Achieving gender equality
Former Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick and Unilever's Clive Stiff discuss how businesses can achieve gender equality. (Vision courtesy Unilever)
Winter flu season has hit our household hard this past week. All recommended limits on television screen time have been exceeded. Of course, normally, we play exclusively with wooden toys all day.
Mr Nearly Three's favourite TV show at present is PAW Patrol, a team of six puppies who, with the aid of different emergency services vehicles, rescue citizens of Adventure Bay.
Adventure Bay is presided over by a blue suit-jacketed Mayor Goodway, an apparently single woman of colour with no children but a pet chicken, Chickaletta, in whose upbringing she seems overly invested.
But the positive gender role modelling ends there. Of the six rescue pups just one is female - Skye, who pilots a pink helicopter. Everest, a snow-dwelling husky, is also female, but is a minor character who only appears from season two.
This outrageous gender imbalance would be annoying enough if it were the only example on children's television.
But as we cuddled last week on the sofa, me in my gender-neutral, grey Qantas pyjamas and my son in his all-male superhero pyjamas - Batman, Superman, Thor, Green Lantern, The Flash and some grey mechanical looking person of presumed male character - the lingering gender skew of the shows our fastest growing minds are absorbing began to disturb me.
Fuelled by no small amount of pseudoephedrine and codeine, I conducted a feverish mental gender audit of children's television.
It begins with the daytime hosts of ABC Kids, an all male, if confusingly high-pitched, couple comprising Jimmy Giggle and his sidekick Hoot the Owl. Last week they celebrated the 25-year anniversary of another iconic Aussie bros team, B1 and B2.
And then there's the actual shows they introduce.
Perennial favourite, The Wiggles, have made significant progress with the elevation of Emma the Yellow Wiggle from her initial role as fairy No.2. I glean that real life dancer, Emma Watkins, made the decision to demarcate herself by wearing a skirt.
Sure, one is better than none. But equality it ain't.
Continuing the ABC line-up, the Go Jetters are a team of tiny travellers who visit international cities guided by the mentorship of a disco-loving male "Ubercorn". Of the merry four, just Xuli is female. Like Skye, she is also aeronautically inclined, piloting the Vroomster plane in which they travel.
Beneath sea level, the Octonauts team is always ready to launch into action to rescue rare marine life. The Octopod is staffed by eight adventurers, of whom just two are females - an engineer rabbit named "Tweak" (you'll recognise her by the pink headband) and IT guru and team photographer dachshund "Dashi" (pink hairclips and skirt).
The troupe of six mute acrobats who comprise the hoopla doopla! cast contains just two females, one of which wears - you guessed it - pink and loves nothing more than baking in her kitchen.
A relative newcomer to the ABC line-up, PJ Masks is a cartoon team of three kids - Connor, Amaya and Greg - who transform into superheroes each night after putting on their pyjamas. She's the red one - the boys, blue and green.
This gender composition is mirrored in another active trio, the three inch extra-terrestrial travellers called Floogals. Of Fleeker, Flow and Boomer, only Flow is a woman. Perhaps she an aunt?
One should, of course, draw breath and celebrate the notable female protagonists of children's television.
There's Peppa Pig, dirtgirl, Miffy, Sarah (of Sarah and Duck) and Peg (of Peg+Cat) - a girl after my own heart, who solves problems with basic arithmetic.
But that seems only fair, given the long line of male-dominated series, including Fireman Sam, Postman Pat and Peter Rabbit.
Indeed, the older - but still incredibly popular - television favourites of my generation remain some of the worst gender offenders.
Sesame Street is essentially a trouser festival, with Big Bird, Grover, Cookie Monster, Elmo, The Grouch, Bert and Ernie only accompanied by one pink fairy, Abby.
And don't get me started on Sodor, where Thomas the Tank Engine helms a suffocatingly testosterone-charged team of trains, including favourites Edward, Henry, Gordon, James, Percy and Toby. The solitary lead female train, Emily, is described disparagingly on the official website as a "beautiful emerald green engine" that "can be a little bossy and think she knows best".
And Thomas quite literally spends his entire days dragging around two dim-witted female carriages, Annie and Clarabel, who are powerless to move otherwise.
And I know Wonder Woman just got a movie remake, but the world of superheroes remains decidedly dude-heavy.
My gender audit of Woolworths' recent Marvel superheroes disc collection (the new collectables craze) reveals that, of the 42 discs, just eight were female characters, with the Black Widow appearing twice, joined by the uniformly buxom Spider Gwen, Wasp, Valkyrie, SIF, Gamora and Rescue.
As my adrenal glands continue to work overtime, the only thing I can stomach on television at this point is the Teletubbies - the closest children's television has ever come to true gender equity.
Of the four colourful - not to mention wonderfully wide-hipped and deliciously round bottomed - characters, precisely half are female: yellow LaLa and red Po.
Of the boy Teletubbies, purple Tinky Winky is constantly toting a red handbag and green Dipsy a jaunty cow-hide top-hat.
The Children's Television Standards administered by the Australian Communications and Media Authority are designed to protect children from any particularly harmful effects of TV. They ban advertising during shows aimed at very young children, content which might encourage dangerous activities and any storylines which might demean groups of people based on ethnicity, race, gender, religion or sexual preference.
It's time those responsible for setting these standards gave some thought to the more subtle detrimental effects of TV programming in which girls are still overwhelmingly portrayed as a pink-clad minority.
In the meantime, if you need me in the next few days, I'll be hiding in the grassy-topped Tellytubbic Superdome, quietly despairing for the future of gender equality, while outsourcing household chores to the Tubby Custard Machine and the fastidious vacuum cleaner Noo-Noo.