Friday, February 10, 2006

Schlafly Watched Too Many G-Rated Films

Phyllis Schlafly loves to convince women, in the words of David Brooks (aka bobo) that the "power is in the kitchen." A report on her book tour from 2003, summed up nicely her message:

[. . .] women today should look ahead and plan their lives realistically because they cannot have it all as the feminists have so loudly advertised. The truth is simply different. According to the Wall Street Journal, 52% of successful women are divorced or unmarried compared to only 5 % of men. Moreover, says Schlafly, feminism is just not compatible with happiness:

It is no surprise that the feminist movement is having "an identity crisis." It lacks successful, happy role models. Indeed the old role models - Friedan and Steinem - still try to sustain their dying cause by proferring the notion that someone "has dealt women a fowl blow by rendering them female." In truth says Schlafly, all that these women have left are their scrap books from old rallies, while Schlafly has photo albums of her fourteen grandchildren. "Family and children are the way to our future," she emphasized.

The veil is lifted off Schlafly's neanderthal message with a recent study, "Where the Girl's Aren't: Gender Disparity Saturates G-Rated Films," by and Dad's and Daughters. If you seriously want to consider the relevance and urgency of feminism, take a look at Professor Smith's work, whose study group at USC focused on developmental differences in children's reactions to mass media. Among the major findings are the following:

(1) In the 101 studied films, there are three male characters for every one female character
(2) Fewer than one out of three (28 percent) of the speaking characters (both real and animated) are female.
(3) Fewer than one in five (17 percent) of the characters in crowd scenes are female.
(4) More than four out of five (83 percent) of the films' narrators are male.

Schlafly, of course in good BPD/wingnut fashion, lays the real problem at the feet of those most committed to ensuring women have good role models--feminists. Her solution doesn't challenge the real damage that thousands of hours of watching G-rated films does on young women's sense of value and worth in a society. Women characters are literally mute.

The report argues:

The gender imbalance seen on the silver screen can have a strong impact on children ages zero-11 because they are so impressionable. For children, images and stories help influence the important developmental task of understanding what it means to be male and female.

We know that a majority of children in this country have access to a variety of videos and/or DVDs in their homes, many of which may be G-rated. In a 2003 nationwide survey, the Kaiser Family Foundation found that over half (53 percent) of parents say that their zero to six-year olds have at least 20 videos or DVDs in the home. Further, almost half (46 percent) of the caregivers surveyed reported teh children they care for watched at least one video or DVD per day. Content in G-rated movie videos and DVDs may have a particularly strong influence on children's social learning about gender because children tend to watch the same movies over and over.


The TV research suggests that television viewing can have an impact on developing or possibly reinforcing children's stereotypical attitudes and beliefs about gender. In fact, meta-analysis of 30 surveys and experiments reveals that exposure to television is a significant and positive predictor of sex role acceptance and attitudes among children and adults. With repeated television viewing of characters engaging in traditional sex roles, a child's gender expectations for his/her own sex or the opposite can become simplified, skewed, an stereotypical in nature.

Clearly, Schlafly watched way too many G-rated sexist propaganda to think straight. Don't let this happen to your little girl.

Thank the goddesses for fathers like Witi Ihimaera (author of Whale Rider) who:

says he wrote "Whale Rider" -- a modern retelling of a Maori legend -- in response to his daughter's complaining about the boy always being the hero.

While the damage that these stereotypical, simplified, and skewed images of femininity do to women is considerable, let's not forget the mark it leaves on the male psyche. It is simply inexusable in this day and age to perpetuate myths of feminine inferiority and submission in this way.