Does children's programming lack strong female characters? Jo Swinson, a member of British Parliament, thinks so.
Swinson, a Liberal Democrat who has stressed the importance of body image education and spoken out against airbrushing in women's magazines, is now taking children's television producers and broadcasters to task.
Swinson is accusing programmers of stunting the self-confidence of young girls with an overabundance of pink and princess-like characters, The Independent reports.
She backed up her claims with a study from 2007 that showed almost two thirds of lead characters on children's television in the UK were male.
"It's a pretty unequal state of affairs," she told the Daily Mail. "A lot of children spend many hours watching children's TV and take many messages from it subconsciously about the way the world works. It gives them the message that boys and men are in charge and women are in a supporting role."
Swinson cited the Nickelodeon character Dora of the cartoon Dora the Explorer as a rare example of a "normal" girl who engages in adventures and fun, rather than just trying to be pretty.
Of course Swinson isn't the first person in a position of influence to publicly question how children's shows portray girls. One of the issue's most vocal advocates is actress Geena Davis, who launched the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media in 2004 after watching television with her daughter and noticing very few strong female characters.
Earlier this month, Davis joined Sen. Kay Hagan and Rep. Tammy Baldwin in Washington to lobby for The Healthy Media Youth Act, a bill that would provide funding for research on how depictions of women in the media affect children and establish a National Taskforce on Women and Girls in the Media that would develop standards that promote positive images of women in the media, Reuters reported.
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