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Gender Roles in Media

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In class today we were discussing how gender roles, the typical “male” and “female” roles, are reinforced through media. There are a lot of shows on television today that follow the standard gender roles, where the woman is seen as emotional, weak, etc., and the male is aggressive, physically strong, etc. However, there are a few tv shows that I thought of that don’t necessarily follow gender roles that are enforced in society, but these may be over looked because they are cartoons and perhaps young children don’t know that the media is reinforcing such roles.

One show I want to discuss in particular, that I’m sure most people are aware of, is “Spongebob” on Nickelodeon. While there are certainly characters and episodes where the gender roles that are typical of today’s society are still enforced, there are some episodes and a few characters where I think gender roles are being broken. If you have seen enough episodes of this show you will realize that the main male character, Spongebob, and the main female character, Sandy, have switched roles than the typical roles males and females uphold. Spongebob is emotional, physically weak, and fond of cleaning. There is a specific episode where Spongebob and Patrick raise a child together, and Spongebob takes on the mother role and tends to the house and acts as a “female” in this sense, and then goes on to resume his “male” role. This isn’t seen as weird to anyone in the show, in fact it was something that he had felt he had a duty to do. In another episode Spongebob is depicted as a maid and is to tend to all the household chores and things that a “woman” should do, and he seems to have no problem in doing so. This isn’t typically the role you see a male in television playing, even though this is a cartoon show. Sandy is physically strong, not as emotional, intelligent in the science world, and these are all things that women typically don’t do either. She is well respected and competes in a man’s world and no one seems any problem with it.

While there are other shows that also break gender roles, this specific show shows that gender roles can be fluid and to me seems hopeful in showing kids that girls can be strong and boys can be emotional and there is nothing wrong with that. However, I don’t think there are enough shows that show gender as being fluid and there being nothing wrong with it; although this is a step. I think it should start with parents, media, and society teaching children that gender roles constructed by society aren’t the only options and there is nothing wrong with bending these roles.


  1. falmuhan says:

    I liked your post. I never thought about female and male roles in cartoons, I usually just watch, it made me think about all the cartoons I’ve watched and realized that there are more male cartoons than female…..

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