Why women can’t vote with their dollars in film and TV

1226006_moneyUPDATED: Chris Buchanan’s opinion on Firefly’s cancellation.

I’ve talked before about the film/tv industry’s standard rhetoric for why they can’t make shows and movies women want to see: that women are hard to influence through commercials, so why waste your advertising dollar chasing them when young men will buy anything? Sounds sensible, if it’s true. But is it? Let’s look at this alternative view offered by a 1999 article from the Village Voice, on the spending habits of ad agencies buying TV spots:

All that cash buys “eyeballs”””or viewers. But not all eyes are equal, at least not to the mavens of the marketing game. Networks charge far more for men’s eyeballs than for women’s, especially when it comes to prime-time shows. “This year, you could reach a thousand guys, 18 to 34, on a minute of network prime time, for 60 bucks,” says Erwin Effron, a leading ad-industry researcher. “Women of the same age group would cost you $47.”

This gender gap may seem unfair to women who were raised to believe “You’ve come a long way, baby.” But it stems from the conventional ad-agency wisdom that women are easy. “More women watch television, and more are available in prime time,” says Peter Chrisanthopoulos, president of broadcasting and programming at Ogilvy & Mather, “and that impacts on the cost to reach them.”

“Conventional ad-agency widsom.” Isn’t “conventional wisdom” a term for ideas that have been handed down from generation to generation for so long no one knows the logic behind them anymore? And the bottom line from the Village Voice article:

“TV is, after all, a group activity,” says James Webster, a professor of communications at Northwestern University, “and along the lines that girls will play with GI Joes but boys don’t play with Barbie, you find that women will watch what men want to watch.”

It’s not hard to read between the lines: if we don’t watch male programming, our tastes won’t be allowed to influence those shows. But if we do watch male programming, our tastes still won’t be allowed to influence those shows. The industry blindly accepts “conventional wisdom” as fact, and since no properly interpreted data can indicate something which contradicts fact, they find ways to interpret the data that fit these “facts”. But that’s where they’ve gone off the rails. Gravity is a fact. “Women don’t like sci-fi, but will watch it for their boyfriends” is not a fact. It’s a supposition, and one I think you’d be hard-pressed to prove with anything resembling a well-constructed study.

Here are some examples of the phenomenon that I’ve thought of. If you can think of other shows that were canceled for suspicious-sounding reasons, or movies that supposedly didn’t appeal to one gender but were beloved by every member of that gender you know, please add them in the comments. I want to see how many we can come up with.

  1. When women dropped over half a billion to see Titanic, frequently citing Kate Winslet and/or her character as their reason (and the special effects in more than a few cases), it was dismissed as a fluke. The biggest gross-earner of all time, and we’re not allowed to learn anything from its success because it was just a fluke. And why was it a fluke? Uh, something about when it was released, and what else was out, and er, stuff. Conventional wisdom. Don’t question it.
  2. When huge numbers of women attended the Matrix movies, the industry refused to accept this as proof that women liked action movies, sci-fi, a kick-ass female lead who sometimes rescues the guys, or lots of guns. Or even gawking at Keanu Reeves. Nope, it had to be that we were attending with boyfriends, husbands and male friends – thus proving once more that only men determine the success of a movie, and women’s tastes can safely be ignored without anyone being accused of prejudice.
  3. When Firefly proved more popular with women than men, that should’ve helped industry pros alerted by the appeal to women of Titanic and the Matrix movies narrow down just what it was we were digging: that we love special effects and action as much as men, if you just give us at least one relatable female character. Instead, it was recognized as “proof” that Firefly wasn’t cutting it as an action series and needed to be axed.
  4. When Buffy the Vampire Slayer drew plenty of male viewers (7 men to every 10 women), it should’ve proven that guys will indeed watch female action heroes. But instead, the fact that the show targeted female viewers put it right out of the running for any consideration about male viewing habits. Which is kind of like saying if a non-Christian kid chooses to go to a private Christian school because it’s providing a better education than the public schools in his area, his choice and its results don’t merit consideration because the school was targeting Christians.

Got any others?

Comments

  1. sbg says

    Got any others?

    No, because I’m too busy spluttering over the “women will watch what men want to watch” bullshit.

  2. Jennifer Kesler says

    I’m sure some do, unfortunately. Girls in my mom’s generation were trained thoroughly: “Let him watch what he wants on TV, fix him what he wants for dinner, or he’ll leave you.”

    But that trend – which is changing rapidly and greatly – got distilled into, “Men are remote control hogs and women don’t care what they watch, which means women aren’t paying enough attention to commercials.”

    It was all based on a cultural paradigm (“conventional wisdom”) that’s shifting, and most people in the business don’t seem to realize it.

  3. scarlett says

    To me, this goes beyond just ‘men want to be in charge’ into the real of sheer stupidity. As I said in a similar-themed post, ignoring HALF AN ADVERISING AUDIENCE/PAYING AUDIENCE is stupid, and women have proven with the cosmetics, haircare, fashion industry etc they are perfectly willing to part with their money for products that appeal to them.

    Funnily enough, I first got into action and scifi through the boy, although I’m now definitely the bigger fan. Although I was always kind of a latent fan – I loved the Alien and terminator series because of Ripley and Sarah Conner.

    I first saw Titanic in my mid-teens, largely because of Leo and the huge hype surrounding the movie, and to be fair, I don’t think I different much from my age group ;p. But I watched the movie recently on TV and thought ‘Christ, he’s a boring character; great performances from Kate Winslet and Francis McDormand’.

    And incidentally, if women collectively lost their heads over Leo and plonked down a good billion dollars worldwide (it grossed 1.8 worldwide, and I’d assume at least half the audience was women), then how come every movie he’s done since – with the exception of one with Tom Hanks – has brough back box office which ranges from ‘disapointing’ to ‘disasterous’? Could it be that women WON’T part with money for a crap product, even if they wrap it up in eye candy?

  4. Jennifer Kesler says

    Hey, *I* made the point about none of Leo’s other movies justifying the assumption that women paid that much money just to see him. :D

    I got into sci-fi all by myself when I saw my first SW movie (which was actually Empire) as a kid. I never saw Titanic because I despise James Cameron’s work, I don’t care about sinking ships, I’m not into special effects for the sake of special effects, and romance bores me senseless.

  5. Jennifer Kesler says

    That conditioning – girls like X, boys like Y – begins with toy commercials. Well, I guess for a lot of people it begins at home, but I meant in terms of media. Toy commercials are about as sexist as it gets.

    Like you, I was never encouraged to like girly stuff and reject boy stuff. I was allowed to like what I liked. Even so, a lot of messages came through loud and clear from the outside world, and most of the girls I grew up with seemed to internalize those messages, and so I got a lot of rejection from other kids because I didn’t fit into their narrow concept of who I should be.

  6. scarlett says

    the Boy got me onto Stargate, which led me to BsG (although my that point, I was the bigger scifi fan) but growing up, I watched X-Files and Roswell. I guess I was about twelve when I first got interested in scifi.

    Yeah, you got me thinking about how flawed the logic of ‘women paid all that money to see leo’ is, because the only other commercial success he had was Catch Me if You Can. Come to think of it, I’m interested in the demographics of Catch Me and how many women saw even that movie for leo :p

    I’m not fussed on Titanic or True Lies, but I really enjoyed the Terminator movies – actually, I thought T3 was really missing Cameron’s touch.

  7. Jennifer Kesler says

    I’ve really heard very few women go ga-ga over Leo. Which is why I doubted the industry’s conclusion that women saw Titanic for him. There are a number of actors who DO pull women into theaters, but ironically the industry seems blind when women go for a man they didn’t market to us as a heartthrob. As Nialla mentioned elsewhere, Michael Biehn is someone who has devoted female admirers, despite never having really been THE lead in a movie of much note.

    Don’t take my issues with Cameron too seriously; he’s just another one of those filmmakers I liked much better BEFORE he had unlimited budgets and prestige with which to work. But he’s definitely made some good films, and heck, there was a documentary about Exodus I saw a few weeks ago that turned out to be made by him, and it was quite entertaining (no idea about the accuracy, but very interesting).

  8. MaggieCat says

    I have trouble even wrapping my mind around the concept that men are supposed to like one sort of movie and women are supposed to watch another, and I think it’s because of the way I was raised. My parents never tried to make me pick how to be as a child, I had Barbies and the toy toolbench. My mother is the one who introduced me to the wonder that is a well choreographed car chase and nifty explosions, and the first real (non-Disney) movie I remember seeing in the theatre was a Tom Hanks comedy that my dad took me to see. Everyone watched and read sci-fi. Since I believe it started fairly early for me, I find it depressing that kid’s entertainment today is so blah; She-Ra was an amazingly well adjusted role model, especially compared to the Disney Princesses line I keep seeing ads for. (Blech.) It just raises girls who don’t expect anything better.

    Even after I got older it was my male friends who told me to give Buffy a chance, and at least one of them told me that my hatred of anything connected to Julia Roberts was a wee bit extreme, although I haven’t really relented on that last one yet. (To be fair, I was actually pleasantly surprised that her character in Runaway Bride held up pretty well under analysis. Although I’d appreciate it if they’d stop casting actors I love in supporting roles in her films, so I could go back to ignoring them. Wildly off topic, I know.) The movie topics I’ve talked about with my female friends lately? Deep Blue Sea (super smart sharks attacking an underwater research lab, if everyone else has forgotten it). Quentin Tarantino. Whether or not the presence of Kate Winslet and Patricia Clarkson outweighs the so-so reviews of All the King’s Men. That last one?

    Could it be that women WON’T part with money for a crap product, even if they wrap it up in eye candy?

    I think that’s probably got something to do with it. I’ve noticed that my guy friends are more likely to get excited about a movie before it comes out and run out to see it, whereas women seem to be more swayed by whether or not other people liked it. I know that if I’ve heard nothing but bad or ‘meh’ opinions I usually wait for it to hit DVD or cable.

  9. SunlessNick says

    I loved the [Terminator] series because of [Sarah Connor]

    All of my male friends would have given Terminator 3 a chance if it had lacked the “Arnie” model of Terminator. None of them gave it a chance after learning it would lack Sarah Connor (I did because my Mum bought it for me).

  10. scarlett says

    I hadn’t thought of it like that, but it may have been the lack of Linda Hamilton that made the third movie blah rather then the lack of James Cameron.

  11. says

    I remember as a kid, someone told me legos and linkin logs were boy’s toys. That’s when I started identifying as a “tomboy” type of girl and rejecting the Pink Aisle at the toy store.

    I still liked to fix up Barbie’s hair, but I was embarassed to let any of my friends know.

  12. says

    (Sorry, hit the “Add” button too soon.)

    Anyway, this could be either good or bad, depending on how you look at it. A rerelease of She-Ra could mean they think there’s a renewed interest in action cartoons for little girls (on the heels of Powerpuff Girls popularity?) but I’ve only seen it advertised in one place, and I have to search again to find where.

  13. scarlett says

    I was fifteen when Titanic came out, so I think it was largely girls around my age who really saw the movie just for Leo. I don’t think this made a huge impact on the box office – these were the same girls who saw Romeo and Juliet just for Leo, and that did about $40mil in the US- in short, teenage girls may have contributed SOMETHING towards the film’s success, but they were far from entirely responsible for it.

  14. Patrick says

    Growing up, it was my experience that She-Ra was just as popular with boys as He-Man was, and vice-versa. So my guess is that even as kids people go for quality regardless of gender.

    (Must remember to pre-order She-Ra. Soon my collection will be complete.)

    Patrick

  15. MaggieCat says

    Amazon has it available for pre-order! Which is just fabulous. :-) Weirdly, the way the show was created isn’t a bad way to end up with both good characters and a show that appeals to a wide audience: it was developed to attract the little girls who weren’t interested in He-Man (Hey! Acknowledging an underserved audience- what a novel idea!) but then they decided to ditch the idea of the main villan being another woman who was just jealous (thank you PTB) and try and attract boys by bringing in Hordak and the Evil Horde. So they ended up with the majority of the good guys being female (and all very different types at that) and regularly kicking the asses of male villans. And I remember my cousin watching it too because the first episode had He-Man in it and he got hooked, I doubt he was the only one.

    I know so many women my age who LOVED that show (my mother even remembers it fondly) and have now grown into adults who watch the same action/sci fi/fantasy genres on a bigger scale. But now we get ignored. The toy industry may be aggressive, but at least they identify and try to please their customers, rather than giving up millions of dollars just for lack of a little effort.

  16. Revena says

    That was my experience, as well, except that I rejected Barbies utterly as a kid. My brother and I were all about the lego and the plastic dinosaurs.

    Of course, these days I own tons of Barbies, but I figure that’s ok as long as I’m arming them as often as I dress them up in fancy ballgowns… ;-)

  17. Jennifer Kesler says

    Anybody want to write a review of She-Ra? I’d do it but I never watched it (or any other cartoons, really.

  18. SunlessNick says

    I think so; she was the core. The first film invades a safe (relatively) world with an unimaginable horror in which the only character from that world is destined to play a critical part – the world is invaded not only by all the killing, but by its role as the real world being taken away – the Terminator is coming for Sarah not because of the life she knows, but because of a life outside it, making the horror the real world. (One reason I regard the Terminator as much as a horror film as a science fiction one).

    In the second film, we – the audience – know the horror. We’ve become natives to it, as has Sarah. John used to be as well, but turned away from it, making his life another invaded one – but that’s a position we’ve moved on from – we’re where Sarah is.

    In the third film, we’re still natives, but John has – again – turned away from it (understandable, with its apparent prevention, but…). But his position is again at odds with our own as the audience. Katherine’s even more so, as she’s back where Sarah was in film one.

    [As an aside, I wonder if this is why horror franchises have a tendency to drift into enlarging the role of the monster-characters, and "cooling them up" since they are the only characters as experienced as the audience in the films' reality]

    But for me, Sarah was the character I identified with in both the first and second films; and the third film suffered from a huge Sarah-shaped hole.

  19. SunlessNick says

    On a different point to my other reply, Sarah Connor also puts the lie to another assumption common to studios: just as female viewers are quite happy to watch good action adventure because they like it, male viewers are quite capable of admiring and identifying with a female action hero, and holding her up as a role model.

  20. Patrick says

    This was definitely the case for me. One of the things that made the two Cameron films great was the shifting question of “who is the hero?” T2 finally establishes both Sarah and the T-800 equally as heroes as they act together to finally prevent Skynet’s creation. T3, on the other hand, just gives us pretty straightforward “reluctant hero” narrative as we wait for John to get off his ass.

    Patrick

  21. Jennifer Kesler says

    I’ve known a few men whom I could believe supports the industry theory that men refuse to identify with women or girls as heroes. But the majority of guys I’ve known don’t really think too much about the gender of the characters – it’s just whether or not they like/care about the character enough to enjoy the movie or show.

    Which is how your comments and Nick’s sound.

  22. sbg says

    I played with Barbies (fake Barbies – we were po’) and Matchbox cars and Lincoln Logs and Cabbage Patch dolls (fake ones – heh) and GI Joes and…

    And so did my younger brother. Of course, the kid was surrounded by girls. He was the only of the younger half of my family who was male. Still, it didn’t make him grow up to be less of a manly man. ;)

  23. Patrick says

    Exactly. I’ve never had trouble identifying with female leads. The idea of men who can’t identify with female leads is rather scary.

    Patrick

  24. Jennifer Kesler says

    Well, it was a very popular attitude in the area where I grew up. Actually, a lot of very strange attitudes were common there: being nice to women was “gay”. Understanding women and giving them what they wanted in order to seduce them was “gay”. Identifying with women characters was “gay”, too. It made a man into a woman, they felt. Real men, they claimed, sat around farting, watching Rambo, and telling jokes about rape, and women just magically appeared to love and adore them and put up with whatever they dished out.

    Sadly, I spent my childhood thinking that’s how men were. After all, whenever I asked them the logic of their assumptions, they just laughed and assured me men were pigs. Straight from the horse’s mouth. I was quite surprised to get out into other regions and learn that most men were a lot more… well, human.

    Culturally, that area doesn’t represent the entire US. But they have an awful lot of Neilssen boxes in their homes for some reason. And in the past 20 years, they’ve produced a number of influential Congressmen, and there I agree with you: that is scary.

  25. Sparkle says

    I also agree with the first comment its not right for me to do all this for this man and sitting on his lazy behind with his feets up.. he better get his lazy behind and cook,clean, and whatever else and if I am working he better not dare tell me what I can and cant watch on t.v is he trippin…

  26. says

    Late to the discussion, I know–but it’s worth continuing at any time.

    Anyway, to generalize from other forms of pop culture, I have been thinking about the success of Twilight and the fact that young adult fiction–largely driven by female readers–is the only part of publishing that isn’t in the toilet right now.

    Also thinking about the hugeness of Hanna Montana, and the way the ‘tween market was discovered as a force to be reckoned with and cultivated. We have Britney Spears because 15 years ago some execs at MTV got their hands on studies showing that 13-year-old girls had a lot of disposable income, and very little was being marketed to them. It was a fortune waiting to be made and deposited in someone’s bank account.

    in the first comment, sbg writes that she is “busy spluttering over the ‘women will watch what men want to watch’ bullshit.” Isn’t that one point of a standard education in the US–to teach girls to watch (or read, or listen to) and appreciate whatever guys prefer? We’ve probably all seen studied showing that works by white men are taught with more frequency in public schools than works by women or people of color. And works by white men (Great Gatsby, Scarlet Letter, Catcher in the Rye, etc) have, we are taught “universal” themes, while works by women are about what it means not to be male (and therefore excluded from what is “universal”), and works by people of color are about what it means not to be white (and therefore excluded from what is “universal”).

    So part of what interests and frustrates me in all this is how female tastes and interests can be catered to (if not respected) when we’re prepubescent or barely pubescent, but when we’re grownups, our tastes don’t matter nearly as much.

  27. Ikkin says

    Isn’t that one point of a standard education in the US–to teach girls to watch (or read, or listen to) and appreciate whatever guys prefer?

    Is it really so much what guys prefer, or what the literary establishment prefers? I suppose I’m assuming that we’re talking about English classes and not something else, but I’d be surprised if boys react more favorably to the books chosen for classes than girls. Plus, there’s the fact that assignment tends to breed contempt, which makes it almost impossible to train tastes (how many people come out of school with an appreciation for the classics, really?).

    Which isn’t, of course, to say there isn’t a problem, just that I don’t see a conscious attempt being made to make girls like the things boys like. The tendency to insist that the themes of works by minorities/women mustn’t universal seems more intentional, though they probably think that a lack of such themes in those writings means that the author is trying to cover up their own treatment.

    So part of what interests and frustrates me in all this is how female tastes and interests can be catered to (if not respected) when we’re prepubescent or barely pubescent, but when we’re grownups, our tastes don’t matter nearly as much.

    There’s actually a pretty simple reason here. Tweens/young adults aren’t yet married, and therefore get to decide what to do with their money and television. Not that it makes all too much sense to assume that a married woman would have less control over those things.

  28. says

    Ikkin, if you follow the links at the bottom of this post:

    http://thehathorlegacy.com/getting-started-with-the-hathor-legacy/

    You’ll find that the Wall Street Journal and Business Week both believe that women of all ages are involved in 80% of all purchases in the US. If they’re not spending their own money, they’re managing the family budget. Or both. And they have input into how their families spend, etc. They question what the hell marketers are thinking in assuming men of any age are where the dollars are.

    Re: the discussion about whether girls are pressured to like what boys like, or it’s just about the establishment’s preference. It’s more that we are all trained to see white straight men as the default human being, and the rest of ourselves as “niches” – and therefore the white straight man’s preferences are central to our culture, while everyone else’s are fringe. Once you accept that, it’s not offensive to hear commercials clearly addressing white straight men rather than you. You don’t wonder why The Grapes of Wrath is considered more important in mainstream literature than The Color Purple – you intuitively get that it’s closer to the white straight male experience, and that’s why. And -perhaps the most interesting example of all, in my mind – you get why it’s always women who are naked on camera instead of men. Men might feel threatened by some actor’s hot bod, and men aren’t supposed to feel threatened. Women are, which is why it’s okay that we see actresses naked on screen and compare our bodies to theirs and come up wanting, and feel people are justified in thinking less of us for how we look.

    That’s how we’re all trained to see the world: as something by, for and about white straight men, in which the rest of us are just along for the ride, and lucky to be allowed in their world. I’m not sure whether this translates so much to “making girls like what boys like” as “making girls accept that what girls like doesn’t matter, but everyone should be fluent in what boys like so as to impress them” – and it’s a very fine distinction either way. But it makes for great discussion. :D

  29. says

    Is it really so much what guys prefer, or what the literary establishment prefers? I suppose I’m assuming that we’re talking about English classes and not something else, but I’d be surprised if boys react more favorably to the books chosen for classes than girls. Plus, there’s the fact that assignment tends to breed contempt, which makes it almost impossible to train tastes (how many people come out of school with an appreciation for the classics, really?).

    First of all, the literary establishment is still dominated by white men–some of whom actually liked to read when they were young. But perhaps I should have used the terms “women” and “men” instead of “girls” and “guys,” because I can look at my own life and admit that if I had worried about what the guys I went to high school with liked, I wouldn’t have read a damn thing.

    But I remember very clearly getting a list as a junior in high school of the books I needed to read before I got to college–and almost all of them were by white men.
    And one point of my education up to that time had been to make me understand why those great books were necessary to my education.

    The fact that something is an assignment does not necessarily mean that contempt is bred for it. The trick is learning to pick books students might actually like. Teachers who really care about that get good at it. It’s really rewarding to have students tell you that they love a book you assigned them–and that does happen, even with freshman in high school. I have taught literature courses at a variety of schools, including a few universities as well as a high school on a remote Apache Indian reservation where 99.9% of the students were Apache.

    To illustrate the point I was making about the presumed–and reinforced–“universality” and “superiority” of works by white men, I’ll tell you that in a senior English class I taught at that high school on the rez, I assigned three books: “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven” by Sherman Alexie, a Spokane/Coeur D’Alene Indian; “Ceremony” by Leslie Marmon Silko, who’s Laguna Pueblo; and “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien, a white guy and Vietnam vet who writes a lot about VN.

    And what did the students like best? That’s right: “The Things They Carried,” by the white guy. It was edgy and about war and made the most sense in terms of the movies they watched. They liked Alexie OK, but his work wasn’t as edgy as O’Brien’s. They were kind of bored by Silko, despite the fact that of all the writers, culturally her background was closest to theirs. But her work wasn’t what was reinforced by the larger culture (movies and tv and everything else) of the society they lived in.

    I will say that I think TTTC is a great book, but so is Ceremony. I was disappointed that my students didn’t like it more, but it wasn’t the fact that it was assigned that turned them off–it was that it worked really hard to repudiate and challenge white hegemony.

  30. says

    I suppose I’m assuming that we’re talking about English classes and not something else,

    I also want to clarify this: I’m talking about pretty much the entirety of an education, including science classes stressing the achievements of male scientists, music classes where students learn to play primarily works written by male musicians, and history classes where the actions and ideas and concerns of men get most of the attention–but women are supposed to read it anyway. In “Northanger Abbey,” the heroine Catherine Morland demonstrates her immaturity (and Jane Austen’s wicked sense of humor) by telling the hero that when it comes to “history, real solemn history, I cannot be interested in… I read it a little as a duty, but it tells me nothing that does not either vex or weary me. The quarrels of popes and kings, with wars or pestilences, in every page; the men all so good for nothing, and hardly any women at all – it is very tiresome.”

    And let’s not forget extra-curricular activities. The whole reason Title IX was necessary was because men’s and boys sports at colleges and high schools got all the funding, and women’s sports got diddly squat. I like “Friday Night Lights”–the characters are interesting, the narrative compelling–but it still sickens to me see how everyone just accepts that football is so much more important than anything girls could ever do. Those players are fawned over by the cheerleaders and the rally girls (or whatever they’re called) who bake for them and do their homework and (in some cases) provide them sexual gratification–and the male athletes accept all the favors adoration from girls as their due.

    It’s pretty explicit: boys do things that earn them glory, and girls cheer them on and serve them as they do it.

    No sensible girl would accept that as the status quo if there weren’t so much pressure brought to bear to ensure that she and all other girls accept it. That’s what I mean when I say that “one point of a standard education in the US [is] to teach girls to watch (or read, or listen to) and appreciate whatever guys prefer.”

    Maybe I’m jaded, but it seems a pretty obvious proposition to me.

    I’m just glad that from time to time, the education fails, and the occasional subversive idea–like the notion that girls have better things to do with their time than make cupcakes for football players–gets into circulation.

  31. Karakuri says

    I can relate so much to what’s been said here, I was a tomboy growing up and I was always too embarrassed to admit I liked something that was “for girls”. I remember getting really mad once when my family teased me for watching Charmed, and my mum said to my brother it was “just a girl’s show and must be boring for him” or something like that. I felt demeaned just for being associated with a so-called “girls’ show”, though I never felt that way back when I watched it with my dad, because his watching it made it automatically “right” for me to watch too.

    I also found when I didn’t like something in a movie or book because of its assumptions about gender or complete lack of interest to women, I would shut up and /try/ to appreciate the work as wholeheartedly as my brother or other guys did, and always had this feeling that if I didn’t, I was somehow wrong, couldn’t appreciate complex works of art, or a raging bitter feminist.

  32. Alice says

    Ooh.. you know what, I don’t agree. It’s not about “men watch X, women watch Y”. It’s about “Movie X is targeted at men, but women might also like it – and it’s okay for them to do so” but “Movie Y is targeted at women, and there is NO WAY men will want to go see that unless they’re being dragged there by their girlfriends or something”.

    The point is, male-oriented themes are often considered “neutral” in our society. What’s okay for men to like is okay for women, but not vice versa. Therefore when a studio releases an explicitly female-oriented film, they lose HALF of their potential viewership. It’s the same reason studios try to have lower ratings (e.g. PG-13 rather than R) – in order to keep the potential pool of “eyeballs” as wide as possible.

  33. says

    We went shopping yesterday, and my 3 year old son was allowed to pick out a couple toys. He picked himself out a barbie doll and a matchbox car. Both were brightly colored and had sparkles. And perhaps the major deciding factor was – neither his father or myself gave any indications of disapproval of his choice.

    Now, had his father gone to pick up a toy for him, he probably would have picked out the GI Joe, or the cowboy outfit, or something suitably ‘masculine’. I’d have gotten him Legos, because, um… LEGOS!

    But when allowed to choose on his own, he chose purely based on the fact that his favorite colors are red and orange. He plays just as happily with barbie as he does with his stuffed bear dressed in army fatigues. Barbie is currently tooling around the house in a model John Deere tractor while wearing her red ball gown, with a T-Rex riding with her. They seem to be fleeing the triceratops and Curious George doll whenever they aren’t retrieving alphabet magnets. I’m not sure where the matchbox car went, I’ll probably step on it at some point.

    Kids are kids.

    • SarahSyna says

      My little cousin is much the same, GardenGoblin. When given the chance to pick his own toys he chose a Polly Pocket. The Polly Pocket is now named Princess because he liked the film ‘The Little Princess’ and thought that Princess was the character’s name. It goes around the house with three fairies named Cherla, Strawla and Flowerla in a big armyesque jeep, and I’m fairly sure there’s a decent amount of terrorising going on.

      It’s the sweetest thing I’ve ever seen (and he’s the dotiest little boy I’ve ever met), but everyone keeps making jokes about it, that he’s got ‘a touch of the fey about him’ and that he’ll soon give it up when he goes to school.

      • The Other Patrick says

        And he probably will because at school, a boy liking princesses will be relentlessly confronted with behavior that suggests he is wrong or freakish.

      • Patrick McGraw says

        My nephew Tristan was overjoyed at getting an Easy-Bake Oven for Christmas last year. He was glad that we found one that didn’t have sparkles or hearts all over it, but said that was because real ovens don’t have sparkles.

      • says

        …and when given the chance to pick my own toys, I wanted toy guns and toy jewelry. :D

        I think kids are pretty androgynous, and attracted to things that sparkle or go boom. I never really grew out of that, actually – I was labeled a “freak” for so many reasons, it wouldn’t have helped my social standing to be more girly, so I didn’t bother. :D

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