helen-louise (baratron) wrote,
helen-louise
baratron

Why I hate Miss Piggy: a belated post for International Women's Day

Some people on another forum were doing a "Which Muppet are you?" test and wanted me to take it too. It decided I was Kermit, and I was unimpressed. When I said I'm not a fan of Kermit or Miss Piggy, someone replied saying "What is wrong with you!?". This is my answer:

When I first became aware of gender, aged around 3, it seemed like just one of those things that made people different, like hair and eye colour. It never occurred to me that it should be a big deal. But I had toy cars, a garage, and a train set, and so from that early age, I had to deal with people telling me that the toys I wanted to play with weren't suitable for girls. This made no sense to me - no one was going around saying that only kids with blond hair or only kids with brown eyes could play with some particular toy, so why were toys labelled as "for boys" and "for girls"? Thus I became a feminist at the age of 3.

At primary school, I was mad about dinosaurs, cars and football. At secondary school, it was science, computers and science fiction. I spent a lot of time wishing I was a boy - not because I thought there was something intrinsically wrong with my gender, but because everyone else seemed to think there was something wrong with me. I figured that if I was a boy, I could be into what I enjoyed without anyone giving me grief for it. I wish that when I was told "Girls don't do that", I'd thought of the argument "But I'm a girl, and I do that".

So why do I hate Miss Piggy? Well, as far as I'm aware, Miss Piggy is the only female Muppet. (I've thought through the characters of the Muppet Babies cartoon: Kermit, Miss Piggy, Animal, Gonzo, Bunsen, Beaker and Rowlf; and I can't think of any other female Muppets among the regular cast, like Pepe the Prawn and the two old guys in the theatre box). I was a child annoyed at the second-class position in life that being a girl seemed to occupy, and I always noticed inequalities in stories and tv programmes. It would bother me immensely if female characters were treated differently from male ones.

Miss Piggy is the antithesis of me. Femmy, flouncy, self-obsessed, in love with makeup, clothes and boys. A total diva. She flirts with any handsome man who appears on the programme, in a silly, swoony sort of way. Not with humour, not with wit or cleverness, but purely with physical appearance. I cannot stand that character and any real-life people who are like that - like many of the girls I was at school with. They might have had brains, but as soon as a boy came along, they lost all their intelligence and turned into simpering idiots. Ugh.

I have believed for as long as I can remember that tv programmes should show equal numbers of male and female characters, and that all types of male and female should be represented. OK, you want to have a silly girl who loses her head over "boys" for some reason that will make no sense to your preschool audience - fine - but make sure there are plenty of strong women there too. (I note that many of the mothers of my acquaintance are the strongest women I know.) In the same way, make sure that strong men aren't the only type presented - give us creative and intelligent men - artists, songwriters, dreamers, crafters. The Muppets managed that side of the equation, with sensitive Kermit and dreamer Rowlf, so I don't get why they dropped the ball with the female characters. Show kids that girls should be able to do everything that boys can do - and vice versa.

And guess how the other poster replied to my explanation, over at that other forum? "lol - it's just the Muppets!".

I disagree. On one level, it is just a tv programme - but children are born with no real prejudices at all. They absorb and are taught their prejudices from the adults around them. Miss Piggy is gender stereotyping presented for generations of kids in a multitude of countries to absorb subliminally. She portrays a form of ridiculously vulnerable "femininity" that makes girls think that's what being a woman is all about. It messes with the head of any girl determined to put her brain before her beauty, and encourages us to reject femininity altogether. But just as you can be female without being feminine, you can be feminine without being silly or vulnerable. It's always possible to wear stompy boots under your skirt in case you need to run or fight.
Tags: gender, introspection, rants
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