Parents are more concerned than ever with what their kids are watching on TV. And while it used to be that the only things adults were told to worry about — at least by all those evening shows in the ’90s — was sex and violence on the big and small screens, savvy caregivers are now realizing that there’s something just as important to think about when choosing what their kids should watch: positive gender representation.
Today, Common Sense Media, a nonprofit that helps parents decide what entertainment options are age-appropriate for their kids, is launching a new ratings system that takes into account not just whether a show portrays strong messages about good character but also features representations of gender that allows children to think beyond the traditional gender roles that they’re so often exposed to.
This move (which some will certainly see as SJWs trying to turn America’s children into weak-chinned crybabies) comes after Common Sense Media did a study of available research and found that the way children see gender roles in popular media can influence everything from self-image and career choices to how they’ll behave when they’re ready to begin dating, as well as their “tolerance for sexual harassment,” according to The New York Times.
Parents, too, are concerned about how they’re seeing gender roles explored on television. And while we may believe that we’re living in a golden age of tolerance and progressivism, the truth is that there’s still a long way to go before more balanced portrayals of gender and sexuality are the norm.
From The NYT:
“When my daughter was a toddler, I was absolutely floored to see that there seemed to be far more male characters than female characters in what we’re making for kids in the 21st century,” said the actress Geena Davis, founder of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and an adviser on the project. Ms. Davis said she hoped the Common Sense ratings would help guide parents, who might, in turn, increase pressure on the entertainment industry to produce more content with positive female role models. (Her daughter is now 15.)
It’s important to note that these ratings won’t be enforced anywhere but on Common Sense Media’s website, but advertisers do factor the group’s ratings into their consideration when choosing which shows to sponsor. And with more and more people recognizing how important it is that kids — especially those in minority groups — see positive representations of themselves on TV, it’s likely that this move will lead to less rigid portrayals of gender roles in shows that kids love.
Common Sense believes that parents who are more conservative may also benefit from the new rating system — which you can read more about here — because if they don’t want their children to see shows which foster non-traditional gender roles they can choose not to subject them to shows that earn Common Sense’s seal of approval. And, of course, Common Sense isn’t trying to completely alter anyone’s media diet and won’t be “knocking” any shows that don’t fit their criteria for a seal of approval.
“Just because a movie doesn’t get the seal doesn’t mean it’s not funny or entertaining or not worth your family’s time,” Betsy Bozdech, Common Sense Media’s executive editor for ratings and reviews told The New York Times. “We’re just looking to call out the ones going above and beyond.”