Feminist regressives have been erasing influential female characters in artistic mediums for a while now. They first came for video games when they celebrated the the diversity of new characters presented at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in 2015. Even though as any gamer knows, there have always been a plethora of female stars—from Lara Croft to Jill Valentine.
Perhaps the most egregious example of this erasure happened with The Guardian’s publication of a piece that innocuously asks if women’s low self-esteem came from the formative years in their youth when they saw no strong women in literature.
The article’s writers Francesca Cavallo and Elena Favilli claim (wrongly enough) that strong role models for girls in children’s books are few and far between. Although the article even brings up characters like Pippi Longstocking and Matilda it still somehow manages to try to preface that argument.
The authors cite a 2011 study of gender stereotypes that surveyed a range of 6,000 children’s books published in the 20th century. Of the books surveyed, most of the books had at least one male character, but a quarter of them had no female characters. Another study cited by the authors claims that only 18.5% of cartoons have female characters with a “job or professional ambition.” Never mind that a character like Elmer Fudd has a “professional ambition,” (he’s a hunter) which raises questions about the veracity of the study.
The article singles out movies like Finding Nemo and Steven Spielberg’s ET to point out how girls who viewed them did not have a female character they could properly relate to. They reference these movies as if they exist in a vacuum, erasing every other piece of female-oriented media out there.
From Powerpuff Girls and Sailor Moon, to Labyrinth and Mulan, numerous cartoons, TV shows and movies oriented towards children have offered strong female role models. That’s to say nothing of teenage-oriented shows like Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or more adult-oriented fare like Aliens, Terminator 2, and Kill Bill. The list goes on.
The piece claims that Disney is finally attempting to “expand its horizons” with the new live-action Beauty and the Beast, as if the studio didn’t already do so with The Princess Diaries in 2001—let alone Mulan, Tangled, Brave, Frozen, and even The Aristocats, which was released in 1970.
The authors further claim that boys grow up identifying with a diverse range of characters—and that girls are forced to cross-identify with male heroes.
Moreover, even if this had any truth, it relies on a false pretense that boys can’t relate to girls and vice versa. Human experiences are largely shared between the genders; while each person has individual struggles, humanity at the core is intertwined.
Life lessons for boys and girls are mostly the same with a few outliers relating to their gender. This means that a girl watching Malcolm in the Middle is as likely to relate to Malcolm as a boy watching Sabrina the Teenage Witch is to relate to Sabrina. They both focus largely on the struggles of transitioning from kids to teenagers, the awkwardness of high school, and the fear of not being normal: one just uses magic while the other uses a high IQ. Their gender is mostly irrelevant.
That is not to say representation doesn’t matter, either. Clearly to some degree it does. Boys and girls should both see equality in the genders to realize they can do anything. But that actually already exists. To deny that is to deny the strides made decades ago–to ignore the actual progress that happened in the 70’s and 80’s for equality.
The only struggle that’s happening now is the struggle to comprehend how people can think that in 2017 women are still underrepresented in the media. We live in an age where Wonder Woman is coming out; where Jessica Jones thwarted an abusive ex-boyfriend’s plot to take over the world; and where people worship Daenerys in Game of Thrones. It’s time to stop erasing history to create false outrage.