Ah, Cbeebies. A land filled with possibilities. Where lions and zebras can coexist as equals and trainee knights befriend cave-dwelling trolls. Where every community – even small Scottish fishing villages – is a multicultural, wheelchair-accessible beacon of diversity. Surely, this is the utopia of which we all dream?
I do love CBeebies. In fact more than this I attribute a good proportion of my parenting sanity to its existence #nojokeofalie. I love that they show women being scientists, fitness instructors, bus drivers, pirate captains, minibeast adventurers, post officers (is that a thing?), nurses, nursery teachers, cooks, stay at home mums… Ahem. Well, you get the picture.
Yes, in the realm of humans the confinements of gender have (almost, sort of) been stripped away, huzzah to that! However, let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. I mean, we need some stereotypes, right? Otherwise how will girls find out that they’re supposed to be pretty and bookish? Or boys that they are headstrong and brave but ultimately a bit annoying??
More importantly, how will our youngsters learn to tell the difference? Imagine, a whole generation growing up not being able to tell whether a fictional character is supposed to be a girl or a boy? It would be chaos, people. CHAOS!
But fear not, Dear Reader! For I have deciphered the CBeebies gender-coding system (it doesn’t take a genius) that will have you sorting your Peters from your Lilies in 4 easy-to-follow steps. Disseminate this PSA widely, because God forbid we couldn’t tell which Cloud Baby is supposed to be a boy!
Step 1: What colour are they?
The first, and most basic way of telling boys and girls apart is, of course, what colour they are. Blue is for boys, pink is for girls, am I right? Female humans may have the vote, but don’t go thinking that entitles female animations to wear indigo if they feel the need. That would be ridiculous.Not all colours are so easily pinned down, though. Purple is a little more tricky, but if it’s a lilac or magenta shade, you can pretty safely assume that said being is a lady. Green can also be ambiguous, but my money is always on the boys for that one. After all it is the colour of grass and trees, you know outside stuff, and women really should stay indoors as much as possible to protect their fragile porcelain complexions.
I’m sure you, like me, are relieved to see these kind of boundaries are drawn so clearly, even by the lefty loveys at the BBC. With programmes like ‘Nina and the Neurons’ promoting the idea that women might actually have a career in fields such as computer science, you may have been concerned that your little girls might start to think that their intelligence will be valued over their appearance.. Luckily, though, even Nina provides a few subtle hints a what girls should look like.
So, at least if she does end up becoming a Nobel Prize winning physicist, she’ll know to do it when a bit of lippy on! (Or some crazy Amy Winehouse eyeliner, apparently)
Of course, the colour-coding rule largely applies to clothes too, but again there are grey areas. Take Kerwhizz as an example:
Ah, that pesky yellow! Turns out sometimes we need more than just colours to tell the men from the girls. Ridiculous. Which leads us onto:
Step 2: What’s the accessory situation?
In case any of you are unclear, I’m here to tell you that bows are for girls. End of. So are hairbands and handbags for that matter. Boys wearing hats is acceptable, but not required. Observe:Girls can wear hats too, as long as they are pretty hat. Mike the Knight and his sister quite brilliantly demonstrate gender-appropriate headwear. Of course, even the accessories issue has it’s own complexities. Take, for example, the Cloud Babies. They all wear headbands. All of them!! Even if they do adhere to the previously stated clothing colour-coding system, isn’t this a bit confusing? What are we doing to our children??? But worry not, because the makers of this sickly-sweet sky-based show have added some extras, just to allay confusion. In fact, to be fair, any pink accessory is generally a give away… Still not sure? Think a character clothed in pink may be a boy? Or are they just not clothed at all? It can be trickier than you first imagine, can’t it? But there is one sure-fire failsafe.
Step 3: Always Check for Eyelashes
The poor boys of animated CBeebies land. They must be constantly wracked with eye infections. Why do I say this? Because none of them have eyelashes. Seriously, not a single one. It’s a tragedy, I feel like we should do a fundraiser or something. I mean, why should Pingu’s poor retinas be exposed to the ravages of Antarctic wind when his little sister has eyelashes enough for them both? Disgraceful.
In fact, there is one exception. The Waybaloo lot all have eyelashes, but you know, it’s Waybaloo. If you’re not even going to attempt to adhere to the basic rules of grammar then you can sod off.
Seriously though, guys, this eyelash thing is weird. Even in the ONE programme I could find where a boy wears pink (big up to the Tilly and Friends massif!), it’s still only the girl animals that have bloody eyelashes! Like, WTF?
The same can be said for an animated show where there’s a girl wearing blue.Not that we want to teach little girls that mascara is basically a prerequisite of womanhood or anything. (it is, just FYI)
(Just as an aside, can we talk about why Boj is the only child in Giggly Park that’s naked? Is there some Eden metaphor I’m missing here?)
Step 4: Personality (it sort of matters)
Now, let’s make this clear, like a any reasonable human being I am more comfortable when I can make a snap judgement based on someone’s appearance. This whole 21st century nonsense about being post-gender, or people not fitting in to “precise ascribed roles” is the kind of nonsense that really has no place in children’s programming. But, if you’re still in doubt, or really have to consider what a character is actually like, then I have good news for you; the stereotypes don’t stop at the bows and lashes! Just ask yourself a few questions…
Is the character in question markedly clever but with tendencies to be a superior know-it-all? Well then, my friend, it’s a girl!Good to see the #banbossy campaign is really getting its point across. Sigh
On other hand, is said character a scrappy, well-meaning but often thoughtless creature who is really bad at listening? Like, really bad? 99.9% sure that’ll be a boy.Bleurgh.
These aren’t the only types, of course. I’m yet to see a grumpy stay-at-home-dad with a tendency to nag (Mrs Pingu, I’m looking at you love).
You see, despite my deep affection for CBeebies – and the fact that I let Bubs watch a bit too much of it – I can’t help occasionally switching my brain on and cringing. And I know it’s not just gender, I mean the racist Chinese Panda on 64 Zoo Lane is enough to put any middle-class liberal off their humus (riiiiight?)
But perhaps if we all get together and take the piss our gin-soaked cackles will ring out around Media City and, eventually, someone will draw a boy with some bloody eyelashes!
Do you have any burning CBeebies related issues? Or think this is a load of feminist nonsense? Feel free to vent by leaving me a ranty comment or tweeting me @aafew.
All image rights belong to the BBC (or respective programme makers).
Edited photos were processed using Rookie.