Friday, May 16, 2008

What Is Children's TV Teaching Young People About Gender?

Many of my fellow bloggers and I have been more than taken aback by the level of overt misogyny that surfaced during the Democratic Presidential Primary race. However, after reading
Ammu Joseph's, article for Women in Media and News (WIMN) maybe we shouldn't have been.

Is it possible that the "baby boomers" have actually raised a generation that has a harder time accepting a women in a leadership role than they did?

In her article "The Stories That Children Are Watching", Ms. Joseph reports:

In the largest-ever detailed analysis of children’s television worldwide, researchers based in different parts of the globe tracked gender representation in nearly 20,000 fictional programmes from 24 countries. According to the international, scholarly team led by Dr. Maya Götz, who heads the Munich-based Internationales Zentralinstitut fur das Jugend und Bildungsfernsehen (IZI) and Prix Jeunesse International, the results show under-representation and stereotypical depiction of female characters across the world.

Studies of children’s television in the United States of America and Germany (”The main characters of German children’s TV,” Maya Götz, 2006) have already established gender imbalances and stereotypes within the national context of those countries.

Close scrutiny of over 26,000 fictional characters revealed certain clear trends. For example, there are twice as many boys as girls on children’s television across the world:

• Only 32% of all main characters on children’s TV are female, while 68% are male

• In animation programmes, the imbalance is even greater: 87% males and 13% females — especially in shows featuring animals as main characters

The demographic reality of 51% females to 49% males in the world population is obviously not represented on children’s television.

Another trend concerns race/ethnicity: the majority of heroes and heroines in children’s television is white. In their analysis of the skin colour of the nearly 15,000 human characters included in the study, researchers found that 72% were Caucasian (white). Only 12% had what could be viewed as Asian physical traits, 6% were black and 3% could be classified as Latina/o.

Interestingly, women/girls seem to be represented as Asians, Africans or Latinas more often then men/boys.

Clearly Senator Hillary Clinton found more support among older women than their younger counterparts. Given the fact that Senator Clinton and Senator Obama's voting records are, for the most part, identical what was the deciding factor for younger voters? It would make an interesting study.

Just one more thing to consider when analyzing those election demographics.

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