The BBC have just announced plans to axe male-led cartoon favourites in a mission to seek a more gender-balanced kid’s programming schedule.
Gone are the days of Bob The Builder, who despite his handy craftsmanship, couldn’t fix the systematic gender imbalance within the BBC‘s output for children.
Fireman Sam has also got the sack and taken down from the poll, according to CBeebies controller Kay Benbow, who is about to leave the network after seven years at the helm.
The BBC‘s at-home babysitting service is getting a much-needed gender makeover, and while it’s sad to say goodbye to some much-loved characters, there are some new girls on the block.
The forthcoming Bitz and Bob, Benbow explains, follows an eight-year-old girl as she gatecrashes the male-dominated STEM world and repeatedly saves the day with a combination of brains and brawn, alongside her younger brother sidekick – because writers have finally realised girls actually can have it all.
Benbow claims the previous gender imbalance in CG cartoons, for which CBeebies had been widely criticised, is not caused by institutionalised sexism at the BBC.
Instead, Benbow believes creative corner-cutting may be behind the lack of female cartoon characters over the years, saying male animated characters are simpler to create.
Not necessarily condoning it, she told The Times:
I have a view that it’s easier with men, because ‘Mr’ sums up a man, while women are defined by their marital status.
Benbow is proud of her work to progress the careers of women in TV through her work at the BBC, like Maggie Aderin-Pocock, the host of Stargazing, and Rachel Yankey, the England footballer who presents Footy Pups.
But she admitted CBeebies may have previously been skewed towards ‘Male Character Fixing Infrastructure’ scenarios.
The new programming values will go someway to fix that skew.
But, unfortunately the BBC have overlooked a vital keystone of feminism and the mission for gender balance.
Feminism does not seek to catapult women to the forefront of society, but merely hopes to give women equal standing as their male counterparts.
Balancing the scales of gender equality doesn’t call for male characters to be sent to the scrapheap. Rather than make fewer programmes about men, why not just make more CG content about women too?
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After all, the taxpayers’ money comes out of male and female pockets – and frankly, I’d pay through the nose to watch the Powerpuff Girls kick Mojo JoJo’s butt.
In fact, cutting beloved cartoons just because they have male leads is verging on inflammatory, and will sadly enrage those already unsympathetic to the gender equality cause.
A gender neutral (read: fair) CBeebies can be a place for Bob, Sam, as well as Bitz and any other female CG characters writers create.
The programming should be diversified, for the benefit of all children, whatever their gender.
Bob the Builder and Fireman Sam, after undergoing previous makeovers at the Beeb, are both being aired on Channel 5.
This isn’t the first time the BBC has been criticised for its male dominance.
Just earlier this year, the BBC was forced to release the wages of its highest paid personalities, and tragically, they revealed a huge pay gap between the male and female stalwarts of terrestrial TV.