Cartoons stereotype women too

By: Sally Gao

One of the easiest places to find stereotypical women is in cartoons.

It’s hard to find women featured in them in the first place, but when they are, they’re portrayed as weak, vulnerable or subservient. From Disney movies to comics to cartoon shows, the media’s construction of women is everywhere. And they paint an unrealistic picture of who they are in general.

Even from the early to mid 1900s, female Disney cartoon characters are mere objects of affection. They are usually helpless when it comes to defending themselves. Sometimes they are nothing more than just decoration. Many of the Disney women have stereotypical female roles like the housemaid. In most instances, however, they don’t have any role but to support the leading male characters. Most of them are written as princesses who need to be saved from the “wicked witch” and then who fall in love with the handsome prince. It’s very rare to see women take charge in Disney films, with the exception of Mulan (1998).

The illustration of Disney female characters is also cliché. For example, in Aladdin (1992), Princess Jasmine has a typical slim body with defined curves and a tiny waist. Her arms and legs are so thin they could hardly be distinguished from each other. These elements further girls’ insecurity about their body image. And they are also not reflective of real life.

Nonetheless, women are not treated much different in comics, either. In fact, they also need rescuing and it’s often by a superhero. Some female comic characters may start off as being strong and independent but they soon become damsels in distress. (Hint: That’s when Superman comes flying with his cape.)  Whether it’s Batman, Spiderman or Superman, it’s always the men doing the saving and the women playing the victims. It seems like the female comic characters are vulnerable to danger and do not have the muscle power or brain power to protect themselves.

When women are the heroines, however, their bodies are sexualized. Lara Croft, for example, wears tight clothes that show off her long legs and defined waistline. Wonder Woman, on the other hand, is even more discrete. For her costume, she wears a sleeveless garment baring her cleavage and a pair of thigh-high shorts. Both female characters wear very sensual clothing and their attractiveness is more prominent than their other characteristics.

And finally, television cartoons also stereotype women. In fact, they make women look powerless. They are usually written as housewives or stay-at-home moms. In The Flintstones, for example, Wilma is a housecleaning and cooking wife. She is obedient and serves her husband. Similarly, in The Simpsons, Marge is a stay-at-home mom who looks after her two kids while her husband goes out to work. This delivers a message that women’s place is in the home.

Some other cartoon shows over feminize women, however. Two characters, Jessica Rabbit and Betty Boop, are prime examples of stereotypically feminine women. They have full figures with big chests and they wear red lipstick. Their seductiveness makes them desirable to men and above all, makes them subservient.

Overall, this negative portrayal of women in cartoons furthers gender inequality. And it’s about time this type of stereotyping stopped so children will no longer be misinformed about gender roles. After all, women are much tougher, stronger and more independent than ever now.


22 thoughts on “Cartoons stereotype women too

  1. What about Tank Girl, who is as sexualized or un-sexualized as she wants to be in both the comics and the movie? Not to mention how powerful and confident she is all the way through. Or Lisa Simpson? When The Simpsons began Marge was taking on a traditional, accessible role, not an anti-woman role – and she’s juxtaposed by Lisa, the smartest, most hard working, most moral and creative character in the series.

    You’re focusing on the most obvious, most out of date examples possible. There are so many current movies, cartoons and comics that show women as both realistic and exceptional. It’s no use to complain about the past when there’s an opportunity to bring the positives of the present to light.

    See Ross Cambell’s “Water Baby” in comics, and in cartoons what about Daria? In princess films, Danielle in “Ever After” rescues herself just fine… Or the new “Frog Princess” movie by Disney (black, poor AND a self starter, hows that for feminism?).

    Sure they might not be as popular and obvious as Betty Boop (seriously, the 30’s?) but last I checked, drawing that necessary attention to them was YOUR job. You’re a writer. Write about something that matters and that we haven’t heard before.

  2. Most of those listed are quite old… Even Marge, of The Simpsons, is off a show that began airing in the 80’s. Yes, Marge is a housewife, but it’s pretty clearly by choice.

    If I was going to pick someone off the show to worry about, it’d be Edna Krabapple. She’s clearly an educated woman with a career, but the implication is that she’s bitter and alone. Typical portrayal of a women having to choose between a career or a family.

    As for Disney movies… you choose to attack Jasmine for being skinny? Legs so thin they’re barely distinguishable from her arms…ROFL! I’d like to see what pic you’re basing this on. I don’t remember there being a bikini scene, or did you forget the poofy wide-legged pants worn in the movie that conceal her leg size?

  3. In Aladdin, I thought Jasmine was pretty bad ass ditching the palace and all she’s been one of the few Disney princesses to make any attempt to control her life

    • I grew up in a rough neighborhood. I saw first hand the dentvaatisg effects guns played in the hands of children, gang members and criminals. Naturally, I left high school angry at the gun industry and in favor of the strictest gun control laws congress could legally pass.Today, I am still no fan of guns. I will probably never own one or even shoot one. But an argument was made that was so compelling that it changed my stance on gun control. Banning guns merely keeps them out of the hands of the good guys. Since when did criminals obey the law? They will get their guns, regardless of what bans are on the book. This leaves the innocent American defenseless against these thugs, and they know will know it. Let the citizens arm themselves, and you will have less crime. Statically this has been proven across the US.Finally, if anyone needs convincing on why the citizenry should have the right to arm themselves, look at Venezuela. At one time, it was a perfectly democratic country. After Chavez paid off the military and usurped power, the citizens were left with only sticks and stones to try and protest. May that never happen to the US.

    • Crystal For those of you who want time to read, it’s simple. Just give up mvioes and TV. Really. There has to be an obvious desire in an individual to actually pick up a book and read. Personally, I can’t stand what TV is all about today. For example, The Learning Channel (in Canada) use to have educational programming (remember Tom Selleck’s The Practical Guide to the Universe?). Now, it’s all about Kate and her 8, or Blushing Brides, or other garbage that TV executives are trying to pass of as informative’.Another beef is with Discovery Channel. Yet again, this was a channel that you could actual learn’ something from. Just recently, they started advertising yet another reality’ show called Sons of Guns, about a family that builds wait for it customized firearms! (WTF?)It’s funny how much I have missed out on when looking back on life in retrospect. I’m only 38, but I still regret not reading any Keats, or Tolstoy, or Dickens for that matter. My knowledge of scientific concepts and areas of knowledge, while in its infancy, is growing because of my thirst for knowledge.I’m trying my best to turn my kids to reading, as it is the only way (in my opinion) to get further in life. It’s a battle between me (dad) and the PS3, or online gaming, or television (children programming is quite the draw when it’s action packed).I’ve mentioned to my wife many times how much money we could save if we just eliminated our TV cable. We wouldn’t be missing much, that’s for sure.

    • Well, you must have forgot when I got shot not far from your house in that rough nehrbioghood we grew up in. Guns are a selfish way of imposing power that otherwise is lacking in another area of the persona. In my quest for knowledge, I know that by shooting someone is a cowardous act applicable only to the lack of proper brain function.Since you are a believer of Republican views, I’ll leave you with a quote of the father of the Republic party, Thomas Jefferson: Laws that forbid the carrying of arms disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve to encourage rather than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.

  4. Stereotypes of women appeared frequently in magazines such as Saturday Evening Post during the 1930s and 1940s. They declined in number after about 1950.

  5. i know right and they dont even make the dolls anny more the onley that they make dolls for are the disney pnciresses and like when hercules out agen i want them to make another megara doll same with atlantis kida and the hunchback […]

    • I do have the tapes, so I just watched the ctaroon on volume 1. I think the lightning is actually less striking (honestly, that wasn’t an intentional pun) on the tape than in the clip (altho it’s possible that’s due to me watching the entire ctaroon, and thus becoming more acclimated to ctaroon visuals before the lightning shows up), but it does look much better on the tape. My relative aesthetic opinion within the segment at issue remains unchanged tho; the lightning is one of the weakest visuals for me in that segment. And the lightning still doesn’t look very appealing to me (too hosey, I think; the things I dislike are much more evident in the clip than on tape, tho, except in the static bolt used as stairs where it’s actually not hosey but still aesthetically displeasing to me in both versions in more or less equal measures).

  6. Howdy would you mind sharing which blog platform you’re using? I’m going to
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    P.S Sorry for being off-topic but I had to ask!

  7. Pingback: Modern Family of the Past vs. Modern Family of the Present | Kaelen Smith

  8. Uh… Did you deliberately leave out Lisa Simpson because you thought she would disprove your point? Well, why not bring her up, so as to mention the positives about portrayals of women in cartoons, and possibly ask why we can’t have more characters like her?

    Also, there was a show on the Disney Channel called The Buzz on Maggie. It was about a preteen fly who was smart, spunky, and just liked doing her own thing. Of course, the show didn’t run very long and wasn’t popular, so I understand if you’ve never heard of it. But still, I thought that might be a good example of a well-written female character. And you know what? The show was created by a man, thus proving the whole “we don’t know how to write female characters” shtick utterly wrong.

    Anyway, that’s my two cents.

  9. Pingback:  WOMEN AND DIGITAL MEDIA – Class of '18

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