Always Check the Eyelashes: Your CBeebies Guide to Gender.


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.

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Waybaloo. Don’t get me started. #athousandsighs

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.

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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.

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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:

Processed with RookieAh, 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:

Hairbands are for girls, hats are for boys.

Hairbands are for girls, hats are for boys.

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Not even the superlative Easy Crew can’t escape the stringent CBeebies girl-boy headwear rules.

Girls can wear hats too, as long as they are pretty hat. Mike the Knight and his sister quite brilliantly demonstrate gender-appropriate headwear.

Girls can wear hats, as long as they are girly hats. Preferably topped with tiaras.

Girls can wear hats, as long as they are girly hats. Preferably topped with tiaras.

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.

A toolkit for the gentleman, and a nice handbag for the lady.

A toolkit for the gentleman, and a nice handbag for the lady.

In fact, to be fair, any pink accessory is generally a give away…

Why, just, why?

Why, just, why?

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

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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?

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The same can be said for an animated show where there’s a girl wearing blue.

Wait is that a girl? But  she's wearing a blue tracksuit!!! Oh, no, she has eyelashes. Coolio.

Wait is that a girl? But she’s wearing a blue tracksuit!!! Oh, no, she has eyelashes. Coolio.

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!

Classic Coco, showing off as usual.

Classic Coco, showing off as usual.

'Look, I have found a natural thing, I'll add it to my collection!' #yawn

‘Look, I have found a natural thing, I’ll add it to my collection!’ #yawn

Can't you just hear that condescending tone? Bleurgh.

Bella: She needs a slap.

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.

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Continually cocking stuff up; it’s a Bing thing.

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Ra Ra, you are… a bit of dick sometimes.

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Mike the Knight he’s a… self-centred little…

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.

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All image rights belong to the BBC (or respective programme makers).

Edited photos were processed using Rookie.

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29 thoughts on “Always Check the Eyelashes: Your CBeebies Guide to Gender.

  1. As for the eyelash thing, your very first image has eyelashed boys – hello Waybuloo! But yes. Good points well made, and very, very annoying.

    My pet peeve is Grampa In Your Pocket. Loathsome show. Every single female character is either useless or obstructive, usually both. Only the Y-chromosomed are worth anything. Ugh.

  2. YES! Bloody Mike the Knight. my frustrated sighs drown out whatever Mike isn’t bothering to apologise properly for.. and then we go to a toy shop, where there are Mike the Knight swords which misses one of the major points of the show and breath….

    I asked DS when he was 4 what the difference between boys and girls was, and he thought about it a moment and announced ‘eyelashes’. When I pointed out that he has a rather splendid set of his own he changed the subject (he’s going to be a politician that one)

  3. I love this SO much. Even Sarah off of Sarah and Duck wears pink (but she does wear a hat and doesn’t have eyelashes!) and that’s the loveliest cartoon ever made. And the Twirlywoos, which are just big blobs of plasticine are gender coloured, it’s crazy. But are we all so ingrained with these ideas that even if there was a programme that had gender neutral characters, would we then place a gender onto them? It’s been a long time since I saw it, but the Tellytubbies didn’t have a gender did they? Or did they?

    Mike the Knight can fuck right off, the little twunt.

  4. Ra Ra you are… a bit of a dick sometimes! Ha – SO true. And Mike the Knight – such an arrogant little p*ick, he’s destined to be just as awful as Postman Pat when he grows up! That’s so funny about the eyelashes – I’m really going to notice it now!

      • Ah well, at least when he’s king he’ll be out adventuring like his dad (or whatever the hell his dad is doing all the, is he just absent? I’m not sure) and his sister can stay at home just like his mother and bake and care for the kids (Seriously? You’re a fricking queen woman. Be like a real queen and get some hired help so you can spend your time like enlarging your eyelashes)

  5. Brilliant! But can we please have a chat about what kind of work ethic that Andy and his Wild Adventures (ie: skiving off his job to go gallivanting round the Savannah and then barefacedly lying to his boss about it) is instilling in our children? I was SHOCKED I tell you.

  6. Honestly, I got bored of this halfway through. And not because I don’t agree with you, but because you have double standards. You make a point saying shows never defy gender norms, and then when they do you rebuff them with a sarcastic comment (*see pink dressed male pig)
    Major TV stations are never going to live up gender equality parental standards because those standards are not the current norm. Most parents buy pink for their girls, and most parents buy blue for their boys. If you want this change to happen do it yourself, You seem to hate the idea that your child is watching these shows… then don’t let them watch. Ultimately you are the parent.

    Yes I agree that I want my child to understand gender equality, I think that makes you more admirable than most parents I know. And that is how I’ll raise mine. But I’m not going to embarrass myself with a contradictory post about how no programme on cbeeebies is ever going to be good enough when they are clearly trying.

    • Yeah, I don’t think I’ve embarrassed myself as have had loads of positive feedback and made people laugh, which is my main objective!

      Sarcasm is sort of my default but when I say “big up the Tilly and friends massif” I do mean it! Of course there are shows that don’t do this stuff, but this isn’t supposed to be a compelling thesis, it’s supposed to be a bit of comedy that makes a point!

      Also, don’t you think most parents dress their kids a certain way because the options on offer at tesco/asda/Sainsburys are so polarised it’s hard not too?

      But, yeah, sorry you got bored, I wonder if you did read the second half… Hope you had a least one giggle along the way.

      • Completely agree on one of the reasons parents dress their kids the way they do is because of the options that are given to them. A close friend of mine went to Asda to buy a pair of plain blue jeans and white trainers for her daughter, and LITERALLY everything she found was pink and/or sequined. But then again do they just sell this shit because that’s what people buy?

        On that note, I’ve just set up a Kickstarter with my wife to create unisex clothing for children (beginning with what I think are pretty awesome dungarees) which is hopefully at the least the first step to providing something gender neutral (and not fricking brown) that children of any gender can wear without assholes stopping in the street and questioning their gender (what the hell does it have to do with them anyway? Assholes). Anyway, check it out, please?

  7. Excellent article and very well written! I share many of your frustrations now my daughter has started to pay attention to the television.

    The only thing I would add to the only other personality girls are allowed to have is the introverted, prissy and softly-spoken one, of which the voices are utterly interchangeable with each other, unlike boys who tend to be extravert and louder. Waybuloo (ugh) is a perfect example of this.

  8. This is spot on! I was watching new Peter rabbit and wondered why the new girl character lily was fully clothed compared to the others?! Glad I wasnt the only one!

  9. Pingback: 7 reasons we all hate Waybuloo, don’t we? | The (mal)Contented Mother

  10. Great article! I (mostly) Love cbeebies, but seeing this list of the gender stereotypes was sobering. Most recent thing on cbeebies that made me gnaw my fist in annoyance was on ‘ruff ruff, tweet and dave’ where they were playing pirates – male dog and panda wanted to be the bravest and toughest pirates (or similar) and the female chick merely aspired to being the prettiest pirate. Vom.

  11. Look, this stuff should come with a public health warning, I have a chest infection and laughing at this has nearly killed me! For the record my boys are watching abney and teal right now and teal does not have eyelashes.

  12. Not gender related this, but language too. CBeebies isn’t on all that much in our house, but from the little I’ve seen there seems to be a strong preference for south-east England middle class accents. Am I right in thinking that any other accents are mostly reserved for quirky characters? The characters that kids are supposed to relate to (your Mike the Knight, Tilly, whatnot) seldom have accents outside this category. I wonder what more seasoned viewers think of this. My son mostly watches Welsh programmes, and there it seems there’s a conscious effort to represent a variety of accents. Which I love.

  13. Pingback: The Peppa Pig Paradigm | The F-MoB

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