Kids are impressionable, and they’re influenced by the media they consume. So, if you do decide to allow your child some screen time, you want to make sure they are watching shows that teach important values and send positive messages. Introducing them to kid-friendly feminist TV shows is one way to make sure they are viewing positive representations of women, because sometimes the media falls short of doing that.
If you allow for some screen time in your home, then you can easily use it as a way to teach your child about feminism. (And if you don't, there are plenty of feminist children's books you can read to your child too.) Dismantling harmful stereotypes and ideas begins at home. And we can do everything we can to have conversations with our kids about feminist values, but if the media we consume in our homes is always going explicitly against those values, it’s hard to reinforce them. There are TV shows for kids that don’t dabble in archaic gender roles, and that don’t limit girls to the sidekick role. And since they’re for kids, they’re still fun! If you’re looking to expand your TV options but don’t want to introduce your kid to problematic media, here’s a list of feminist TV shows that will be a great start.
I couldn’t not start with this one. The protagonist is a black girl who “doctors” her stuffed animals. Her mother is a doctor, too, and dad stays home. There are characters with anxiety, physical disabilities, and discussions of bodily autonomy. Basically, it’s perfect.
2'My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic'
With an almost entirely female cast of characters, this show passes the Bechdel Test with flying colors. Girls working together to solve problems? Count me in.
The first Cartoon Network show created by a woman, Steven Universe deals with complex issues and creates diverse, complicated characters in a fun and digestible way.
4'Dora The Explorer'
Before her girlification, Dora was an unassuming bilingual Latina who moved around freely, visiting new places. Having a character on TV who speaks more than one language can demystify other languages for small children, and even make being bilingual seem cool — which it is.
So this one is a little bit of a stretch, because although Punky is a tomboy who displays individuality and is always questioning what goes on around her, the other characters in her world are pretty into upholding the status quo. But as a child, I wanted to be Punky Brewster and she gave me the courage to wear things that were a little bit out there.
6'The Proud Family'
The Proud Family has been off the air since 2005, but you should try to find it on YouTube. The protagonist is 14-year-old Penny Proud, who is always finding way to empower herself. In one episode, Penny successfully petitions to allow girls to join the boys’ football team. In another, she dresses up as Angela Davis in an effort to better understand her heritage.
Word Girl defeats evil with her vocabulary, because girls are smart and heroic. ‘Nuff said.
8Stella and Sam
This Sprout series (which you can stream on Netflix) is about a sweet relationship between young Sam and his older sister Stella. Sam sees Stella as his hero and turns to her when he faces a problem. How sweet is that?
9'Peg + Cat'
Peg + Cat is a math show about a little girl and her cat who solve problems and plays the uke. What more could you want?
10'Lily’s Driftwood Bay'
This show is a about a little girl who lives by the sea with her dad and goes on adventures on a boat with her friends. Girls going on adventures is never not awesome.
11'Teen Titans Go!'
Perfect for older children, one episode features the character of Raven turning into a scary monster because people keep asking her to smile. Lesson here: let kids do their own thing.
Quite possibly the most progressive show ever on TV, kids show or not, Recess is everything. Their teacher was constantly un-whitewashing the history they had to learn, like telling them the real deal behind Thanksgiving and the Founding Fathers. They shattered Nice Guy nonsense, and they were always pointing out injustices and working to right them. Their teacher uses the words “repressive totalitarian government.” I mean, Recess forever.
13'DC Superhero Girls'
Available online, DC Superhero Girls gives a voice to the female cape-wearers. Although it's set in high school, kids of any age will be able to relate to character's challenges and feel empowered by their positive messages.