November 11, 2010 / Opportunity

Slide Show: Where Are the Heroines?


Newsweek notes that the ladies are notably absent from hero stories. Women are primarily featured in “sexy, tight, alluring clothes (usually with exposed skin between mid-chest and upper thigh). Their most common occupation is being a royal, and their aspirations are limited almost exclusively to finding romance.”

This isn’t a question of feminism; it’s a question of role models. Hey animated Hollywood: Where my girls at?!

Says Newsweek:

For decades, the majority of female characters in cartoons and family films have been mostly stuck behind the macho lead, baring their midriffs and looking like Barbie dolls. At NEWSWEEK’s third annual Women and Leadership conference this year, the actress Geena Davis talked about the latest findings from her Institute on Gender in the Media, which was founded to reduce gender stereotyping in media aimed at kids 11 and under. Davis’s research shows that for every female character in a kids’ movie, there are three male characters.

Check out the slideshow here.

And look: Unbelievably it’s even true for anthropomorphized females!

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  • Henrietta

    Thanks for this article. It all about ruined my morning when I discovered via the slide show that you linked to that even “Coraline” by Neil Gaimon was ruined by Hollywood! Coraline saves herself in the book but in the Hollywood movie Coraline is saved by the Grandson. I don’t even recall there being a grandson character in the book.

    Hollywood has a deep, deep sickness. How to pressure Hollywood to hire 52 percent women actors, directors, producers, writers, etc! It really comes down to that.

  • yttik

    You know what really ticked me off? Horton Hears a Who. They added a sub-plot that isn’t even in the story, the Mayor of Whoville has 96 daughters and one son. Guess who saves the world and earns his father’s love? Go ahead, take a wild guess.

    For something totally different, a feel good show that portrays women and girls in a completely different setting, check out Sarah Palin’s Alaska this Sunday on TLC. Forget politics, it’s a travel adventure with spectacular scenery that just takes your breath away.

  • Bes

    I think the obvious conclusion is Hollywood CAN’T portray real women even if they wanted to and they obviously don’t want to. And it doesn’t help to put a Hollywood indoctrinated woman in charge of process, they are as heavily invested in Hollywood sexism as men. I am shocked that none of the Media Corporations has set up a separate woman’s concept development group which employs zero straight or gay men and doesn’t kow-tow to the beauty and fashion industry, so that they can have some content that the majority of audience(females) want to watch. But Corporate media has not accurately defined “women’s content” as having anything to do with a female audience and it’s needs, in their minds Women’s content is whatever men say it is when the only financially relevant definition of Women’s Content is “content women will pay to consume.” As Corporate Media loses their monopoly grip thanks to the internet, their lack of Content which appeals to women will be a huge handicap.

    So women have to stop waiting for Hollywood and men in general to meet their entertainment needs. We need to do it for ourselves and if that isn’t motivating we need to do it for our daughters.

  • Janis

    “Women’s content is whatever men say it is … ”

    It’s whatever they think will keep the women in their place. ANY idea that will cause one of their trophy wives to sit up a bit and say, “Hm, I haven’t thought of it that way … ” is to be destroyed while still in the shell.

  • Bes

    On sort of a related topic you know what amazes me the most? It is the lack of variation that men exhibit in the female characters they design. It is like it doesn’t matter what story you put into a male mind the women in it come out not only so simplified they aren’t even a reasonable facsimile but they are also pretty much identical. It doesn’t matter which male mind or how many male minds their brains seem to operate identically.

    Here is a laugh Judd Apatow is working on a show about 20 something women living in New York for HBO! So, by far more women graduate with writing degrees than men but somehow they need to hire a man to bring women characters to the screen. I guess female characters written by men are supposed to be something new, OR maybe they need a someone to string together their lingerie and body changing product placements into a show.

  • This is very, very sad!

  • Janis

    It is indeed. It’s like after Xena and Buffy, everyone just decided, “Well, that’s enough good, rich, clothed female characters for the next few decades, back to the bikini-clad rape-n-murder victims!”

  • Janis

    BTW, it’s fitting on Veteran’s Day — and on a post about female heroines — to keep women soldiers in mind.

    There’s a website called where you can request addresses to send care package to — and you can specify that your package be sent to “any female soldier” if you like.

    I spent the day buying stuff like tampons, nail polish, toothpaste, floss, hand cream, and skiing socks and will be putting a couple care packages in the mail.

    If you want tough, take-no-prisoners women who can fight alongside the guys, earn respect, and buckle down to do their jobs, visit that website and pop a few care packages in the mail.

  • Bes

    Nice suggestion Janis, thanks.

  • Bes

    Here is a survey that says 22% of Americans dropped cable service altogether or scaled back their cable service in the last six months. It says 21% more considered it. The fall of “basic cable” will mean a lot to removing sexism from our culture. Currently the channels that are in the package are of, by and for men with a few highly condescending channels aimed at lingerie and beauty product advertisers. There are few if any real women represented and as noted above female heroines don’t exist. We subsidize this every time we pay our cable bill just so we can get a clear signal on PBS. When people stop subsidizing, much of this programing goes away. Stopping the “one size fits all men” Corporate Media should be a goal of all women’s orgs. because it will stop Corporate sexist Culture from holding womens advancement back.

  • Janis

    I’m not sure — the fall of basic cable means only that people are being entertained online. Plenty of sexism there.