Stereotypes can be broadly defined as over-generalized beliefs about a particular category of people. Regarding gender, there are specific stereotypes about the traits and abilities of males and females, and also the range of behaviours and attitudes that are generally considered acceptable, appropriate, or desirable for people based on their sex. It is true that public perceptions of gender roles, opportunities and life expectations have substantially changed in many parts of the world over the last few decades. Nevertheless, many important problems remain unsolved. Portrayal of gender in entertainment forms still tend to reinforce sexual difference and imbalances of power. Representations of male and female characters, of masculinity and femininity, become the basis for the stories told about what it means to be a woman or a man in a specific time and space.
Gender difference has in some ways become much more fixed and rigid, as media clearly demarcates between the feminine and masculine. This is extremely evident in the ways in which children are encouraged to adopt very narrow forms of gender identity in terms of media, toys, games, and so forth. Television programs are a major source of gender stereotypes for children, as television continues to be one of the most popular and widely used forms of media among children. Among various television programs, cartoon shows are a central part of most children’s everyday lives and often communicate stereotypes about gender roles. A lot of animated shows for children contribute to the children’s gender role learning in terms of their perceptions of gender-typical occupations or their gender role values. Age, sex, and race are also found to be significantly related to children’s perception of gender stereotypes. With age, children increasingly associate stereotypical behaviour patterns with the male and female gender roles.
When female characters are shown in most cartoon shows, the manner of their representation reflects the biases and assumptions of those who define the public, while media constructions of masculine identity are still widely connected with violence, power, and control. Despite the relevance of television shows in children’s everyday lives for informal learning, girls’ and boys’ reception of these shows might be affected in different ways by presentations of traditional gender stereotypes in such shows.
To carry out this research, a content analysis of three shows- Shin Chan, Doraemon, and Chota Bheem will be done to study the various gender stereotypical ideas that cartoons portray.
According to a research paper 'The influence of television on children's gender role socialization' by Susan D. Witt, "Children often internalize gender role stereotypes from books, songs, television, and the movies. Television, however, is perhaps the most influential form of media.” The paper describes how children's ideas about the world are formed from their experiences as well as from the attitudes and behaviours they see around them. For example, a child who believes that only women are nurses and only men are doctors may have developed this understanding because the first doctor he/she saw was a man, assisted by a female nurse. This knowledge will be incorporated into future perceptions if children frequently witness such gender biases and stereotypes. As children watch television for many hours a day, they may develop stereotyped beliefs. The research discusses Bandura's idea that role models and imitation are extremely influential in shaping gender-typed behaviours. Young children tend to mimic and repeat behaviours they see on television. Consequently, children may exhibit these gender-biased behaviours and develop the gender biased attitudes that they see modelled on television. According to the research, Children will believe that this is the appropriate way for females to behave is to be passive, indecisive and subordinate to men if they witness female characters on television programs with such traits and who see this reinforced by their environment. Female children are less likely to develop qualities like self-sufficiency, initiative, and diligence if they rarely see those traits modelled. Similarly, because male characters on television programs are more usually shown with traits like leadership, assertiveness, and decisive behaviour, children learn that this is the way males are supposed to behave.
A research 'Gender representations in children's media and their influence' by Isabella Steyer, discusses that women are underrepresented in children's literature and television programs. According to the research, the traditional portrayal of females are also still the norm in the media that children are daily faced with, along with alarming trends regarding the representations of males.
Chhota Bheem is one of the most favourite animated series for children in India. The story revolves around the adventures of a boy named Bheem and his friends in the fictional kingdom of Dholakpur. The setting of the series is rural in context. The main characters of the series are Bheem, Raju, Indumati, Chutki, Jaggu, Dholu, Kalia and Bholu. It is always the protagonist in this cartoon series who is very powerful and saves his friends and his village from the problems. Bheem has a big heart who always helps other and is known for his strength. He is often called up by the king for seeking suggestions.
In this popular animated show, gender bias, sexist, racial, linguistic, and other discrimination are explicitly shown, instances of which can be seen throughout the show. In terms of gender, the show stereotypes men and women on many basis, including physical appearance, strength, and competence. The stereotyping extends to gender roles and what each person is expected to do because of their gender. The gender disparity in this show can be seen in the names as well as description of the characters. The main character Bheem is taken from the epic Mahabharata and the name itself suggests power, strength, energy and masculinity, whereas the main female character is named Chutki which suggests something which is very timid and small. As described by the official page of Chota Bheem, "Bheem is a nine-year-old boy, who is a brave, strong, intelligent, adventurous and fun-loving. Bheem is depicted as the epitome of macho male. Whereas Chutki's description reads “Chutki is a seven-year-old girl, who is simple, graceful, and intelligent. Chutki loves playing with the boys but is also very feminine and keeps herself busy with all sorts of arts and household chores. She has a soft spot for Bheem and therefore, is always luring him to her with delicacies." Chutki possesses all the qualified that are considered "feminine". Although, to say someone is feminine for doing household chores is to promote a despicable stereotype.
The female characters' in the show have an evident feminine appearance, which promotes the idea that females are supposed to look a certain way. The main female character, Chutki, has two pink blotches on her face to emphasize her fair and lovely skin. Another female character, princess Indumati, is typically shown as a delicate female. Both Chutki and Indumati are shown wearing pink or lavender coloured dresses with their long hair tied in one or two ponies, emphasizing their feminine appearance. Indumati is usually depicted as delicate, soft spoken, always by her father's side, obedient, and passive. She might be a part of the conflict but never of conflict resolution. Chutki is an integral member of Bheem's gang and also helps in conflict resolution but she is never the direct cause of conflict resolution, the responsibility being that of Bheem solely.
Chutki is also shown as having very less physical strength. Although she does participate in the adventures with the gang, she is usually the first one to give up when there is anything physically demanding happening. In most of the episodes, the role of chutki is limited to feeling happy and pay applauds for the achievements and victories of Bheem. The qualities that Chutki is mostly praised for by the group are kind heartedness and generosity and sometimes even intelligence but never valor that is exclusively the domain of men. Another thing that can be observed in the show is that none of the male characters have any parental figures to exercise control over them. Chutki and Indumati, however, are not left free. Chutki is given a mother who looms large over her and Indumati is taken care of by her father.
Doraemon is a Japanese animated series which is very popular among the children of India. This cartoon series is illustrated and written by Fujiko F. Fujio. The story revolves around a robotic cat named Doraemon, who travels back in time from the 21st century to aid a boy named Nobita Nobi, a young boy who suffers from poor grades, frequent bullying and negative emotions like sadness and jealousy. Doraemon has a four-dimensional pocket in which he stores innumerable items known as gadgets, which range from toys and medicine, to technology from the future. The main characters of this series include Nobita, Doraemon, Shizuka, Gian, and Suneo. A typical episode consists of Doraemon giving one of his gadgets to Nobita in order to help him in solving his problems, often causing more trouble.
This cartoon series portrays many examples of gender role stereotyping, violence, and inappropriate content. The show imposes many gender stereotypes which eventually lead to children formulating inaccurate presumptions on the basis of gender. The older male characters of the show, are shown as employees who are only restricted to the work space and never contribute to the household, leaving the mothers to take care of the house and children without any help. Almost all the mothers shown in the show are stay at home mothers, who are only restricted to the household. This can give an impression to the children that women are supposed to take care of the household while the men are supposed to work outside. The mothers in the show are also often shown as angry or irksome.
The main female character of the show, Shizuka, is shown as a bright, intelligent and hardworking student who always scores good marks and can clearly have a bright future. However, in one of the episodes, when asked about her future, she replied that she wants to be good wife. She most probably got this idea from her mother, considering the lack of working female role models in her life. Nobita, the male protagonist, is shown as a lazy boy who never studies and has no aim in his life. However, whenever he thinks of his future, he pictures himself married to Shizuka and going out to work while she takes care of their child and house. The character's name is also stereotypical as the word 'Shizuka' means 'quiet'.
In one of the episodes, Doraemon shows one of his gadgets named "game book", which all the friends decide to play. It is shown that the game is very difficult and scary, which leads to Shizuka saying that she will not play the game because she is scared. It is decided then that Shizuka will be trapped in the last page of the game book as the "treasure" and the boys will be rescuing her. This gives rise to the idea that women are delicate and lack physical strength and require men to protect them.
Gender stereotyping in this show can also be seen in the types of games that the characters play. The male characters are seen playing games like baseball and soccer while the female characters are shown skipping, playing cat's cradle, or knitting. Nobita likes playing cat's cradle and is keen on learning how to knit, which results in other characters making fun of him saying that he's behaving like a "girl".
Shin-Chan is a Japanese animated series, written and illustrated by Yoshito Usui. The story revolves around the adventures of a five-year-old boy named Shin Chan Nohara and his parents, baby sister, dog, neighbours, and friends and is set in Kasukabe, Japan. Some of the main characters of this series are Shin Chan, Mitsi Nohara, Hiroshi Nohara, Nene, Kazama, and Masao. Crayon Shin-chan first appeared in 1990 in a Japanese weekly magazine called Weekly Manga Action, which was published by Futubasha. An anime adaptation of the series began airing on TV Asahi in 1992 and is still ongoing on several television networks, worldwide. The show has now been dubbed in 30 languages which aired in 45 countries, has over 970 episodes and 26 full-length films. More than 100 million copies of the manga have been sold worldwide. Due to controversy towards behavior, attitude towards elders in this show and his style, Teachers and Parents association reported about it, protesting that the cartoon was a bad role model for the kids. The cartoon got banner in October, 2008 by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. The Censor Board had to heavily edit and re-examine and and then restart broadcasting on March 27, 2009, after many requests from the fans.
Shin-Chan portrays many examples of mockery and objectification of women, and gender bias. Shin-Chan is always shown as mocking, objectifying and disrespecting women, even his own mother. He often calls his mother fat and makes fun of her body and weight. Mitsi Nohara, Shin-Chan's mother is shown doing all the household work Hiroshi Nohara, Shin-Chan's father, is shown working outside. Mitsi Nohara is portrayed as the typical housewife. Most of the mothers in the series are shown as housewives, taking care of the house and children. Nene, Shin-Chan's friend, loves playing "real house" with her friends. Even in the game, she is shown as being a housewife, while her "husband" in the game goes out to work. Shin-Chan and his father are shown objectifying women in a lot of episodes. They appreciate television shows with young women in skimpy clothing. Shin-Chan is always seen making fun of some woman's weight, body types or physical appearances.