My 10 Year Old Son Thinks the Trailers for Brave are Sexist

We don’t talk about sexism an awful lot around here so I was surprised when my ten year old looked at a billboard for Brave and declared it to be sexist. I asked him how it was sexist and got a five minute diatribe about how all the men were made to look stupid and that gender inequality was “from the 1960’s”.

Alexander asserted that girls do everything boys do except in sports and that the only reason someone would make a movie like this is to make boys feel about about things that happened even before they were born. He was genuinely offended by the trailer and the marketing, particularly the portrayal of Wee Dingwall.

I asked him some leading questions like, “Are there more boy scientists than girl scientists?” He looked at me like I’d sprouted an arm from my head and said, “No.”

“Are there more men than women in computer programming?” I followed up. “I don’t think so.” Was his (second wrong) reply.

I went through every profession I know of, even my husband’s where I know there’s dearth of female executives and he reminded me that our friend is president of a large corporation. She is a Mom.

My son was indignant. Boys are smart and so are men, he’s tired of them looking stupid all of the time. Part of me agrees with him. Men are often painted as buffoons so that women can look strong or savvy. Conversely women trade in on their sexuality. Modern Family is kind only to it’s two gay male stars and I assume that’s just because our country is so horrible to the gays that television can’t be, yet.

I wanted to tell Alexander that women don’t make as much money as men. I wanted to tell him that one of my first jobs was at a Mann Movie Theater and the term sexual harassment was an understatement it was more like Sexual Assault. I wanted to explain to him that women in technology are at a significant disadvantage in terms of networking and being taken seriously and wanted him to know the term “booth babe” because my hope is that in a dozen years when he enters the workforce he was have absolutely no idea what a “booth babe” is.

But I didn’t tell him this. I just sat in the car and listened more while my son told me that he and his sister had all the same opportunities, they have the exact same education and they are both good at different things but it has nothing to do with gender or gender roles.

He asserted that men are smart and I agreed with him. He told me that the movie was about ancient history and I nodded my agreement.

My son is wrong. Gender discrimination isn’t ancient history. Just last week every single republican in the senate voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act.

My son is also right. He’s right in knowing that 10 year old boys in America don’t see girls as weak, dumb or inferior. They also, mercifully, don’t see the comedy in portraying men and boys as bumbling buffoons. I don’t want to ruin his perception with a dose of unkind reality.

I wonder if there will be a smart movie that can talk about sexism without one gender having to win the imaginary war? It’s possible that Brave is this movie, unfortunately none of us will see it. Alexander would be wounded if we did.

 

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Comments 27

  1. Such a wise observation for a 10 year old. You must be doing something right. 
    We studied this in school. They used popular tv shows as examples. If the dad isn’t represented as a complete moron: Home Improvement, Simpsons. He’s a deadbeat jerkoff: Married with Children. 
    I hope that men can be better represented in the media soon. For Alexanders sake. 

  2. at least there are men in movies, Disney is always killing off the mom in the first scene, but I do agree with him they always make guys dumber then they are

    1. Disney does have a strange movie formula that is for sure. Either the mom gets killed off, the girl is a helpless princess or more recently a sassy mc sasserpants. I do like Tangled though. 

  3. I love your boy and his awareness. Kudos to you for being able to let him express and learn.Navigating gender roles is an art in my home. I have never
    believed that equality means sameness. It just doesn’t check.

    I was raised by the type of feminists who tauted that girls
    were, all in all, better than boys, and fathers were optional accessories. In
    my school, this didn’t prove true. Boys were better at anything physical, girls
    read sooner and better. Boys were more willing to speak up in class
    discussions, girls hesitated. Boys resolved peer disagreements by just moving
    on, while girls churned in upset for months sometimes. I could go on.

    The sexes are equal and different is what I’ve taught my
    children. It’s important.

    I want my daughter to know that when a teenage boy says, “I love
    you” it doesn’t mean the same thing as it does to a teenage girl. She also
    needs to know that the playing field of life is still uneven for women and she
    has no direct control over some of it, but there are things she can do, like
    understand that one part of the reason men receive higher pay is that they ask
    for it. Women, in our discomfort with conflict and tendency to want to get
    along, don’t ask for more (i.e. in initial offers of compensation, requests for
    promotions, terms of a sale, etc. ). I also have no qualms about teaching my
    daughter that in the future when she selects a mate, look for one who will be
    able to financially support her home, if she wants to be a mother. I myself
    having been a mom on welfare can attest to the importance of this one. He must
    be an equal in the sense that he, like her, can think for himself and be a leader,
    instead of the perpetually aroused incompetents and buffoons who populate the
    airways. This brings me to my son.

    I’ve worked hard to combat the image of men as bumbling fools
    unable to navigate life without a mother or wife to boss them around. I
    acknowledge the chemical difference in my son’s make-up (testosterone and being
    20 years old is a formidable drive), not because I want to create gender
    stereotypes, but because it’s there (whether I like it or not) and it opens the
    way for us to talk about how to channel this drive in a positive way. I’ve
    taught my son to respect women because it is a reflection of his character. I’ve
    also taught him to be a gentleman. He opens doors, waits in the elevator for
    all women to exit, and pulls out chairs. He does this because he is a man. I
    won’t take that from him. He is also the first intervene and protect a woman,
    child, or animal.

    Snuffing out gender differences robs us of the gifts of each gender. We can be
    different and equal. The problem is the media rarely portrays men and women who
    express their inherent (and different) strengths well. 

  4. Alexander has that wonderful thing innocence allows: the sense of fair play. He’s bright enough to know how the world should work but still too young to understand how it really does work.

    Women and girls are still seen as inferior by most men. This country is run by men for men. Until that changes and the women with any kind of power are seen as smart and savvy instead of judged on their looks first, nothing will change.

    A beautiful, successful woman is described as “pretty AND smart”. If it were a man, he would be described by his intelligence first. Any physical attributes would be spoken of only after all of his business/political acumen had been espoused upon.

    Sad, isn’t it?

    By the way, we are planning on taking our daughter to see Brave this weekend. It looks like a cute movie and the hero is a girl. I love that and want my daughter see that girls can do just about anything a boy can do — at least until she has to go into the big, bad real world, that is.

    1.  i live in a city where there is an Institute of Women, a Women’s publishing house, women’s [exclusive] public transportation system, a Women’s hospital, a career called “Women’s studies”, where cancer research is more focused on breast cancer than in prostate cancer, which happens to kill more human beings (men or women.. y’know). In my city women would never ever be forbidden entrance anywhere under the guise of their gender, in this city our legislative power has to be 50% men and 50% women.

      My city.. and country still tends towards macho ideology.

      when things.. truly change, we won’t need an “institute of women” and “women’s studies” as much as we don’t need an “institute of men” or “men’s studies”.

      i feel..  that affirmative action is born out of fear of discriminating.. and that fear is born from society’s inability to recognize human beings as such and not as “assexual black man”, “white heterosexual male”, “gay asian woman”, “pansexual huichol hermaphrodyte”, “transgendered muslim woman”, etc..

      when we can see the other gender and races as our brothers and sisters we will not be afraid to allow things to flow freely, if there are more women in certain aspect of society then let it be, if there are more men somewhere else then let it be.. if that changes.. maybe it should change organically not by the hand of facist paternalist style laws…

      I don’t discriminate
      I don’t want to be discriminated

  5. I find this entry particularly poignant – mostly because my boyfriend and I got sucked into a ‘9 to 5’ movie marathon on Sunday. In 1980, a movie could be made about the triumphant victories of women in the workplace (albeit a film that is downright silly…Jane Fonda’s outfits are horrifying); but I imagine it would be too difficult to make a similar successful film today. Gender inequality is either so tacitly woven into the business world that we can’t pinpoint it, OR, it is flagrantly waved in front of our faces (a la the Paycheck Fairness Act that you mentioned). Great blog post – definitely got me thinking.

    –Matt 

  6. As a (newly independent) man who has at times been both smart and a buffoon, I empathize with your son’s observations. I want to first say that by no means am I attempting to give parenting advice. But at 10, you can understand the basic idea of something abstract like gender inequality, being a continuous thing. 

    Growing up black and in Memphis, my parents and aunts often talked about racial inequality and the strides made since the Civil Rights movement, but they also talked about current events, and how far we as a nation have to go. I’m not a parent yet, but I would say that as you have a way with words, use them to encourage your son’s critical thinking but also to challenge his notions of progress. I work in a field (PR) dominated by women at every level but the top, and while that’s changing, it’s ever-so-slow. We’re certainly not at the point where men have to be defensive of how we’re perceived, not yet.
    A good place to start may be a discussion of the kilt, and it’s perception in medieval Scotland vs. modern America. I’ve both rolled and worn a kilt, and I can tell you from experience it’s all kinds of manly. Also, it is possible that, singularly, Wee Dingwall is actually an idiot. But then, he will learn that there are plenty of those at a later date.

    Great post and smart kid!

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  8. the school system favors the female style of learning and females and you did a good job of completely ignoring situations that youre son could be discriminated with in the future (divorce, child support, chivalry, dying in war,  alimony, child custody, getting cheaper gifts than he gives, no engagement ring, shorter life expectancy, more dangerous jobs, not being accepted into the world of nursing, teaching, child care, stay at home parent, having a wife that earns less than you, less paternity care, being called ghey when you do something thats not masculine but females can play both roles)

    1. @ LBJ

      ^ “the female style of learning”??? This one remark in itself is sexist. Before you complain about male discrimination in school/workforce, just realize that women are often paid less than men for the same job. Realize that there are very few women CEOs and General Managers in businesses. As for the comment that boys are called gays for doing something “not masculine,” but how “females can play both roles,” also realize that society is monopolized by men. Of course, they would like to see women/girls to emulate them; it’s a form of male worship, no different from political/religious models from past centuries. In this twisted world, men=power and women=man’s hinderance. If you don’t believe me, just read the Genesis, or Homer’s Illiad; if classic lit isn’t your thing, just watch practically every blockbuster movie made. I think you’ll notice a pattern. 

      1. To acknowledge that male & female brains are better suited to differing styles of learning is sexist? LOL.

        The supposed pay-gap has been discredited many times by academics who are themselves female. Catherine Hakim of LSE a notable example. Comparing men who work full-time with women who work FT & PT is a typical trick to “prove” some sort of sexist disparity; trickery, manipulation and omission is almost invariably found in feminist statistics and only a fool or a deceiver would argue otherwise.

  9. This article is hilarious.
    Men/boys are angry that their sex is portrayed as buffoons and morons…. and yet they completely disregard the decades and decades of horribly underdeveloped female characters. All one needs to do is watch an average animated movie and count the numerous personalities/varieties of masculinity: granted, there’s the buffoon, but there’s also the macho hero, the wise old helper, the sidekick, etc. And women characters? Assuming the female is not killed off (ala Pixar’s UP) women serve as the brainless emotionally unstable, or the aggressive male-attackers. 

    Before you complain and moan about how inferior boys are treated in film, just realize that the situation is much much worse for the female sex. Even the male buffoons end up winning in the end. Women in cinema are not taught to win. They are taught to lean on mens’ shoulders for success. On very rare occasions when women are the victors (like Brave,) they are immediately chopped down, which is what I think the purpose of this article is. 

    1. Two wrongs don’t make a right. 

      In regards to UP, how would you have reacted had the widower been replaced by a widow? Would you have raged that they portrayed women as weak and unable to move on after the death of a male partner?

    2.  maybe the boy hasn’t yet been pumped full of hate like you have?
      you know.. maybe the kid feels an agression and doesn’t deserve it because he sees women as equals?

      maybe you should forget hate?
      instead of getting revenge on those darned men/boys? maybe?
      just a suggestion though..

    3. I didn’t tell him he was wrong. I think he was right.

      I also think women are at a distinct disadvantage. My son doesn’t see this and I love that about him. 

      Modern feminism really loves men, just the movie Brave doesn’t seem to. 

  10. I’ve seen this trailer myself and can only say I’m similarly, appauled.
    I look for films which show decent female roles for my son as they are indeed so hard to find.
    But the solution isn’t to persecute boys. Well done to your son for calling this as it is.
    What does surprise me is your reaction. Your son has come to you and said the movie belittles him.
    He says it aims to make him feel bad simply because of his flavour of humanity not due to his actions or values.
    Your reaction to these people attacking your baby is that you want him to know women are discriminated by the
    greater society and so being male he should accept it? Does a young boy inherit the sins of previous generations?
    Is modern motherhood about bringing a just retribution down on their sons rather than telling them they are just as
    deserving of respect as girls?

    1. “He asserted that men are smart and I agreed with him. He told me that the movie was about ancient history and I nodded my agreement.”
      Ummmm…. I think you didn’t quite read

      1. “…I wanted to tell Alexander that women don’t make as much money as men. I
        wanted to tell him that one of my first jobs was at a Mann Movie
        Theater and the term sexual harassment was an understatement it was more
        like Sexual Assault…”

        Your son felt that the movie was discriminatory against men.  This I agree with, this particular film portrayed men as bumbling idiots who can’t reason even if it saved their lives (the movie’s only male characters who seem to be able to reason are the children and they don’t say a single word).

        Your thoughts wandered to how women were discriminated during your generation..

        This makes it seem as if you thought it is alright to portray men as idiots since men portrayed women as idiots 30-70 years earlier, it seems as if you justify discrimination because you have been discriminated.

        why.. don’t we just stop discriminating?
        instead of having a strong females and a bunch of idiot males maybe we should dispense of the idiots altogether?
        instead of having gender quotas, perhaps we can start acting like we truly believe gender to be an intrascendental accident?

        I can tell you, as a person who has no defined gender identity i feel hopeless about the direction that feminism has taken.

  11. I don’t think there will be any smart movies until your son’s generation grows up. Think about the adult writers and directors today. Sexism still subtlety permeates their world-views. It’s not the same sort of sexism that ran rampant in the 50s…

  12. Women make up about 60% of university & college students and spend over about 70% of the population’s disposable income while the male suicide rate towers above that of women and increases year on year. But because some fields such as programming are fields more men and inclined to enter than women, and because more executive level positions are held by men working a 60-80 hour week than women, you’re trying to argue portraying men as fools and idiots and women as smart and perfect to children is justified?

    You’re son is obviously smarter than you and he’s still a child. Give him a few years and he’ll be explaining the difference between equality of opportunity and equality of outcome as if YOU are the child.

    Stop pretending your sex is under-privileged, as a grown woman you only make yourself look silly.

  13. I know a great series of movies that has no “imaginary war”, between men and Women. Harry Potter 1-7. Hermione is the smartest character, and her brains get her through most tough situations, but think about Harry’s bravery and Dumbledore’s wisdom. Luna Lovegood doesn’t have to have “manly” qualities to be her own, independent, quirky, crazy self, she is just Luna.
    Also, the series of unfortunate events. I only read the book once in fifth grade, but from what I recall, the sister was an inventor and her brother loved books.
    Very cool.
    There are many movies/books out there that don’t talk down to either gender, and I think it is really interesting to hear Alexander’s perspective.
    Best of luck to you and your family!
    -Simone

  14. The only thing holding women back in tech is women. Tech companies absolutely bend over backwards to hire women, there just aren’t very many of them doing the work to be qualified. Which goes right back to pay inequality. OF COURSE women are making less money than men… Men dominate stem degrees. You aren’t going to out earn a man if your getting a social science or a teaching degree while the man across from you in graduating from an engineering or computer science track.

    Nobody is stopping women from getting into tech. Most of the major companies are BEGGING them to start taking tech degrees.

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