Pilar Casares García is a teacher in the Department of Pedagogy at the University of Granada but instead of teaching about teaching, she researches male chauvinism. In cartoons.
This was apparently once a real problem once but she says it's better now; women are as intelligent, agile, attractive, strong, and heroic as their male counterparts ... or more. This is in contrast to old stereotypes like Snow White or Cinderella who didn't surf with aliens or fight on pirate ships, though they were regarded as quite attractive and excellent role models for being caring and compassionate.
To reach this conclusion, professor Casares analyzed 11 female characters in four Disney films: Treasure Planet, Lilo & Stitch, Atlantis - The Lost Empire, and The Emperor’s New Groove.
This would seem to be putting the cart before the horse and not knowing who's driving. It's nice that these cartoons all had strong female role models, except that's even less realistic than a surfing alien (do all cartoons have smart, attractive competent males? Not even close), and 3 of these 4 movies were not very good (2 of those affirmed by box office receipts), leading one to correlate unrealistically physically competent young women with movies that will be bad.
Nevertheless, Casares says the 'end of the Barbie woman' is a good thing. Except she's wrong. Mattel is a $4 billion company. 20% of the revenues of that company and 30% of its profits are from Barbie. Why are Barbie dolls bad? They look like girls, except they are girls who don't live their lives in blue jeans and try to be men. No Barbie doll marketing campaign portrays any Stepword wife agenda. If Barbies dolls instead look more like boys, what will that do to the self images of young women who can never attain it?
If Casares really wanted to use a doll as a negative female image, she should have gone after Bratz. They're a lot less positive as role models than Barbie dolls - and sell more.
Is it really better to have female role models that are all physically tough, sarcastic, commanding ... you know, men? What happens the first time a new generation of women discovers there are some physical things men can do better? We don't know because it's just a cartoon. Do kids live their lives based on a cartoon?
Either the media shapes a child's psyche or it simply reflects culture - it depends on whether someone is in the business of selling us something or trying to defend their marketing actions. If it impacts it, society should be as concerned with the homogenization of gender differences as they are with portrayal of women as bathing beauties. A world where women are taught they can only be self-actualized if they act like men is a step backward.
This desire to make women into men in cartoons is not new. In 1997, a paper presented at the American Psychological Association's (APA) 105th Annual Convention criticized cartoons for not having female characters that were masculine enough.
I disagree on the value of using masculinity as the only metric for being a positive female role model. In "Aladdin", one of the cartoons that paper analyzed and felt lacking, Princess Jasmine is independent, intelligent and feels limited by her role in ancient society - yet she is apparently not masculine enough because she doesn't fight the villain; however, the story arc is not about her. She's already a good person. The story is about Aladdin, who is a thief. she's the role model, she just isn't masculine.
If anything, studies should be analyzing the impact on young boys of making a thief the hero.
It used to be that there were no women on stage - they were all men dressed as women. Insisting on making women more masculine is not empowering anyone, it's establishing physical and cultural standards that cannot and should not be attained.