Where Are the Action Girls on Children's TV? Female Characters 'Too Pink and Pretty' Says MP

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Byline: Tamara Cohen

CHILDREN'S television is sexist and lacking in strong female role models, an MP said yesterday.

Jo Swinson said programmes need more female lead characters who are not 'pink and princessy'.

The 31-year-old Liberal Democrat said modern parents who want their daughters to be doctors and scientists do not see these characters represented on children's television, which shows girls who 'look pretty'.

Children's channels such as CBeebies and programmes including Thomas the Tank Engine and Bob the Builder have been criticised for stereotyping girls and women.

Miss Swinson, MP for East Dunbartonshire, cited recent research which showed two-thirds of lead characters in children's television are male.

'It's a pretty unequal state of affairs,' she said. 'A lot of children spend many hours watching children's TV and take many messages from it subconsciously about the way the world works.

'It gives them the message that boys and men are in charge and women are in a supporting role. Many parents have told me this is not helping them show their little girls that life is not about being pink and princessy.' Miss Swinson, who has previously criticised the airbrushing of models' photographs in glossy magazines, declined to name the shows she feels are sexist.

But she singled out the American animated series Dora the Explorer, which is shown on Sky, as a rare example of a programme with a leading female character who is a 'normal girl'.

The main character is seven-year-old Dora Marquez, who in every episode embarks on a trip to find something or help somebody, aided by her friends Boots the Monkey and Isa the Iguana. …