Founded in 1974, the Women’s Center was established to:
Dismantle, from a feminist perspective, all forms of oppression, including but not limited to those based on ability, age, class, ethnicity, gender, race, and sexual orientation.
Advocate for an equitable environment free from violence and harassment based on gender, race, and sexual orientation.
Create an anti-racist, non-sexist, queer-affirmative space where all people can feel valued and safe.
Facilitate and strengthen connections among people across lines of difference through programming and educational campaigns.
Integrate an appreciation of Women's Gender and Multicultural Studies across the disciplines.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The PowerPuff Girls And Feminism

With all the hullabaloo of the new academic year, I have become nostalgic for the simpler things in life, like cartoons. But now that I am much older, I realize that cartoons from my childhood may not have been as simple as I once understood them to be. No, cartoons are far more complex than I, or any child for that matter, can begin to image — yet they remain key to childhood development. Thinking back, there's no doubt that my personal favorite, The Powerpuff Girls, helped to shape a lot of my thinking. In fact, the series made me a feminist.

You might be thinking that I've made an absurd claim, but have you ever really re-watched cartoons from an analytical standpoint? I have, and it’s like watching a movie twice, only to find that you interpreted it a lot differently the second time around. Yes, it's like that. There's just so much that you can't understand as a child. 

The Powerpuff Girls was conceived by animator Craig McCracken and aired on Cartoon Network from 1998 through 2004, and as an impressionable young girl in the target age group, I watched every single episode. I even had the feature movie on DVD.

In my wistful Internet escapade, I re-watched episodes of what used to be my favorite show in the entire world. A number of episodes into the series and multiple laughs later, I came across one particular episode on season three that caught my attention. Titled “Equal Fights” it basically screamed for me to watch. In this episode, a female villain named Femme Fatale,  “fatal woman” in French, teaches the girls to be sexist so she can get away with crimes. She informs them that aside from Princess Morbucks and Sedusa, the city of Townsville has no other major female villains, so putting her in jail would be an injustice to all women. The girls are manipulated into letting her go and take on a strong hate for males at school, in the city, and at home. 

Pictured on the left, the symbols on Femme Fatales outfit and weapon are based on the ♀ symbol, which comes from the mythology goddess Aphrodite. The symbol has also extended to be a symbol of the female sex. At first glance, Femme Fatale screams feminist, but that isn’t exactly it. In fact, she isn't meant to be a depiction of a feminist of any kind. Her blatant sexism, a facet of misandry and an extreme position in the “war of the sexes,” just serves to make a mockery of straw feminists, the fictional “feminist” characters that take extreme, and stereotypical standpoints on feminism.

I know what you're thinking, this can't be true. How could we have missed this the first time?! But wait, it gets better.

Femme Fatale later informs the girls that she only steals Susan B. Anthony coins because all other forms of money have men on them. Throughout the episode, she also makes sexist remarks that just add to the image of her as a straw feminist. 

The girls are eventually talked out of their sexist thinking with the help of Sara Bellum, the mayor's secretary and Ms. Keane, their kindergarden teacher. In an effort to make things right again, they find Femme Fatale and ask her if she even knows who Susan B. Anthony is. She doesn't. Femme Fatale is immediately dumbstruck by the question and the girls lecture her on the history of feminism and the impact of ignorant extremists like her, ultimately showing feminism (real feminism) in it's true light. Femme Fatale is then put into jail.

I wish Femme Fatale would have been re-introduced in later episodes, but to my dismay, she wasn't. I'm still really glad I decided to re-watch the cartoon series. It was well worth it, and definitely is if you're interested in seeing it for yourself.  

I must also point out that in multiple scenes, the girls' dad, Professor Utonium, is seen wearing a pink apron as he cleans the house and washes the dishes. Let's not forget that he is a loving, caring single dad after all. Not only does this episode introduce the idea of feminism, it also breaks gender stereotypes throughout the series.

So this is why there is no doubt in my mind that The Powerpuff Girls helped to form my young feminist perspectives. I mean, come on, a crime-fighting female superhero trio? It's a no-brainer. 



  2. Interesting analysis. I think I hated that villain because I felt like it was Straw-feminism--depicting feminism as a petty "male hating" ideal that it most definitely isn't. But, I always forget the ending where they kind of show feminism in its truest form. I want to believe that this next series in 2016 will be more relevant to the social climate and subtley dig deeper into the meat and potatoes of feminism without becoming an essay toon and losing its charm. Regardless, I am so totally looking forward to my PPG return.

  3. Pretty much every villain in that series is male - which means there's a lot of "gender violence" towards men. The show was already feminist.

  4. There's also sedusa and the smith family which was more lead by the wife.

  5. All episodes are misandric. All men n the show are either extremely efeminate or evil. Or both as on the case of Him. The rest are just incompetent. While being a single dad prof does not have to act as a the most emotional woman out there. The mayor of townsville is uterly incompetent which would not be a problem if it was not meant to show thqt men are useless without women. The single male superhero of Townsville proves to be a fake because no man can be heroic or brave.