The Big Issue : Edition 453
THEBIGISSUE7--20MAR2014 43 DEGRASSI JUNIOR HIGH: CLASSIC ENTERMENTARY, PHOTOGRAPH FROM CANADIAN PRESS; LEGO WOMAN: PHOTOGRAPH FROM iSTOCK fgurines. Insightfully, adorably, she wrote, "make more LEGO girl people and let them go on adventures and have fun OK!?!" But more than any of this, there was a completely unscientifc and utterly compelling New York Times Sunday Review op-ed by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz about what Google searches reveal about the gender norm context for children and their parents. Surprise, surprise, it is unequal. After the top concerns of mental health and sexual orientation in roughly equal measure, the data skews dramatically based on gender. The subject matter is different: parents are two-and-a-half times more likely to ask "Is my son gifted?" than "Is my daughter gifted?" and twice as likely to ask "Is my daughter overweight?" than "Is my son overweight?" General attitudes vary, too: while parents sometimes search on their sons' intelligence with negative that symbolised a now suddenly bright future...those were the days when a video of Degrassi Junior High was played. Degrassi: Next Generation screens occasionally on ABC TV. It covers similar themes, but when Degrassi Junior High came out in 1987 (and for many years thereafter), sensitive non-patronising television dramas for and about teenagers weren't a dime a dozen. For those kids watching Degrassi in Year 8 Social Science at the time (erhem...), this was the bridge between Boring Documentaries About Gravity and Actual Fun Television You Would Watch Deliberately. Documentaries are rarely only informative these days. They're usually entertaining as well. Trouble is, with the increasing competition for audience attention comes a desperate need to appeal to the biggest audience share BACK IN ANCIENT times (the 1990s), if a teacher was away for the day, an amazing thing happened. In lieu of schoolwork, students got to watch a documentary loosely based on the subject they were being taught. So if they were studying, say, science, they got to watch a documentary about the formation of cells, or the lifespan of an earthworm, or something about mass and gravity that involved balloons and bowling balls being dropped from third-storey windows by men in their forties who were usually called Gareth. While not remotely entertaining, these ancient educational videos were chalked up as a win, given the absence of any real schoolwork having to be done. The true victories, though, the days when the entire class was united in appreciation for the glorious misadventure that had felled the poor teacher in question, those days when every student felt lighter, felt real hope rise like a bubble towards the blue sky MEDIA TELEVISION ENTERMENTARIES INTERNET GENDER AGENDA and, sometimes, a dumbing down of the 'informative' part of the equation in favour of entertainment. This is why reality TV exists. That, and it's eight billion times cheaper than making a documentary. If you tried to show Degrassi to a bunch of Year 8 kids now, they would consider it paternalistic and (here's the death knell) 'educational'. One generation's wildly exciting entertainment is the next generation's old tyre in the dust. In a generation's time, the pendulum may have swung back again. Maybe gravity documentaries will be all the rage. At the moment, though, we get to learn all sorts of things while being entertained. It's the boring stuff we can't get our heads around that remains unwatched. But that can't be important, can it? by Lorin Clarke (@Lorinimus) MY RECENT INTERNET feeds have been fooded with issues about gender and equality. No pivotal event seems to have brought this about; it's just a strong eddy in the babbling brook of the internet. There was CNN host Piers Morgan (who has since been sacked) claiming to be the victim of "cisphobia" (prejudice against someone whose gender identity matches their anatomical gender) and the rest of the world telling him, no, he was a victim of his own ignorance. There was the dad who hacked Donkey Kong to recast the princess as the hero and a kidnapped Mario as her object. There was seven-year-old Charlotte Benjamin writing to LEGO after noticing that the few female mini-fgs at her local toy store were associated with more passive activities than the more common male words like 'behind' and 'stupid', positive words like 'gifted' are more prevalent. But when searching on their daughters' appearance, they are more likely to use negative words like 'overweight' and 'ugly' than positive words like 'beautiful'. Stephens-Davidowitz found no biases for geography or political affliation, nor any evidence of a shift in trend since 2004, when Google search data began to be archived. Obviously, interrogating Google stats is not scientifc research – the sample represents only those who ask the internet questions that the internet could never answer. And maybe parents don't search about their daughter's intelligence because they are more confdent of her smarts. What this example reveals (as succinctly as the LEGO counter at the toy store) is that the strong eddy of gender inequality is alive and well and not going away any time soon. by Jen Breach (@jenbreach) THE CAST OF DEGRASSI JUNIOR HIGH HEY, NICE HAIR, LEGO LADY!