).

And because so many stories feel the need to have an exhausting overabundance of male characters, people absorb the message that this is how it should be, that a story needs a prominent male character(or perhaps more than one) in order to properly function. I know we all like to talk about how stories often include a girl or a black person as a quota to “check boxes”, but there seems to be another unspoken quota, too: that every story apparently NEEDS a male character in it to drive the story, even when the cast is predominantly female, because a guy lets you know the show is worth watching and without him something is wrong. I cannot tell you the number of times I have heard people complain that a story doesn’t have “enough male characters” in it and is thus practicing sexism against men, when these same people will brush off stories that don’t have enough female characters because “it’s just a story” “not every story needs to include women because you say it should” or “it just happened that way”. So female characters aren’t necessary, but male characters always are.

Here’s some examples: Take My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic(and it’s human-focused spinoff, My Little Pony: Equestria Girls), for instance. As others in the comments have graciously pointed out, it’s an animated show starring six colorful talking ponies: studious Twilight Sparkle, gentle animal-loving Fluttershy, workaholic cowgirl Applejack, dramatic fashionista Rarity, sporty “awesome” Rainbow Dash, and giggly party-throwing Pinkie Pie(my personal favorite, but I digress), lovingly dubbed “The Mane Six” by fans. All of them are girls, and the only male among them is Spike, Twilight’s baby dragon companion who has an unrequited crush on Rarity(she does care about him, though.). All of them are diverse and unique from each other, and one of the intended takeaways from the show is that there are many ways to be a girl, and that none of them are wrong. Lauren Faust self-identifies as a feminist, and says that her goal was to have a show of her own “for and about girls”, in which the cast of female characters was varied and diverse, and not bound by their status as “the girl”, or a necessity to be perfect. There are a variety of girls to choose from and relate to, and that’s part of what makes the show unique(although it shouldn’t be unique.). And yet despite it being aimed at girls(which may incite an argument that a female-viewing audience is the only case in which you can have a largely female cast), it has managed to garner a large male following of self-proclaimed “bronies”(older female fans such as myself exist, too; they call themselves “Pegasisters”.), thus subverting the notion that shows about girls can only be enjoyed by girls.

And yet, for some reason, there are some people(bronies included) who think it’s sexist that the show doesn’t have a lot of male characters, or think that the male characters are underrepresented and underdeveloped, and want the show to include more of them, preferably in mane roles. Because a show about girls aimed at girls is not good enough, we NEED a male character to assure us that this show isn’t “girly” and took us men into account! Even though the show is supposed to be a female-empowering one with the prominent characters as female, because we need more of that in our media today! But because maleness is seen as the norm and femaleness is seen as a purposeful deviation, introducing more female characters into your work is derided by some close-minded folks, who feel the need to remind you to “redirect” back to what is normal.

And it’s not just MLP. I’ve heard similar complaints about Sailor Moon(although fortunately not as much) about how it’s sexist that only women get to be Sailor Senshi, and that the men are always “emasculated” so the women can save them. Even though the manga is wish fulfillment for teen girls, and Naoko Takeuchi created it with the intent to show that women are strong and should rely on each other instead of on men, and there are clear feminist themes in the show, such as the girls standing up to Jadeite’s sexism, the use of femininity as a source of strength, and the Moon Kingdom being a matriarchy. But no, all that gets thrown out the window because a few people got mad that men, who SHOULD be running the show, are shoved off to the sidelines. I normally don’t like saying this, but…now you know what it’s like, guys. Suck it up or leave.

And then there’s Project MC^2, in which the protagonists are a quartet of teen girls who are the smartest in their class and get admitted into an all-female spy organization that secretly runs the world and stops crime(with the leader of the organization literally saying “that’s right, women do run the world!”). Although one of the girls was always a member and is the daughter of the leader. While the show can get a bit cheesy and unrealistic at times, it’s also genuine good-natured fun designed to encourage girls to go into STEAM without coddling them or making science “easier” for them; it has lots of girly stuff, but it seems less like gender essentialism and more like making it fun for girls in a way that isn’t contrived or forced. And yet naysayers still rag on it for not having any prominent male characters and apparently making all men idiots, and sending the message that girls are smarter than guys. I even saw a review saying that after watching it with their son and daughter, they somehow felt the need to remind them that guys aren’t dumb. Because that’s the lesson we should be taking from this and guys’ fragile feelings must always be taken into account before anything else(such as, you know, empowering girls?). Don’t these people ever get tired of prominent male characters? Don’t these people ever get tired of the year in, year out repetition of male-dominated casts and male-centric storylines? Don’t these people ever get tired of women being shafted, sexualized, tokenized, and ridiculed in media? I guess not.

My point is, even when we make further improvements on the treatment and depiction of women in popular culture, each time we shift away from the preconceived male “default”, there will always be naysayers who decry such forms of media for not depicting what “should” be normal: stories about men, by men, for men, and dominated by a cast of men. Even when you try to fix that, there are people who will act like you’re the problem for wanting to see more of yourself in media, because male must always be the default and females are a last resort that aren’t worth including unless extremely necessary. And that, my friends, is why The Smurfette Principle still persists to this day: because people are all too accepting of and comfortable with the status quo.

zak1
zak1
reply to  SailorSerena
Fri, Apr 23, 2021 10:10am

Fascinating points

SailorSerena
SailorSerena
reply to  zak1
Fri, Apr 23, 2021 12:32pm

Thanks! I’ve been telling people this for ages and they predictably just can’t seem to get it, so it’s good to know someone smart is out there who agrees with me! >////<

zak1
zak1
reply to  SailorSerena
Fri, Apr 30, 2021 11:48am

The scary thing about what you’re describing is that it’s so invisible

– as you mention, it’s hard to get people to even understand what you mean when you point it out (like trying to explain water to a fish – they can’t imagine what you’re talking about)

– and yet this sort of thing plays a huge role in shaping people’s attitudes –

SailorSerena
SailorSerena
reply to  zak1
Sun, May 30, 2021 1:51pm

Yeah, the water to a fish thing is a very good simile for this because this type of sexism is everywhere and yet people are either desensitized to it or choose not to see it, while not realizing that dismissing it is only reinforcing it and thus proving that it, in fact, DOES exist.

Like, I’m an aspiring writer and my stories are always centered around female characters of color. I hope that when I’m an adult they’ll eventually get published, but for now I’m happy with showing them to my family and seeing what they think. At least, I used to be. Sharing my stories with my family has always been a hassle because they always bite my head off for “hating on men” or excluding men in my stories. They’re always saying my stories are sexist because they have very few male characters and cast men off to the sidelines and focus on women being powerful. As if men are underrepresented in media by any stretch of the imagination. They say I’m going out of my way to make men look bad, but the only reason they think that is because they’re so used to men being the dominant, prominent characters in fiction, and thus can’t conceive of a story in which men just…don’t play that big of a role. The same way women have not played a big role in stories written by men, or have been hypersexualized, infantilized, degraded, fridged, or made as tokens. But when I point out this fact to the members of my family, they simply don’t care or deny it exists, or deny that it is a problem.

It’s just…you can write as many male-dominated stories as you want and society will never bat an eye, because men are supposed to be the movers and shakers of any given story and if you complain about that then you’re the man-hater who gets told that stories don’t need to represent women well, after all it’s not like women are expected to do much but look pretty and get kidnapped. But the second you write something centered around women you get all this unnecessary flak for being “misandrist” or “ignoring men”, because unlike with women, representation of men is required for a story to be good and be given the time of day. People like this think they’re helping matters, when all they really are is victims of a society that tells them that men’s point of view matters more than women’s so it’s only necessary to write about them.

zak1
zak1
reply to  SailorSerena
Wed, Jun 09, 2021 11:45am

It’s nice that your family members are interested in reading and engaging with your work – but I know it can also be frustrating to feel isolated in one’s outlook

At the same time, arguing and debating so much is great for sharpening one’s own reasoning skills, and frustration can often feed and strengthen one’s sense of inner drive

It can also be psychologically exhausting – I hope you’re also seeking other outlets, other responses to your storytelling, from different perspectives – friends, teachers, classmates – it can be reassuring if you also have feedback from people who share some of these concerns you’re voicing