Recently James and I were talking about what it means to be a leader. We talked about the characteristics one needs to lead a team. Of course, he’s four years old, so we weren’t talking in big language or in concepts. We were talking about being “the boss” of a gang, or team. He understands completely what you need to do if you’re in a team, and what you need to do if you’re leading a team. So I asked him if he could think of any good leaders. He named Captain Barnacles, from Octonauts. He thought for quite a while when I asked him if he could think of any bad leaders before coming up with Grandmaster Glitch, who leads the Grimbots on Go Jetters. But what really made him scratch his head was the question “Can you think of any leaders who are girls?” At first, actually, he answered that girls can’t be leaders.
Because we couldn’t really think of any on the TV. He could name some from real life – his friends, his teachers, and his mummy. In the end, actually, I’ve asked my friends. They came up with Merida from Brave, as Merida basically rebels against being told what to do as she wants to be ‘in charge of her own destiny’ so a leader in respect of not just being a follower and doing as told. She doesn’t have ‘followers’ of her own – so not quite what I was thinking of. Next up was Moana, who basically demonstrates the qualities we want to see from a compassionate leader, so maybe she is a good example? I’m not sure – I need to watch this one.
We were also recommended to look at Dora the Explorer, and Sofia the First. I don’t know too much about either of these, having not watched Disney Junior before.
So faced with these suggestions I decided we probably need a bit more Disney in our lives! For me, I felt that was a bit against what my view of Disney had always been; I was of the opinion that Disney goes for traditional weak-and-needs-to-be-rescued-females. I can’t say I was super up on Disney. As a child I didn’t watch much TV at all, and less cartoons. I was deaf and couldn’t lip read cartoons, so I missed out on a lot of “classics”, I suppose. However, Disney Junior seems to be wise to my concerns, and within 3 minutes of watching Disney Junior between programmes there’s the #dreambigprincess clip, which aims to show girls that they can do anything they want to. I’m still noticing that most of the girls – gymnast, rock climber, musicians, and athletes – shown in this video are solo, not team players or leaders, but it’s a step in the right direction.
Since then I’ve had a CBeebies show pointed out to me – what about Swashbuckle, with two female Captains, and Gem who fronts the show. But – are they the ideal role model for our children – do they show boys that women can be good leaders?
There are, of course, lots and lots of shows on CBeebies that are presented by women. Do You Know? is one of our favourite programmes in this house, and Maddie tells us all about how things from everyday life works. Of course Maddie isn’t leading a team, so she’s not quite the example I’m looking for. Nor is Nina, with her Neurons, or the Stargazing specials, which we love, but they’re women in good “science-y” roles, but not leaders of teams.
So for now, while we get to grips with Disney, and all the adverts (argh!), we’ll have to find some strong, female, leaders in children’s TV. They must be out there, mustn’t they?
Do let me know in the comments if you have spotted one!