Seeking Empowering Books/DVDs for Girls Age 3 - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 37 Old 05-03-2009, 01:34 PM - Thread Starter
 
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We are TV-free but do watch selected DVDs. I'm having trouble finding female protagonists who aren't consumed with finding love or being saved. We have stayed away from Disney for the most part, but have watched Bambi lately. Hate it. My daughter is beginning to notice the gender of everything and I'd like her to see female characters that are active and strong. Even in movies where princess themes don't dominate, Spirit for example, the active strong characters are male saving females. Help.

We watch PBS Curious George, which we like, but there again, George is a boy. Ruby and Max seems o.k. except, Ruby is consumed with tea parties, taking care of Max and practicing baton twirling.

We'd like nature movies without a lot of emphasis on the death part of the life cycle. Any suggestions would help.

Not really looking for a debate, or judging the choices of others, just wondering if any like minds have suggestions for us.
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#2 of 37 Old 05-03-2009, 04:16 PM
 
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Dora, Wow Wow Wubzy (th older ones before daisy entered) One of his friends is Widgit who wears pink but other than that she is smart and an inventor. The movie Bolt , Bedknobs and Broomsticks. My Friends Tigge and Pooh ( I swear I am not purposely coming up with so many Disney movies). Backyardigans (depending on the episode). The Land before Time, Lilo and Stitch (especially Stitch the Movie.)

not that these are empowering but they do have female protagonists who aren't interested in romance. pretty sad list huh


March of the Penguins in terms of nature movies.

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#3 of 37 Old 05-03-2009, 06:36 PM
 
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Has anyone seen the cartoon movie Kiki's Delivery Service? Its looks to have a strong female character but I have not seen it.

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#4 of 37 Old 05-03-2009, 09:28 PM
 
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Yep, I was going to suggest My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service. They're great. Other Miyazaki films like Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind also have strong female protagonists, but might be too scary and/or confusing for a 3 year old.
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#5 of 37 Old 05-04-2009, 03:44 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Is it REALLY this thin a selection?
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#6 of 37 Old 05-04-2009, 04:28 PM
 
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I feel the same way about stories. My DD usually connects with the stronger male protagonists rather than the female ones. I remember doing the same thing because boys got to do cooler stuff!

Some strong female characters I have found: Wall-E (Eve rocks!), Mulan and Pocahontas for Disney (I know you said you wanted to avoid for the most part, but Mulan is WAY better than Bambi for that if you ask me), Bob the Builder (Wendy is cool even if she isn't the main character and some of the trucks are girls), Martha Speaks, Clifford, Dragon Tales, Word Girl.

I totally agree that I'd like to see strong, interesting female characters. I even like Princess Presto in Super Why because she is totally "girly" but she is smart and helps save the day, never needing to be rescued. Good stuff!

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#7 of 37 Old 05-04-2009, 09:07 PM
 
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Yep, I was going to suggest My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service. They're great. Other Miyazaki films like Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind also have strong female protagonists, but might be too scary and/or confusing for a 3 year old.
This.

My neighbor Totoro continues to be my all time favorite movie for kids. What a beautiful, imaginative, fun film.
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#8 of 37 Old 05-04-2009, 10:41 PM
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Dora. Yeah, yeah, she is annoying and loud at times and sort of screams everything she says, however, she is always the one doing the "saving" of people and things, she is always the one who "figures things out" and whatnot. Strong female lead who very rarely (if ever) gets saved by others.

We love the book "Girls Hold Up This World" by Jayda (sp) Pinkett Smith all about how girls are awesome, without putting down men/boys. Lots of images of women/girls, multi-cultural too.

Also, chapter books like Anne Of Green Gables, we read a chapter before bed. She is a strong, opinionated, smart female lead.
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#9 of 37 Old 05-05-2009, 12:30 AM
 
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It's not in the same league as My Neighbor Totoro or Kiki's Delivery Service, not by a long shot, but Tinker Bell has a reasonably strong female character. She likes to build and invent stuff, and doesn't get involved with any male fairies, except as friends. The way I recall it, almost all the characters in the movie are female, and there are no particularly strong male characters.
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#10 of 37 Old 05-10-2009, 07:19 PM
 
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My DD loves the book "Sally Jean the Bicycle Queen". We also like "Willa and the Wind".

She loves the giraffe movie "Tall Blondes" and I love "Madagascar" narrated by Maya Angelou. Not any death in either of those if I remember correctly.

You might want to check out the book "Great Books for Girls". It has helpful descriptions of everything from picture books through young adult reads. All of them with strong female leads.
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#11 of 37 Old 05-11-2009, 03:46 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I was avoiding Disney because of the exaggerated idealized body images for females and the old roles but will look into Mulan as suggested. DD didn't like the beginning of Tinkerbell that Grandpa gave her to watch, and I wasn't crazy about the set-up where all the fairies were judging each other but, we didn't get that far into it, so maybe, I guess.

What I'm really looking for is media where it is just regular characters doing regular things, but where the lead or active characters are female. Even where the lead characters are male animals, like in Spirit, I think girls internalize the messages of roles. I'm actually quite surprised that there aren't more choices. Dora, I find annoying, especially since Disney has princess-ized her too now. But maybe I'll look into the older ones. I just don't want to get her hooked on all the merchandising.

Tall order, I guess.

Thanks for the book suggestions. I do have the book referred to, Great Books for Girls, but have found most of them to be old and some out of print...but its a useful place to start.

Here's some research on girls and media that I found interesting if anyone else is on the same quest. http://www.thegeenadavisinstitute.org/research.php
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#12 of 37 Old 05-11-2009, 08:59 PM
 
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We also don't watch much tv - the kids mostly do videos from the library.

I don't know that these fit "empowering", but at least gender-neutral, which is a step above disempowering!! And they're animal movies:

Brother Bear (Disney, I think, mostly about brother bears, but a very powerful woman plays an important role)

Milo & Otis (dog and cat - I think they're both male)

The Incredible Journey movie (the female cat is awesome)

The Little Foot movies (the protagonist dino is male, but Sarah is a strong female triceratops)

My kids loved the National Geographic Geo Kids videos from the library (I don't remember anything gender-wise in them, beyond the fact that there were some male & some female animal characters). Very tame & yet informative.

Also Magic Schoolbus.

And the Scholastic videos where they read stories are nice too (you could pick ones with stories that work for you).

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#13 of 37 Old 05-11-2009, 09:28 PM
 
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I second (third? fourth?) My Neighbour Totoro. It's lovely, and my 3-year-old adores it. It's just a beautiful film, the family life portrayed is so gentle and comfortable, and the girls are just *girls* - not superheroes or anything, just ordinary girls.

Dora is ok but annoying. I recall Mulan being good, I haven't watched it in a long time - I'm on a bit of a Disney boycott.

Wonderpets is great, though - and the leader, Linny, is female. Most of the animals they rescue are male, if that makes any difference?

One show that my DD likes that I was initially concerned about but then changed my mind and gave it the OK is Scooby Doo. Daphne and Velma are actually pretty good role models, and Velma even has a reasonable body type. And Daphne's unreasonable body is balanced by Fred's equally unreasonable body - but Shaggy and Velma are normal, and likeable characters. Velma is smart and respected for it, and Daphne isn't too far behind her, smarts-wise. There's no actual violence, just some scary "monsters" (which always have a rational explanation) and a lot of chasing. And the girls are kind of the "leaders" - Fred's only function is to come up with crazy contraption-oriented plans that may or may not work to capture the monster du jour. (Note: this refers to the cartoon - the movie version is a whole 'nother story and should be studiously avoided.)

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#14 of 37 Old 05-11-2009, 09:43 PM
 
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Also Magic Schoolbus.
Oh, yes, Magic Schoolbus! My kids love Magic Schoolbus. Ordinary kids, equal numbers of boys and girls, no significant gender stereotypes, with a cool (but not at all ordinary) woman teacher who loves science and adventure. Plus actual useful information about science. The books are great, too, especially the originals by Joanna Cole.
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#15 of 37 Old 05-12-2009, 10:51 AM
 
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I was avoiding Disney because of the exaggerated idealized body images for females and the old roles but will look into Mulan as suggested. DD didn't like the beginning of Tinkerbell that Grandpa gave her to watch, and I wasn't crazy about the set-up where all the fairies were judging each other but, we didn't get that far into it, so maybe, I guess.

What I'm really looking for is media where it is just regular characters doing regular things, but where the lead or active characters are female. Even where the lead characters are male animals, like in Spirit, I think girls internalize the messages of roles. I'm actually quite surprised that there aren't more choices. Dora, I find annoying, especially since Disney has princess-ized her too now. But maybe I'll look into the older ones. I just don't want to get her hooked on all the merchandising.

Here's some research on girls and media that I found interesting if anyone else is on the same quest. http://www.thegeenadavisinstitute.org/research.php
We just end up staying away from anything except nature movies. I think that we have to provide strong female role models from books and our own lives because they just aren't out there in film. I haven't found anything yet that I would show to my DD. Another suggestion is the BBCs Planet Earth which is unbelievably good. My DD has been watching it for over a year and just loves it.

Thanks for the link. I'm always on the lookout for new stuff for my DDs to enjoy.
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#16 of 37 Old 05-12-2009, 03:23 PM
 
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I know I've already commented, but I thought of some more.

I don't know how old your kids are, but my kids liked the Journey of Natty Gann.

Didn't the Kit American Girl books get made into a movie? That would have a strong female character, and the story is nice.

Bridge to Terabithia would be another strong female lead.

Really, you can't go wrong with anything by Studio Ghibli, as far as I'm concerned. Some of them deal with scary subjects, war for example, but all the girls are strong characters, and everyone is so complex. Even the "bad guys" aren't all bad. The good guys are flawed. The bad guys have good aspects or at least have some redeeming qualities. Even though my kids are older now, they still really enjoy the Studio Ghibli movies. Except Grave of the Fireflies. Don't get that one unless you want to bawl your damn eyes out. Two kids slowly dying of starvation after the bombing of Japan. A great movie, but not something lighthearted to watch with the kids.

ETA: Oh, and don't forget the Secret of Roan Inish!
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#17 of 37 Old 05-13-2009, 02:57 AM
 
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Books:

Tatterhood Tales

Maid of the North

Princess Smartypants

Rumpelstiltskin's Daughter

Girls to the Rescue
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#18 of 37 Old 06-02-2009, 04:38 PM
 
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An additional DVD suggestion. My DD really enjoys watching the Families of the World series. We get them at the library. They show children and their families going about their daily lives, I've noticed that lots of the moms have cool jobs.
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#19 of 37 Old 06-17-2009, 10:12 PM
 
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A few Miyazaki movies have already been mentioned but I want to add Spirited Away.
http://www.spiritedaway.com.au/
He seems to do a lot of young female protagonist driven movies.
I love them all:

and
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#20 of 37 Old 06-17-2009, 10:19 PM
 
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the 4 yr old i used to nanny for liked these books with a girl character....she was in kindergarten and she did normal stuff like ride the bus. i'll be back when i remember the title
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#21 of 37 Old 06-17-2009, 10:23 PM
 
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Madeleine?

and
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#22 of 37 Old 06-26-2009, 07:53 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for your suggestions about the Miyazaki movies. They look interesting, but not for my 3.y.o. I think the themes of separation from the family, hospitalization of the mother are too scary. I think I'll wait a couple years--they otherwise sounded good.

We tried a couple Bob the Builder and my dd loved it. Wendy is second banana, though, but at least there is a competent female. We watched Otis and Milo, and my dd liked it enough, but was too troubled for the safety of the animals. Rightly so, I've read that several cats were drowned in the filming of the movie. Not sure if that's true.

We are ordering Magic Schoolbus and Wonderpets from Netflix, so I'm hopeful about that. Can't find Families of the World or National Geographic Kids on Netflix. Will check our libraries. We have BBC Planet Earth and watch it occasionally. Its good, but then there's the killing--which up until recently has been problematic.

I am beside myself that there is hardly anything in video media for a young girl to watch that is non-sexist. Amazing. Keep the suggestions coming. Seems like we could put together a list for ongoing reviews for a sticky in this forum sometime.
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#23 of 37 Old 06-27-2009, 05:47 PM
 
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I'm always on the lookout for good movies where the girl doesn't get married - they're hard to find.
Some older ones that are good -
Mary Poppins
Wizard of Oz

Newer -
Rescuers Down Under = female mouse Bianca leads the rescue of a boy trapped by a poacher

Nancy Drew
American Girls movies
Jane and the Dragon


You may want to skip this one because it has Barbie, but Barbie and the Diamond Castle has two girls who are friends and save another girl trapped in a mirror.
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#24 of 37 Old 06-27-2009, 10:34 PM
 
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OK, I haven't looked at it yet, but I'm going to try Facets Non-Violent Non-Sexist Children's Movie Guide. It sounds good anyway. My library doesn't seem to carry it.
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#25 of 37 Old 06-28-2009, 01:37 PM
 
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Thanks so much for this string and all the posts. I'm off to order alot of these for 3yo dd.
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#26 of 37 Old 06-29-2009, 12:02 AM
 
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Picture books with strong female role models -
Snail Girl Brings Water - a girl brings water to the Navajo (dd's favorite)

Seven Chinese Sisters - the six older sisters rescue the baby from the dragon

One Grain of Rice - a girl tricks the rajah into sharing rice with all his people

Miss Rumphius - about making the world a more beautiful place
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#27 of 37 Old 06-29-2009, 01:09 AM
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I just skimmed all the suggestions, so sorry if there are repeats:

What about Jane and the Dragon? There are like three books and it was a PBS show too, I think.

Paperbag Princess

Free to Be You And Me from the 70s has all these shorts (you can find them on youtube to check out) and it's insanely equitable, genderwise, at least for the parts I've seen so far.

Blueberry Girl by Neil Gaiman is a poem/picture book, very short, but very good. His other stuff has girls in it without being all about girly stuff, but they do tend to be scary (ie Wolves in the Walls).

I would check out Barefoot Books' website, because they are sure to have a TON of great stuff. They are cool like that!
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#28 of 37 Old 06-29-2009, 09:49 PM
 
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I second the suggestions of DVDs of:
Wall-e
The Secret of Roan Inish
Planet Earth (there are parts we skipped though, i.e. baby caribou being eaten)

And also agree about Miss Rumphius (Cooney is the author I think). It's lovely.

Have to run but will add more later -- we have the same focus in our house.

ETA:
Pixar movies are favorites in our house - we have them all, and the girls love Jesse of Toy Story 2. I think there's less gender bias in those movies. No "princess" aspects.

We watch concert DVDs - U2, Talking Heads, and Fleetwood Mac are the current favorites (I need to find some good female concert DVDs although Fleetwood Mac has lots of female singer time ).

We aren't TV-free, but we are Science-channel/Discovery-channel 'heavy' with the girls. We don't watch kids' tv really.

Books--
The Ordinary Princess, MM Kaye -- about the seventh princess in her family, who is gifted with 'ordinariness' by a fairy godmother. It does a good job of showing that a good heart and intelligence etc. are best of all. We like it. It's a chapter book.

We err towards books about animals/nature a lot -- the Winnie the Pooh Encyclopedia of Nature and Encyclopedia of Animals are both good. They talk about how the mammals 'drink their mother's milk,' etc. which I like a lot. The Big Red Barn, Boynton Books, Jan Brett books often have a female character (The Trouble With Trolls, etc.) and are beautifully illustrated.

HTH some ....!

Not all who wander are lost.
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#29 of 37 Old 06-30-2009, 02:09 PM
 
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The Frances and Madeline picture-book series both have strong, interesting female protagonists. They aren't heroic, it's just regular life. Others:

Chrysanthemum
Lily's Purple Plastic Purse and the other books about Lily, Kevin Henkes
Paper-Bag Princess
The Little Engine That Could -- I'm always surprised how many people forget the engine is a girl!
The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses
The Little Old Woman Who Was Not Afraid of Anything

For DVDs, I recomend Charlie and Lola -- again, just real life, but Lola is a delightful kid with a big imagination! Backyardigans is full of strong female characters.
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#30 of 37 Old 08-20-2009, 05:34 AM - Thread Starter
 
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The BBC's Charlie and Lola, based on the books. Absolutely wonderful. Short episodes, about sibs with a great relationship with each other, creative, non-violent, funny. We ordered from Netflix.
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