Women in ‘toons

The Geena Davis Institue for Women In Media recently linked to research which showed that the cartoons and shows our children watch has a bigger impact on their career aspirations than their parents or teachers and in that context, it’s depressing viewing.

Women are frequently shown as being subservient to men, not leading and deferring to men in answer to the eternal question women in peril always ask, ‘what should we do now?’ As Reese Witherspoon said in her ‘Glamour Woman of the Year’ speech, women ALWAYS have a plan (more often than not, more than one back up plan!) and more needs to be done to represent women in an assertive, and real-world manner.

We’re lucky here in Casa CH because we only have a streaming service which means we aren’t subjected to too many of the ‘pulp’ shows (I’m looking at you Peppa Pig!). I’m hoping it will have positive effects for the toddler (we’ve so far not had the ‘only boys/girls can do this’ which a number of her friends have said).

So, what are we watching? In no particular order, here are a few of our favourite cartoons and shows which feature a great female role model:

Sarah and Duck. I’m not too sure what I can say about the whimsical world of Sarah and Duck, created by Sarah Gomes. Sarah and her friend Duck inhabit a world not dissimilar to ours but filled with characters such as ‘Scarf Lady’ who owns a tree which produces wool (personal life goal right there!), talking umbrellas who dislike the rain, friends who have pet flamingos and buses which refuel underwater. We love Sarah and Duck so much, we even did a Sarah and Duck themed birthday for the Lamb!


Dino Dana. Dana’s enthusiasm and passion for dinosaurs is contagious in this Amazon Exclusive Show.   I could rave about the pure energy Michela Luci brings to Dana, the diversity of the family, the dinosaur facts or the high-quality production (ok, some of the CGI dinosaurs can be a little rough but we’ve all seen worse on bigger budget shows). Our fave episode ‘Face Your Fearosaurus’ features Dana taking on bullies to help a boy too scared to go down the slide. Dana is courageous, driven, funny and very kind. Qualities of a true mighty dinosaur!


Tumble Leaf. I mentioned Tumble Leaf as our inspiration for a Make it Monday geode project and it’s definitely given us assorted other experiments to do (we’ve rigged a string up in the lounge and are currently testing how filled a balloon must be with air to shoot it across the room, inspired by one episode in season 3). The world of Tumble Leaf is a fantastical one, filled with decaying ships, ruins, colourful plant life and interesting characters. I could write a post just on the many amazing things I love about Tumble Leaf (the attention to detail, the fact that Amazon isn’t cashing in on one of their award-winning shows with loads of merchandise, the manner in which characters must use their imaginations to solve problems, the list goes on) but we’re here to discuss our favourite female characters. There are three in Tumble Leaf – Maple, Pine & Rutabaga (or ‘swede’ for us Brits). ‘Rutabaga’ is a somewhat stereotypical mother who does lots of cooking and cleaning but has a mysterious side where she’s very acrobatic or can call the fireflies. I like to think she’s a spy in witness protection & the mother thing is just a cover, but that may just be me. ‘Pine’ is aunt and guardian to ‘Hedge’ and she loves to knit, something my daughter can relate to as she often sees me with a crochet hook in hand. Finally, there’s ‘Maple’ who is one of the main stars. I love her as she’s driven, independent and a ‘tinkker’ -so far she’s created airships and a submarine, all fitted with disco balls and a dance floor for impromptu dance-offs because ‘you never know’ when you may want to dance. 


Team Umi Zoomi. Even just saying the title ‘Team Umi Zoomi’ I’m singing the theme tune. Siblings Milli and Geo, with their friend ‘Bot’ help the residents of Umi City using their ‘mighty maths powers’. It’s a strange mix of live action and animation and some episodes we’ve streamed have been poorly dubbed but the Lamb really enjoys the bright colours, patterns and maths. Also, I’m not going to lie, we’ve all done the ‘Umi Shake’ at the end of an episode.


Ronja the Robbers Daughter. Based on the book by Astrid Lindgren, this cartoon is directed by Goro Miyazaki and co-produced by Studio Ghibli so there’s lots to love before you’ve even learned of the story. Ronja is the only child of a robber ‘Mattis’ who lives with his band of robbers in a decrepit castle in medieval Scandinavia. As Ronja grows, she begins to question Mattis and his lifestyle, especially when she becomes friends with the son of a rival clan leader, Birk. There is so much to love about ‘Ronja’, from the strong-willed, adventure-filled main character to the plethora of supporting cast. It doesn’t shy away from family dynamics and how they evolve as children grow. Ronja’s growing independence, in contrast to Mattis’ reluctance to change and desire to protect his little girl, is something we can all relate to. 

Doc McStuffins. I’ve had a few friends roll their eyes at how PC Doc McStuffins is (a pediatrician mum and stay-at-home dad who cooks? The horror of subverting gender stereotypes!) but this Disney show has such a positive message about working hard to achieve your dreams as well as useful information on how to keep children safe and healthy. It’s a fun, colourful show to watch which shows that women can be doctors (or ballet dancers, or surfers, or self-sufficient princesses) whilst men can be knights in shining armour whilst also cook, fix things or be nurses.


Nina’s World. We’ve recently discovered ‘Nina’s World’ and it’s definitely a show which we’ll be watching more of in the future. Nina, along with her best friend ‘Star’ (yes, it’s a floating star) explore her neighbourhood, making new friends and learning different skills. In some respects, learning to ask for help, or admitting you need to practice a skill may seem like well-worn tropes for children’s TV but they’re handled well in Nina’s World. I also like the small phrases in Spanish which caught the Lamb’s attention, so I’m hoping she’ll pick up some new words.


Dora the Explorer. Dora and her best friend Boots have been a staple of kids television for so long they don’t really need any introduction. In much the same way that Sarah and Duck live in a world filled with wonder, Dora must go on different adventures to help giant chickens, armadillos and so many more. I like that the show repeats key phrases and is bright and fun.


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