Sunday, April 29, 2012

Gender Stereotyping Children's Entertainment

 In searching for a new topic for discussion, I came across a New York Times article that was written about a gender stereotyping controversy in television programming. The chief executive of the Fox Family Channel, Rich Cronin, wanted to create two new television networks called The Boyz Channel and The Girlz Channel. Cronin felt strongly that there are some forms of entertainment that girls enjoy while boys do not and vice versa. He also wanted Fox to keep up with the current programming trend of specialized networks; for example, MTV is geared towards the general teenage audience and ESPN for sport fanatics. In creating a specialized network, the television company can secure more advertisers with the promise of attracting viewers that would appeal to particular products or services.

Cronin believed that the network would not be exploiting the differences between boys and girls but rather acknowledging their existence. The selection of entertainment for each channel would be determined by boys and girls responses taken from surveyed focus groups and determined appropriate for children by developmental specialists. Cronin argued that he wouldn’t be making a girly girl channel or a super boyish boys channel; however, he doesn’t plan to put particularly boyish shows on the girlz channel just to disprove gender stereotypes.  In order to justify his positive intentions for the two stations, Cronin mentioned that he has sisters that have professional occupations and has two daughters. He likes to think of the channel separation as a “celebration” of gender differences.     

I find that it is not very surprising that many parents, feminists and other programming directors were opposed to this children’s network specialization by gender. Children are easily influenced by what they see on television and creating a channel for girls and another for boys would send a message that girls should want to watch this while boys should want to watch that. I think that Professor Sheri Parks brought up a good point about the concern for how a boy would feel if he enjoyed watching a show that was on The Girlz Channel. It is possible that boys would not want to watch certain shows just because they are on the television channel that is clearly labeled as girl’s entertainment. In bringing up his female family members, Cronin is attempting to subtly prove that people should not fear that he would be sexist in the making of the two channels. By making this claim, Cronin actually weakens his argument because by no means does the fact that he has female family members demonstrate that he understand women. Children’s activist, Peggy Charren, has a high concern about Cronin’s programming plans because Fox has a history of promoting boy dominated action shows. I feel that Cronin is so passionate about creating the gender-separated networks due to the fact that he could target more advertisers by channeling specific audiences. Overall, I believe that he is out to find a way to make a large profit for Fox and himself.   

            This article was published by the NY Times in 1998 and the plans to launch the two channels were for 1999. I have searched for reports on the launch of the two channels or if the plans for the programming fell through.Unfortunately, I have not found any news on if there were or are The Girlz Channel and The Boyz Channel on television. Please feel free to comment with any evidence about the outcome of Cronin's networking plans!


  1. This is really interesting, Alexandra, I can definitely see where it seems as though the director of FOX was merely attempting to gain a more similar demographic of audiences to sell air time to marketers. I don't see the point in separating a station to solely a single gender focused television channel. Today, there are clearly some channels that are aimed at men and those aimed at women, the difference is that the networks will not come out and call them the "women channel" or the "men channel". Nonetheless, there are certain channels that are aimed at a certain target audience, but that does not mean other people cannot also watch this channel and enjoy the product. I feel that FOX went too far in trying to simply make more money for their company.

  2. I also think that this article is very interesting. I agree that making a channel meant for boys and a channel meant for girls would create an official divide using common gender stereotypes. Society in the first place tells us what girls "should" want to watch and what boys "should want to watch." Making two distinct TV channels would merely highlight such societal stereotypes. Girls can be interested in TV shows such as Transformers while boys can be interested in TV shows such as Powerpuff Girls, especially young children. I think that making two separate channels would unjustly make such children feel uncomfortable. We should be able to watch any TV show we want, no matter our gender.

  3. It is scary to think that the media has such control over gender socialization, and that they can potentially divide genders simply by creating television stations that are geared towards a specific audience. We all forget how powerful these media outlets actually are, and how much they influence our discourse and the dialogue that we share with one another. To what extent is gender socialization already present in media? Are there subtle ways that we are socialized through the television that we watch. Considering how little control we have over what we watch and what we see (sure we can make choices, but we are only able to choose from what's provided, and its pretty hard to avoid advertisements and products) the media plays a huge role in what we are able to perceive and how they want us to perceive it. This article is a great example as to how much power the media has over how we interact with one another, and how we understand the world in terms of gender, race, class and other facets of social life.
    Is this really something that we want? Or should we think about restructuring the way media is transmitted to the public?

    thanks for sharing!

  4. The fact that Cronin wants to create a channel targeted for boys and a separate channel for girl is a mode of exploitation of gender differences. Broadcasting shows such as "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" and "Teen Titans" which are targeted towards boys restricts them from watching 'girly shows' such as 'Hannah Montana' or 'The Cheetah Girls' in the same communal space and vice versa for girls. This rift reinforces gender differences for children at a young age, subsuming the assumption that boys are more interested in superheroes and fighting bad guys, whereas girls are more interested in fashion and soirees. This ultimately standardizes and naturalizes what is feminine and what is masculine.

  5. I just want to say that this article was written when most of us were the kids that it would affect. This article is especially relevant to me because I grew up watching FoxKids. It was my absolute all time favorite TV station.
    On that note, it is interesting that it was said that the channel was criticized for too many "boy" action shows. I think that that is an accurate statement of the channel at the time, but that's the reason I watched it. I grew up with TMNT, Power Rangers, Mummies Alive, Gargoyles, Justice League and reruns of Voltron and Thundercats. I've seen the influence these shows have had on myself (the intense amounts of fighting is probably a contributor to my combative nature), and see the harms of Boyz and Girlz channels. If girls can only watch "girly" things and vice versa, gender stereotypes are simply perpetuated. Because kids so so malleable, it could have lead to a greater distinction and separation of gender ideals in our generation. Okay, it probably won't have had a world changing impact, but I would have either watched the Boyz channel and faced the issues of not being associated as a girl or been a different person.

  6. As a society, we have ideas on how a boy should act and how a girls should act. This is just society's stereotypes being transmitted through television. And I don't believe that it is the right thing to do. I feel that we should teach boys that doing female things doesn't in the slightest make you feminine. If seeing a musical is what you enjoy doing, then do it. No one should determine a child's gender based on what ones does or what one watches. Inez makes a very good point, though. TV Channels have been doing this and no one has noticed. Lifetime, for example, is what I would consider a women's channel. The thing about that is not a lot of people pay attention is that the idea of gender norms in so deep into our minds that we have come to accept it as reality. Sometimes it takes very obvious things to reveal the less apparent things. I feel that Cronin, unintentionally, gave people a chance to see what some people are doing.

  7. Thanks maddenfan2013 for mentioning Lifetime as an adult gender-specific channel. Lifetime is indeed noted as "the channel for women's entertainment." Many women all around watch this channel for its dramatic and sappy movies about love, sex, and betrayal. However, I'm sure some men watch Lifetime. I can recall a couple times that my dad has stopped on this channel and watched a portion of a Lifetime movie. Nonetheless, he doesn't usually stay on very long, or only watches because my mom had it already on the channel. I can't be certain if men don't watch Lifetime merely because what it shows truly doesn't interest them, or if they are worried about being called out for watching such a "feminine" channel. Still, grown men and women aren't as susceptible to media influence that pertains to gender. By this point, they are set in their interests and will pursue them as they please.
    However, for children, this does not hold true. Children as late as age 14 are still highly susceptible to peer pressure, which could be in the form of this media coverage. Thus, to separate channels into gender-specific, children who watch the opposite sex's channel are at risk for ridicule. This will discourage them to watch the shows on that channel and will be solidifying the gender inequalities that are so prevalent in our society.
    I do not recall Girlz and Boyz channels, but I sure hope it didn't and won't exist. This would defeat any progress that our society has made toward a gender equal society.

  8. Good blog. We do reptile birthday party entertainment for kids in Melbourne and it is amazing how many people think we only cater for boys. And yes girls get into handling wild animals as much as any other male children!


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