"Whilst you are young, and your mind is as it were a clean slate, impress on it those things, lest in future it be impressed more pleasurable with images of lesser worth." ~ John Locke

The above quote is clear enough to realize the importance of childhood in an individual's life. When children are young and their minds are quite impressionable, then anything and everything, to which they are exposed, impact their personality development in a great manner. This exposure also plays a pivotal point in shaping an individual's thought process. Therefore, it becomes necessary to make sure that the kids are subjected to the right content that goes in line with the changing scenario of the present times. The same holds true when we talk about achieving our goal of gender equality.

Undeniably, this is a fact that most kids grow up watching animated cartoon shows they end up recognizing their own selves with their favorite cartoon characters, and this is where the actual problem lies.

If I were, to be honest, even I have spent the whole of my childhood watching some of the most popular cartoon shows. Like all other kids, even I used to enjoy watching these. But enjoying these cartoons at that point in time was sheer ignorance for me. As I grew up, I realized that these shows were a bit problematic, and now as an aware human being, I know what exactly the problem is.

To begin with, the major issue with these cartoons is the very fact that close to 99% of these shows have a male protagonist. Even if we calculate a ratio between the female and the male characters, we will see that the male characters outnumber the female ones at the very outset. This is nothing less than the gross under-representation of nearly half the population of humans on this planet. Furthermore, the existence of female characters with the protagonists is just to depict them as their love interests. Pick any specific show, and you will know why this is something that needs to be addressed. We are literally feeding into the minds of our coming generations that only a male character qualifies to become the protagonist of any show.

Image by Willian Yuki Fujii Memmo from Pixabay 

Were we not already fed up with this nonsensical notion on which the entire plot of Disney princesses was based? Damsels in distress were to be rescued by their princes. Although, the portrayal of a Disney princess has changed over time and we have strong, determined, and most importantly independent princesses who can stand up for themselves without needing the help of any knight in shining armor, what has not yet changed is the portrayal of female characters in our cartoons.

It is disturbing to see how in Doraemon, even though she has all the qualities that would help her attain success in her professional life, Shizuka just wants to be a good wife in the future. I have not seen a single episode in which she even thinks about building a career for her own self. Throughout the episodes, she just waits for her Prince Charming. The same pattern is followed by most of the female leads in other shows as well. The only thing I would say here is, "Grow up; you do not need a prince charming to come to your rescue when you yourself are a warrior like Merida, Elsa, Anna, and Mulan."

Another cause of concern here is the representation of gender roles. Most of these shows portray characters that are very restrictively confined into the age-old stereotypical gender roles that command that women should be the ones taking care of the family, cooking food for the members along with doing other household chores, and men are supposed to be the sole bread-winners for the family. This corroborates with the image of an ideal happy family. I have not yet come across even a single show where they showcase any role reversal. Be it Doraemon, Shinchan, Ninja Hattori, Kiteretsu, or any other popular show, the pattern would remain the same. Did you notice something else as well? Yes! All these cartoon shows have been named after the male characters. Why? Because all these are the names of the main protagonists.

Even this is not the end of it.

We have issues that need to be taken seriously. I mean, how far is it correct to use Doraemon's gadgets and keep an eye on Shizuka? Nobita has actually crossed all the limits in stalking her. From sneaking into her bathrooms to fitting cameras in her room, what messages are we sending across? You like someone, and you get the right to spy on that person? Who is going to make the children understand that such acts amount to criminal offenses? I wonder how much I used to love watching Doraemon, but not anymore.

I know Shinchan fans would kill me for this, but even they would agree in their heart of hearts that this cartoon objectifies women and stereotypes genders and the associated roles in the worst possible light.

Considering the fact that the major chunk of our cartoon industry is dominated by Japanese cartoons, it does not come as a shock for me to witness these things because what else can we expect from the people of a country where women do not even have a right to voice out their opinion in their cabinet meetings.

Undoubtedly, most people would come up with a narrative that these cartoons are made only for fun purposes and should not be viewed from a feminist lens. But such an argument is quite troublesome because childhood is that crucial part of a person's life where even the slightest of things leave a deep impact on the young minds forever. What we need to understand is the fact that by showcasing such content we are promoting an unequal society and making our dream of achieving equality a far-fetched one. Thus, if we really desire an egalitarian world, then its roots should be strengthened at the very initial stage of an individual's life, and all the stakeholders should make a note of it.

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