“THE PLACE OF A WOMAN IS IN THE KITCHEN” – PART II
…can take us to situations like the ones that gave me the idea for the title of this article. When I was a kid, I remember to listen to an old man saying to my grandmother that she should not be somewhere or doing something because her place, as a woman, it was in the kitchen. Almost 20 years passed, I still remember this moment. Why? Maybe because this moment turned into one of the most inexplicable questions of my childhood. In the beginning, my non-critical mind of a kid who understood those words as a lesson about society but, with the time passing, I realized how exposed and unready I was back in those days to filter the information. Now, the “non-elegant” answer of my grandmother makes a lot of sense… you rock, Grannie!
My easy acceptance of the old man’s idea about women it is a clear example of how children absorb the messages with stereotypes that bomb them every day. More than ever, their simple minds are in contact with the media and we must pay attention to it. The fictional realities they love to watch can be a strong weapon to make such ideas gain relevance turning it into basic elements of kid’s mindset. So, in this part let us analyze some movies and cartoons for kids that, clearly, took the gender stereotypes as inspiration.
- Princess or not, if you are born as women and you have to clean and cook!
As told in the commercials, the elaboration of characters is based on a reality. Clear or not, there is always a reflex of the author’s perspective of the world in the creations. Behind the purity of Disney Princesses or the power of some female Heroes, there is a dark reality that many women faced out of the screen: the “destiny” of being housekeepers, cookers and responsible for the children’s education and keeping the husband as the leader or the strength of the house.
We all know – and some of us love – Disney classics such as Cinderella and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. I am pretty sure that all of us saw them more than once during childhood but, sorry to inform, they are not as harmless as we think. Beautiful ladies, a hard story, some villains, tons of love and a huge palace… this is the cliché fairytale. Nothing against until you see this:
In this 50’s clip, we have an example of how women were screened in the classic movies of Disney! From different social status, all women are presented at home… Cinderella is responsible for the cleaning and the villain takes care of the children education. Can we see any man helping in the tasks? the Fairytale, I said…
More aggressive is the scenario in the Flintstones. Betty and Wilma, you do not have another choice instead of keeping your work as servants of your men. Keep the effectiveness and maybe, one day, Prince-like Cinderella’s can save you. Wow, the authors took the stone age too serious…. Unfortunately, there are much more cases: let us travel to Japan and to the Manga’s industry. Do you remember Doraemon and Shin Chan? If yes, do the effort and think about the mothers. The scenario is almost the same… women in the kitchen! The difference is: they can go further and portray all mothers as rude, aggressive and irritated beings. Well, this was what I thought about my mother (sorry, Mum!) when I was a kid and she was complaining about the rubbish I did. But, let us keep our attention in Doraemon.
Do you remember Shizuka? The smart, brilliant and active girl who the lazy Nobita always wanted to marry? (Marry? How old are you kid?). Well, once again, sorry to disappoint you but if you always imagined this character as a representation of women power, you should know that there is a moment where she can pull out of this idea. When someone asked her about her life goal she answered that she is dreaming about being a good wife and housekeeper for her family. Oh Shizuka, why? Of course, there is nothing wrong about this goal, but my concern is about the motivations that made the authors came up with, is in this very character. Suspicious, right?
Both Manga’s and Disney movies have, for sure, positive messages to pass to kids, but the representation of the sexist ideas as natural rules of society can improve the acceptance of such ideas in the minds of those who are still under construction. Many of them are also poisoned, not only with stereotypes but also with sexual messages that can boost the image of women as sexual objects for men. Let us see…
- You are female, you are sexy. Men want you!
She is young, she is pink, she is always using a short shirt and a white underwear. She is cute and of course, she is beautiful. She is… Babs Bunny! On the other side of rink… a blond and curvy creature. So sexy that people call her “Femme Fatale”. She has “the body”. We are talking about Melissa Duck! The last, but not the least, lets applause the sexiest cat alive. White as snow, she has the most beautiful eyes in the world. She rarely talks, but with her… no words needed. Take care because Toodles Galore just arrived!
Well, I must confess that was having fun writing this introduction, but this is much more serious than it looks. In front of us, we have three characters from three successful cartoons for kids. They were designed to be extremely attractive in order to engage with the male personage creating a love story in the animation. We can say that the way the authors found to give to the characters a love connection it is not…fair. The body language it is much more appealing compared with the psychological aspects of the female animals. For example, in Tom & Jerry, Toodles Galore has a very sexy attitude and during all the episodes she appears in, we can not listen to her saying anything. Is the silence so sexy?
Personally, I think all these sensual details in the characters bring an awkward approach when they are products for kids… but let us keep the focus on what these details can “teach”. This fictional reality based on image and easy going attitude of the female characters with the male ones can bring to the kid’s world the image of the women as an object that men can manipulate and get easily. It can show women as a very exposed and fragile to men’s decisions and reducing them to a world where their interests and knowledge are not valued. But these characters are not bad examples just because of that… they shape the image of a perfect girl. Let us talk about it because I really want to know what is the secret of perfection is.
- Are you looking for perfection? Call Disney.
Guys that are reading this article, you probably got disappointed when I told you the characters behind such descriptions were animals, but now we will analyze how some writers imagined the perfect princess. Ready? Try to not fall in love.
She is beautiful… with sweet and delicate traces. She is elegant and well dressed. She is tall – never more than the Prince, relax. When she talks, she is educated and polite. She dreams of beautiful dresses and a great Prince to share life. Oh… and she is not the top of intelligent – at least, she does not handle that much of challenges during her performance. Are you ready to guess which Disney Princess I am talking about? If you answered “almost all of them” you just turned into a millionaire!
Yeah, this is the general image I got after watching Disney movies of my generation (I am only 21 ok?). I am pretty sure that Disney Pixar productions just changed part of the scenario about the female stars of their movies, but this cannot fix the mistakes of the past. Millions of young adults were raised in a world where the beauty standards were very aggressive and our image of women was shaped even by the movies we saw. The patterns of elegance established in cartoons influenced the way I perceived women, including my mum…
Unfortunately, more than half of the products are full of examples of how this specific kind of image ended with “they were happy forever…” so it is super easy to find little girls dreaming with Princesses shapes in order to achieve the fairytale they saw screened. Do you think the content for kids really turn this fairytale into a thing that all girls can achieve? If yes, why the main dark or red-hair princess just appeared now?
The image of a bad dressed girl like Cinderella achieving the moment of glory just because of a spell that turned her into a beautiful lady or the brutality of the song about what men like in women of the next clip scares me…
… and really brings more than a beauty stereotype into kids minds. It brings a feeling of weakness and dependence associated with women in undirected ways: women are so dependent on men that, sometimes, they a need men’s kiss to wake up. They need a powerful Prince to change the jobs they hate and to give them the life they always dreamt about or, in extreme times, they need to change their appearance in order to find man’s love!
To be continued…
By Ricardo Leitão