Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Gender Dynamics on the Island of Sodor

by Tom Bozzo

I have to revise my view of the Thomas universe negative. It has been ambivalent. I noted the following in regard to the economic system of the island of Sodor in comments here:
...I think the message that even the obsolescent can make themselves Really Useful is not oversupplied by the zeitgeist. On the other hand, there's the Sodor aristocracy, and the implicit threat that the less-useful will be sent to the breakers... so maybe they're insecure mainly because of oppression from Sir Topham Hatt.
However, in a subsequent comment, Kim notes:
It's the gender dynamics that get me. Male engines outnumber female engines, what, 5:1? And the few female engines tend to be either bossy know-it-alls (Emily) or silent-but-beautiful trophies (Lady). All the drivers and workpeople are male. The only female human characters that I've seen are the Duchess of Whatever, who is completely indispensible, and Lady Hatt, who is always off shopping. Best of all, though, are the female coaches (e.g., Annie, Clarabel, Henrietta) who are *given* to male engines as a reward for being Really Useful.

It's no wonder that my three-year old announced to me, "Mommie, only GUYS can be train engineers." To a sometimes student of sex segregation in the workplace, this was nearly grounds for signing the adoption papers...
Excellent points. I'd be curious to find out how Thomas made the leap to TV without any significant updating of the '40's British social system.
Yeah, Kim is right. I note, though, that my son plays with Lady and Emily preferentially, and doesn't seem to have internalized the passivity attributed to them (though he has with Annie and Claribel).

I was more worried when he announced on Saturday that "Doctors are boys and nurses are girls." W!T!F!
Did I say indispensible? I meant dispensible. Or is that one of Those words, like flammable?
Interesting, Phantom. John also seems disproportionately interested in Emily, Annie and Clarabel. We don't actually have 'em in the wooden train collection, but he's had a couple of Brio passenger cars stand in for the latter two; at least I haven't caught him "giving" the coaches to the engines yet.

I wonder if "doctors are boys" is influenced by MB? Neither of our kids have ever seen a male physician.

Kim: It is not one of those words, but I'd assumed you were being sarcastic, so I got your intended meaning.
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