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When they must assign gender to animals, inanimate objects, or even abstract concepts, writers and artists have hit upon an ingenious solution: Put a Bow on Her Head! Because it's Hair Decorations!
Writers tend to assume that for some reason most viewers will assume that the protagonist is a guy by default. So to make absolutely sure there's no Viewer Gender Confusion, developers will assign Tertiary Sexual Characteristics to the females. Occasionally, males will have some as well, but they tend to be much less obvious.
Note that many, many animals already have distinct sex-specific characteristics, though these are almost guaranteed to be totally ignored in designing fictional animal characters. The writers either didn't do their research or assumed the viewers wouldn't know what they are.
For animal characters, this is caused by the assumption that the only way to convey gender in such characters is through gender stereotypes in design.
The most common feminizing accessories include:
Occasionally, the only difference between a boy and a girl will be the location of the bow - if it's a bowtie, it's a boy, and if it's a hairbow, it's a girl. (The bow itself may even be identical.)
Human girl characters are sometimes depicted wearing bows on their head, but this is not as pervasive as depicting a female animal character this way.
On the positive side these gender identifiers are pervasive enough to be considered shorthand for viewers who may be hearing impaired. On the negative side, they are pervasive enough to lead to Viewer Gender Confusion for male characters with stereotypically "girly" traits, including many a Bishōnen. Remember though that Tropes Are Tools and that use of these characteristics aren't bad in and of themselves and helps dispel Viewer Gender Confusion in a quick and easily understood manner.
A Super Trope to:
In two similar Swiffer commercials, an old-fashioned string mop is spurned by its owner, and seeks female companionship from other inanimate objects. One ad shows it courting a pink (hence female) bowling ball, and the other, a rake with a leaf daintily stuck to its tines where this trope would normally place a flower.
Hungary was originally assumed to be male by everyone including herself. Then puberty hit her like a bombshell(not the first in the series), and so she started wearing a traditional Hungarian folk dress and a flower in her hair.
The Knight Sabers from Bubblegum Crisis come with rather silly high heels on their armour. Even the Fright Knights who were the rather bulky first concept for the suits had high heels.
The shinigami Rem in Death Note has earrings and colored lips, and in the anime version her highlights were changed from dark blue to pastel purple. Despite this, she's often mistaken for male (possibly due to Ryuk having similar features already), though it's lessened now that there's an anime version with a feminine voice.
In Digimon Frontier, eyelash difference is the only distinguishing feature between male and female KaratsukiNumemon.
Dragon Ball Z has Vegeta and Nappa visit a planet inhabited by sentient bugs. The only female bug shown on screen is bright pink, but otherwise indistinguishable from the male bugs.
KouRyu and AnRyu of GaoGaiGar are basically just like the female Autobots, in pink and dark purple exteriors compared to primary colors. Note that all the other robots in the series have quite masculine faces, and the French Dragons have feminine faces and figures. Not to mention light-up breasts. Volfogg is also more purple than AnRyu, but that can be chalked up to his purple being the standard ninjacolor.
In Pokémon Ash's Butterfree falls for another Butterfree, who just happens to be the only Pink Butterfree around (and this was before Shiny or gendered Pokémon were introduced in the main series).
As it turns out, possibly as a Continuity Nod, Shiny Butterfree do have a pinkish tint, and have distinctly pink hands, feet, wings, and a mouth in the second generation.
Toshiro Ono's manga also had a version of the Pikachu's Goodbye story where Pikachu hooks up with another Pikachu with a flower on its head, presumably intended to be female, with Ash's Pikachu being male.
There's another episode where a female Charizard appears. No points for guessing how you tell.
The end of one episode has three wild Muk falling in love with three other Muk. The latter are identified vaguely as female by their more feminine Pokémon Speak voices, as well as having Blush Stickers.
Dolores in Zone of the Enders has a generally female shape, but nearly all the major Orbital Frames have somewhat androgynous shapes. She is, however, the only pink one. That would possibly make Jehuty (main game series) and Testament (Fist of Mars) subversions, as they have female AIs as well, but more masculine color schemes (Blue and brown, respectively) as more befitting their male pilots (Dolores has a male pilot too, but given her role as Robot Girl, pilots herself most of the time).
In all versions of The Moomins, the distinguishing sexual characteristics of Moomins seems to be largely limited to what clothes (if any) they wear. Snorkmaiden has her trademark hairstyle though.
In the original books, Snorks and Moomins are different species, so to speak. And the white skin, incidentally, is fur - and Snorks can actually change the colour of theirs (though that was hastily forgotten after the first book Snorkmaiden and her brother appeared in).
Averted for The Groke and Too-Ticky, who are female but have practically no gender clues. Several Finns have been surprised to find out the characters are female, as Finnish doesn't have gendered pronouns to point this out.
In the books, The Groke wears skirts (yeah, thats not her skin). Though so does Hemulen...
Surely that averts the trope, then, because the book explicitly states that the Hemulen inherited that dress from HIS aunt.
Used a lot in the Swedish comic Bamse most commonly in that female characters tend to have much larger and detailed eyes than male ones.
Averted in The Sandman for Luz in A Game of You. She's an anthropomorphic parrot wearing a dickey with a bowtie, a typically masculine form of apparel. You have to pay attention to the pronouns others give her to figure it out.
The animal characters of Tooth And Claw seem to have the sexual dimorphism of their real life counterparts. Meaning a character's gender isn't always apparent. In light of this the females tend to wear tiaras with decorative threads that give the impression of long, feminine looking hair.
Aside from their obvious manes, male lions in The Lion King have black ear markings. Lionesses have none. Oddly, when Simba first appeared as a newborn cub, he lacked these ear markings.
The hyenas too feature this trope. The males have dark fur patches that resemble Perma Stubble, while the only noticeably female hyena Shenzi has eye patches shaped like heavily applied eyeshadow, and a mane extending to having bangs and a fringe.
Shenzi also has no eyebrows, just like her voice actor Caryn Johnson, aka Whoopi Goldberg.
Donkey doesn't realize that the dragon is a girl until she leans in close, into the light, and he can see she has long eyelashes as well as pinkish skin and some coloration to draw attention to the lips. Also a hint of purple on the eyelids, too. She looks like she has an enormous makeup mirror stashed somewhere in her treasure hoard.
While Shrek hardly appears to have any hair at all (except in his ears), the ogre form of Fiona has a full head of hair.
In the spinoff Puss in Boots the main cue that Kitty Softpaws is female is that she has long eyelashes, which don't appear till after she removes her luchadore mask and stay around when she puts the mask back on, maybe Puss was just being unobservant that day?
WALL•E has the chunky and functional (male) WALL•E next to the sleek (female) Eve. The other Axiom robots who are (presumably) male are more angled and squareish, reminiscent of WALL•E's cube shape. The sole exception is the hairstyling and makeup bot, which speaks in a female voice, subverting the trope. Part of the reason for Tertiary Sexual Characteristics is that closed captioning doesn't confer gender identification. The PR-T's are also all pink... save for a singleblue one visible in the background in one shot.
Master Viper in Kung Fu Panda has slightly reddish lips and a pair of flowers on top of her head. This may have also been to make Viper more cute and avoid Reptiles Are Abhorrent. She especially stands out compared to Master Tigress who looks pretty much nothing like a girl to the extent that many people (including her own voice actor) initially thought she was a guy.
In the live-action Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, the Chipettes have longer hair than the boys and eyelashes. They do wear clothes for the majority of the film, but their first scene has them arrive from the wild (no clothes) with no NonPrimate Breasts or Hartman Hips in sight. (And then later, they possess both features, which they shake during their big musical number.)
In Gremlins 2, one Gremlin gets into a potion that turns it female, resulting in long hair, a garish makeup job, and streetwalker clothes.
Likewise in the Gremlins: Gizmo video game, you can choose to care for a couple of female mogwai, distinguishable by their long eyelashes.
In the live action/CGI/animatronics Cats & Dogs dealt with the Tertiary Sexual Characteristics dilemma by having no female cats and picked a long-limbed and overtly slender breed of dog to play the one female dog character.
A rare live action version shows up in the short film Darth Vader in Love: Vader's female counterpart is dressed in a pink and white version of his iconic outfit, and the edge of her helmet has been restyled to resemble a woman's "flip" hairstyle.
In one of the MilesVorkosigan novels, Trooper Taura wears a pretty bow to make herself less fearsome to the kids they're rescuing. While she is visibly female, Taura is also... a large woman. And powerfully built. And she has fangs. And claws. Let's not forget the claws — in her introduction, she scratches through a heavy-gauge plastic forced hot-air pipe... and no, the nail polish she favors later does not hide them.
Dwarf men and women look exactly the same. Originally it was frowned upon in dwarf society to openly identify their gender, but recently some females dwarfs have begun to wear makeup and dresses to differentiate. Amusingly, nearly all of these are derivations on what the others wear; Cheri is shocked at the idea of shaving, clarifying dwarfs still want to be dwarfs.
The only Dwarf known to shave is the very male Casanunda.
When the extremely prim and proper Miss Maccalariat insisted that male golems could not clean the ladies' room, Moist re-named one of them Gladys and had "her" start wearing a blue gingham dress. He does rationalize any golem gender-identification is largely arbitrary, but was more disturbed by Gladys reading women's magazines and slowly acquiring a more obviously female personality. "She" starts to develop a crush on him too. If you thought he was disturbed when she started acting feminine, that's nothing compared to some of the happier sorts of thoughts that cross his mind when he cottons on that she's getting sweet on him.
At one point he compares her to "the male golems", before reminding himself that they aren't male, any more than Gladys is really female.
And what about the "boys" conscripted into the Borogravian Army in Monstrous Regiment? (Socks.)
In Joan Manley's She Flew No Flags, the young heroine discovers that her equally prepubescent male friend is really a disguised girl when she notices that "he" has pierced ears.
Also seen on Friends, when Rachel sticks a pink bow on Emma's head because everyone keeps saying, "What a cute little boy!"
While Amy goes one step further in getting the baby's ears pierced.
Another baby example: Alfie/Stormageddon from the 2011 series of Doctor Who is dressed in blue◊, but Doctor Who Confidential reveals that the main "baby actors" in the episode are female twins.
An interesting example might be Power Rangers. With a few rare exceptions, when morphed, the female rangers (at least the ones that are female both here and in Japan) have a skirt wrapped around their suit. Considering the fact that usually female rangers are pink, it's not likely confusion will occur.
The Gokaiger can copy the powers of past Ranger teams. A few of them have access to suits previously worn by the opposite gender - except the suits will gain or lose the skirts depending on who's wearing them. This is especially funny for GokaiYellow, since many of her predecessors were already gender-flipped by Power Rangers.
Also, occasionally, a female ranger's helmet's had earrings. This stopped with Maskman◊ and Fiveman,◊ but it had been there since the beginning with Goranger◊ (although, at least then, her earrings were bombs, so they were at least useful.) And then, there's Battle Fever J where Miss America had a feathered blond hairdo◊ on top of her helmet.
As with Lola Bunny (see below), Abby Cadabby is a serious point of contention for some Muppet fans, and for many of the same reasons. Abby is a bright pink and purple FairyPrincess (it looks disturbingly like the character was designed by a marketing committee), complete with pigtails and a skirt. In contrast, very few other Muppet creatures on Sesame Street -or several other Muppet productions come to think of it- have any really obvious gender clues. Miss Piggy is the only one who springs readily to mind.
Janice from the Electric Mayhem band has long blonde hair, huge black eyelashes, and enormous red lips.
Prairie Dawn from Sesame Street is prepubescent, but has pigtails (complete with hairbows), eyelashes, and a blue gingham dress to clue viewers in that she's a girl.
Word of God is that Abby looks different from the other female Muppets not because she's the girly girl (although she is), but because she's a Fairy. Apparently, the idea is that Fairies are a different puppet "ethnicity" (which may explain why she looks so much like the Sprites in Johnny and the Sprites NB— Abby's voice actress was Ginger in Johnny and the Sprites).
Zoe the Monster (Elmo's Distaff Counterpart) originally just had the generic "girly" eyes seen on some female Muppets and a somewhat soft color scheme as her tells. Lately, however, she's noticeably smaller and wears bangles and bows at all times — and occasionally wears a fluffy bubblegum pink tutu.
The Red Dwarf episode "Parallel Universe" featured Distaff Counterparts of all the cast (except the Cat). The "female" Skutter (a steel-blue utility robot with a claw-like hand and a single eye) was bright pink and had eyelashes and a 'skirt' around her chassis. Averted in Series V•III, which introduced a female Skutter called Madge who looked identical to every other Skutter. The Cat's parallel is, much to his disappointment, a humanoid dog.
Used in typically snarky fashion in Pearls Before Swine: The female crocs and pigs are identified by Simpsons-style beehive hairdos. Maura the non-anthropomorphic duck is given a hair (?) bow to distinguish her from her identical boyfriend Guard Duck - so that when they're both wearing helmets in a recent strip, her bow rides atop.
Bill Amend has an odd variation for FoxTrot: Female characters have attached earlobes while male characters have free earlobes.
Gary Larson had some fun with this in The Far Side, and it's possible that the aforementioned Pearls Before Swine took some inspiration from him. Female characters (but usually not the cows) would usually wear ridiculous flower-print dresses, beehive hairdos, and fancy rimmed glasses.
Garfield's girlfriend Arlene has pink fur, eyelashes, and lipstick. She's also drawn to look more graceful and sinuous than Garfield.
This has also caused decades of Viewer Gender Confusion for poor little Nermal. This is largely because Jim Davis has a tendency to depict baby animals with eyelashes regardless of gender. Even Orson Pig, who started out as a piglet in the US Acres strip, had this applied to him. But the ultimate example of this goes all the way to the eighth life in Garfield's Nine Lives special, where a very young Garfield and Odie are seen, and they too had eyelashes.
Of course, in Nermal's case, the fact that he had a clearly female voice actor in the cartoon doesn't help with the confusion at all.
The writers of the Scamp newspaper comic decided to go against the Gender Equals Breed deal with Lady's and Tramp's puppies, and make one of Scamp's sisters a boy, giving Lady and Tramp two daughters and two sons. The only real difference between Scooter and his sisters Fluffy and Ruffy is that Fluffy and Ruffy have eyelashes and wear ribbons around their neck, and Scooter does not.
In Sherman's Lagoon, you can only tell Sherman and his wife Megan apart by Megan's pearl necklace and slightly darker coloring. In a brief arc where Hawthorne had a girlfriend, the two were distinguished solely by the girlfriend's having eyelashes. This didn't work well—some of the dialogue only makes sense if one assumes even the writer forgot which was which.
Luann uses this and inverts it. Most male characters other than Aaron are given dots for eyes, big round noses and simplistic bodies. The women almost always have full figures, pouty lips, droopey/sexy eyes, etc. Luann herself has a big round head and nose with a line for a mouth.
A Cathy comic in the Sunday paper a few years ago that featured a newborn baby. When asked by her grandmother what gender the baby was, the mother replied that she wasn't going to say, because it was the baby's one chance to be treated by people without gender preconceptions. The grandmother immediately begins gushing over the mischievous glint in its eyes and tiny fists that prove that it's a boy. When the mother exclaims that "it's a girl! A tough, strong girl!", the grandmother immediately shifts gears with, "Well, of course it is! Look at that precious dimple!"
In Pogo, the female citizens of Okefenokee Swamp usually wear aprons and/or bonnets, and Hepzibah wears a skirt. Lampshaded in an early strip when Miz Hop Frog successfully hides her gender from Pogo by simply removing her apron. Slightly later, Pogo complains about a butterfly who's decided to take up residence on his head because it makes him look like a girl.
The Bad Idea Bears from Avenue Q use the bowtie/hairbow version, plus the 'female' bear has eyelashes and a pearl necklace.
Sylvanian Families figures are exactly the same whether male or female. The only way to tell them apart is from their clothes; boys wear various dungarees and shorts while girls wear dresses with flowers and bows. You can swap clothes without noticing the difference. There are four families with horns or tusks; however there are currently at least 61 families, and more if you count family members that only come individually in accessory sets.
Ms. Pac Man also has an eyelash, and a mole, and if you look real closely, you can also see lipstick.
Discussed in an exchange in Wayne's World, which provided this trope's alternate title:
"Well, she's got a bow on her head!"
The minuscule difference between Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man was played with in Drawn Together, where Pac-Man reveals that he is Ms. Pac-Man when he puts on the bow.
One of the ads for a home video game system version of Ms. Pac Man had the titular yellow gobbling-disk try to convince us otherwise, by singing "Honey, don'tcha know / I'm more than Pac Man with a bow!".
Female avatars on Kingdom of Loathing have ponytails. Many of the alternate avatar images, as well. The male version of Vestments of the Treeslayer is a tree. The female version is the same tree, with a little bow tied to one branch.
The only seen female Krogan in the Mass Effect series is wearing a full body covering robe while males are almost always wearing combat armor, and the few who don't wear simple shirts and trousers. However, they still were able to split off from the males and form their own exclusively female clans that are doing just fine on their native Death World Tuchanka without any males protecting them from wild beasts and raiders, so it's more likely that the one example of female clothing were special priestess robes rather than common clothing for women. And even then she still had no problem at all with taking a shotgun from the person next to her to shoot a cyborg assassin coming up behind him.
Quarian females generally wear a hood or veil, while males have little hook things hanging from their rebreathers.
Generic Toad NPCs are identified as female by having long hair and eyelashes, which is a little strange, given the Viewer Gender Confusion suffered by the original Toad over the years.
Bombette, a female Bob-Omb, is pink, has a blond, braided fuse, and a heart-shaped windup key.
Goombella is also pink, and she has a blond ponytail.
Goombario wears a blue cap similar to Mario's, while his sister Goombaria wears an orange-red bow. And has a pink body. Their mother is also pinkish in color and wears a pink head kerchief, although their grandmother is brown and merely has a lacy cap. However, none of his three female relatives have hair, unlike Goombella.
Ms. Mowz, a Mouser, has a heart-shaped tail and wears high heels.
Interestingly, Watt and Sushie are aversions. Sushie otherwise looks like an ordinary Cheep-Cheep except for purple and orange coloring, and Watt, a Sparky, has only a pacifier (to signify that she's young).
There's still some confusion among gamers regarding Watt's gender. The fact that the game refers to Watt as both male AND female at different points doesn't help either.
Petuni, the only known female Puni (other than the Elder), can me distinguished by the pink orb on her antenna.
Averted in Super Mario RPG. At one point Mario and company encounter a Chain Chomp visually identical to every other Chain Chomp in the game. Bowser however is easily able to determine that it is a girl and then "acquires" her as a weapon that he can hurl at enemies.
In The Sims 2, you can build male and female Servos (robot butlers). The male looks like a generic robot, but the female looks like the male with a pink bow and lipstick.
In My Sims, Sims are technically neither, though the specific characteristics they're given tell the tale. The player-controlled Sim can be given any available characteristics you want. (Feminine voice, eyelashes, and attire with a masculine hairstyle and a five-o'-clock shadow? Go for it!)
In MySims Kingdom, on the other hand, you choose a gender for your Sim, and that puts a limiter on what your Sim can wear, what kind of hair is available, etc.. Sometimes, it changes what outfits you get as a reward. For example, there's a reward that lets males choose from a selection of outfits that are shorts-only; females get two-pieces, some with shirts over them (split near the bottom).
Gender-specific physical differences were created for some Pokémon in Pokémon Diamond and Pearl and carried forward for future games. Fortunately, they mostly tend to be arbitrary markings or based largely on gender differences in reality, so good on Game Freak's part. Female Wobbuffet appear to wear lipstick, but it's just for the lulz.
Prior to this, the few gender-dimorphic Pokémon had their obviously different male and females listed as separate species! Male Volbeat is red and has a glowing tail, female Illumise is purple and doesn't. As a maybe-intentional subversion/inversion of the typical blue/pink color scheme, Nidoran-line females are blue/indigo, but the males are pink/purple. Shiny variants avert this, though (except for Shiny Nidoqueen, which is greenish).
Think you want to mess with a purple Nidoking?
Note that the Pokémon that get different stats based on their gender are actually very different. The male and female Nidoran lines learn entirely different moves and have differing stats. Some Pokémon only exist as a certain gender (no male Combee will ever evolve into a Vespiquen, for example). Generation VI introduced Meowstic, who share the same Pokedex entry but have different colorings, completely different movesets, and (if leveled up to learn moves as normal) lend themselves to completely different styles.note In a subversion of the normal RPG rule of thumb, the female's the attacker while the male favors support techniques.
Female Pikachu have heart shaped tails.
Neopets didn't always have gender differences, but after the pet artwork received a global update, female pets gained conspicuously longer eyelashes over their male counterparts — or, in the case of the insect-like species: partially-closed eyes.
When Amy Rose first appeared in Sonic the Hedgehog CD, her defining sexual characteristics are being pink (a contrast to Sonic's blue), eyelashes, and a skirt. When she was redesigned for Sonic Adventure, her femininity was more emphasized by changing her hairstyle (up until then, it was exactly the same as Sonic's), giving her an actual bust size, and giving her large golden bracelets to wear on her wrists. Another good one is Sally. In the Fleetway comic she had a bow on her head. Archie gave her secondary characteristics. Played straight with most characters in the games, where the only differences are eyelashes and clothing styles.
Now that it's no longer a secret that Samus is a Girl, Samus's Powered Armor in the Metroid series has undergone a slight-but-noticeable makeover to make the gender of its wearer more obvious. It possess a rather slender waist and a large Breast Plate, and its visor is now more obviously transparent, usually showing off Samus' eyes... and her rather long eyelashes.
In The Movies, the full-body animal costumes are the few unisex outfits, because they replace the character model for the actor rather than fitting over it. Except, the gorilla suit has a male and a female variant. The lady gorilla has a bow and lighter fur (but, curiously, no cleavage!) And no, you can't cross dress it; it always matches the gender of the actor.
In Nuts & Milk, Yogurt looks exactly like Milk with the addition of two pink bows on her head.
In Ice Climber, Nana (the P2 character) is just the Popo sprite with a pink parka instead of blue.
In Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts, Rare apparently got tired of the years of people going "Kazooie's a girl?!", so they re-made her appearance. She now has long eyelashes, "curly" hair, and a more curvy look, to make her more obviously female. And then, once you beat the game, she starts wearing a bowtie (yes, it's a bow, but it's a masculine bow).
All over the place in the Kirby series, where characters are given bows to show that they're female. It's most obvious with Chuchu the octopus and Ribbon the fairy. The only two exceptions seem to be Keke and Adeleine. This caries over into the fandom, where fanmade female characters are usually given a bow, or at least big ol' eyelashes.
Also, the blue Lololo's distaff counterpart Lalala is pink and wears a bow.
Taken to the extremes with Kaboola/Kabula, an airship boss in Kirby's Dream Land and Kirby Super Star Ultra. Her most recent redesign has eyelashes painted on her hull.
Many male characters in this series tend to have big bushy eyebrows.
And Pab and Peb, the new Beta Couple in Bubble Bobble Plus (WiiWare). (See the Title Operations Guide in the Wii Shop Channel.)
Rainbow Islands: Three out of eleven random people who have all been imprisoned in The Alcatraz and transformed into green bubble dragons are female and thus have a pink bow on their head.
In Twinbee, one of the ships (not just the pilot of said ship, the ship itself) is female. How can you tell? Winbee is pink. Later adations have also shown that her cockpit is shaped like a heart, though this is somewhat excused - with two rounded bumps on top, it also shows she's the second 'bee ship. Twinbee, the original, has a round cockpit (one "bump"), while Gwinbee, the third, appears to have a rounded arrow pointing down (three bumps on the top part of the cockpit).
In Final Fantasy IX, female Moogles are distinguished from the males by wearing pink vests.
In one quest from Final Fantasy Tactics A2 you rescue a kidnapped Seeq beauty queen. Her sprite is indistinguishable from a male Seeq viking, but in her portrait she's... a male Seeq viking with lipstick.
Edgeworth: I suppose this is the Pink Badger? But since it has the same design, doesn't it seem forced to call this one a female? Kay: You think so? I mean, just look at how long her eyelashes are! Edgeworth: That's the only difference. Kay: And the fact that she's pink. Edgeworth: Yes, and? Kay: And her lips are red! See, lipstick! Edgeworth: (thinking to himself) What? She has nothing to say about the giant pink ribbon, or is that too obvious?
All Creatures games exhibit a mix of this (many official breeds differ by hairstyle, two have makeup on the females, and one C1 breed had pinkish females and bluish males) and more typical sexual dimorphism (different coat colors, horns on male Fallow Norns.)
Bandage Girl in Meat Boy series wears a distinctive flower.
In Animal Crossing, your player character will wear a t-shirt and shorts if they're a boy, and a dress if they're a girl. They'll also each have a different set of hairstyles (though at one point in the game, girls can get boy haircuts and vice versa.)
In the original title, and it's updated versions, the female protagonists wore cone shaped hats while the boys wore viking helmets.
On the NPC end, animals will have either blue or pink name boxes during conversations depending on their gender.
Averted in New Leaf, where it's possible to cross-dress and even make your character look exactly like the opposite gender. NPCs wont react to it, but other players might.
Gokujou Parodius and Otomedius G have the giant female Moai head Yoshiko, who wears lipstick and earrings. The latter game reveals that it's not her real face.
In Chack'n Pop, Miss Chack'n can be told apart from Mr. Chack'n by the ribbon in her hair.
In Angry Birds some later bird additions and merchandise have stylized "feminine" eyelashes and bows on their heads.
The Flash game Vision By Proxy is about a round blue alien with one big eye, who looks like a blue Mike Wasowski. The sequel Ms Vision By Proxy is about a round pink alien with one big eye, a bow on her head and, for some reason, a belt. Taking it up a level, the alien from the first game appears in the opening cut scene and has grown a moustache.
The "gloves" on the vixens are a fairly straight example in the comic.
Inverted in 8-Bit Theater where Berserker assumes that all of the Light Warriors are women due to their lack of beards. To be fair, he is a Dwarf.
xkcd typically distinguishes female from male stick-figure characters by giving the former hair.
Kay Wai Jellese/Kaye Haychold in Jennifer Diane Reitz's webcomics Unicorn Jelly and To Save Her. Kay/Kaye (like the author) is actually male but transgender, as her species defines that. In Unicorn Jelly she's a conical blob with eyes and a mouth and wears a bow that's held in place on her "forehead" by a small stud. In To Save Her she (or a version of her) assumes humanoid form (with a female figure)) and still wears a bow on her forehead.
In Pokey the Penguin female characters are just smaller copies of Pokey with a bow or colored down on their heads.
In the almost never safe-for-work Oglaf, there is a specific reference to the Bow of Shame in "Son of Kronar".
Hanna Is Not a Boy's Name has a bat with lipstick, eyelashes, and possibly eyeshadow. It's a bit justified by the fact that she's a vampire who has shapeshifted into a bat, and therefore has retained some of the traits she has in her more humanoid shape. (There's a vampire who, in bat-form, continues to wear glasses.)
Lucy in Bittersweet Candy Bowl wears a bow for this reason. Or did. Puberty has since fixed this problem, but she still does out of likely habit.
In the Homestar Runner cartoon "Costume Commercial", the ghosts used as decoration are typical white blobby ghosts, until the announcer says "and for the ladies..." at which point it's a pink background and the ghosts have bows on their heads.
The evil wizard Gargamel takes his revenge on the Smurfs by creating a 'Smurfette' to trick them. While the male Smurfs all wear white pants and had very little hair, the original Smurfette had long black hair and a white dress. In a nutshell, the Smurfs disapproved of her because she wasn't a real Smurf. So Smurfette visited Papa Smurf, and he turned her into a pretty blond in a sexier white dress, heels, long eyelashes, and a flirty attitude. Unfortunate Implications and gender stereotyping in one fell swoop. No wonder poor Smurfette has a trope named after her — and it isn't a positive one either.
A second and third Smurfette (named "Sassette" and "Nanny Smurf" respectively, to avoid confusion) were introduced latter. Sassette (who is also an artificial Smurf) wears overalls, like Handy, but hers are pink and she has long, red hair, which she wears in Girlish Pigtails. Likewise, Nanny Smurf (Who knows where she comes from) is identified as female by having hair and a female voice. It should also be noted that all three Smurfettes have notably smaller noses than the male smurfs.
In the Ewoks animated series (yes, there was such a thing), Kneesaa had a pink cloak. However, she was the only character distinguished in this fashion; for everyone else, you had to rely on memory.
Haley Long in American Dragon Jake Long. She doesn't have the bow, but when she transforms, she always has her hair. Though this seems to be true for all the characters when they transform, male or female, her dragon form is also pink. When Fu Dog is showed macking on a female dog, she usually has a bow, lipstick, and/or a sparkly collar. Hey, Fu digs the girly-girls.
Care Bears come in all colors - though a female Bear's fur tends to be more noticeably pastel. And nearly all of the pink-furred characters are female by default. In some series, they even wear girlie clothes too. (Note that this applies to cases where the writers had made up their minds as to who was what.)
Subverted with Swift Heart. Even though she had a very obviously feminine voice and behavior, nobody realized she was a girl since she's a blue rabbit with no bow or anything. Swift Heart might actually justify this trope on a meta-level.
There's an episode of The Fairly OddParents where Timmy wishes everyone would look exactly the same. Everyone turns into a gray blob... and the female characters have gray lipstick and heavy eyelashes. In one episode, Timmy accidentally wished he was a girl... and was turned into a girl with a ponytail, a bow, eyelashes, lipstick, a blouse, and a skirt.
Although, Wanda granted it because he was acting a bit sexist, and presumably chose how he looked.
In their heyday, the Looney Tunes inadvertently became the Talking Animal equivalent of a sausage party. Over the years, attempts were made to add some ladies into the cast for a more even gender balance. The results were... mixed:
Babs Bunny in Tiny Toon Adventures has the eyelashes, the bow (one for each of her ears, in fact), and a skirt, and her fur is bubblegum pink. Similar tells are on Shirley the Loon (long hair/feathers, a dress, and a bow) and Fifi LaFume (a bow and purple fur). The good news is, their personalities were strong enough to transcend these obvious cues.
On the topic of Tiny Toons, there's Little Sneezer. Eyelashes? check. High-pitched voice? Check. But make no mistake, it's a he.
Originally, Lola Bunny from Space Jam was going to be little more than a pink-furred, shorter version of Bugs. Oddly, Warner Bros. toned down her Tertiary Sexual Characteristics too much. This was an attempt to avoid upsetting anyone, especially the merchandise makers. But the story goes that the McDonald's execs took one look at the prototype toys and outright refused, saying that there was no way that they would accept Bugs Bunny flirting with a rabbit who looked like a 10-year-old boy.
Speaking of Lola. She stands as a point of major contention for fans of the Classic Looney Tunes, and it's partially because her gender-specific traits are so obvious. It makes the addition of a female member to the cast seem all the more forced. She even had the hair bow in Baby Looney Tunes.
That said, whenever Daffy is mackin' on a lady duck, she tends to have very obvious tells.
On the Disney side, in early cartoons, Minnie Mouse and Daisy Duck would be virtually indistinguishable from their respective beaus if it weren't for the lashes, hair bows, heels and skirts. In an interesting footnote, Minnie seemed to favor going topless, while Daisy's skirt barely covers her bare bottom. Not that there's anything there to hide, but...
More recent designs of the two characters have toned down their more obvious tells. In particular, Daisy now looks more graceful and feminine (for a waterfowl) and less like Donald Duck in a dress. She has also acquired some Non-Mammal Mammaries. Even in the classic days various artists differed in their ability to make them look feminine. The Art Evolution went towards the obvious side of this trope.
House of Mouse lampshades this by mentioning Minnie's obsession with hairbows, sometimes making it part of the plot. In one episode Mickey and Donald had to crossdress as their own girlfriends (pictured above) to replace a picture of Minnie and Daisy they broke while playing football inside the house.
Oddly, only Blossom of The Powerpuff Girls has the hair bow, though she and her sisters are all in dresses, and all look like little freakish bigheads, as do the Rowdyruff Boys, and the counter-Blossom has the baseball cap tell.
Phil and Lil on Rugrats pretty much have to do this as they are fraternal twins distinguished solely by their voices and gender-appropriate clothes. They frequently switch around to confuse their parents. They also had different shaped ears.
They have different colored shoes, Lil wears a dress and Phil has pants.
Yin Yang Yo is all over the place. Yin herself has the eyelashes and the hairbow. Her friend Lena seems to get by on just lipstick. The Aardvark Princess has the clothing, but neither lipstick nor bows. Villain Smoke has the secondary sexual characteristics. No bows, no lipstick, but a Sailor Scout type outfit, and big breasts. Villain Saranoia has the secondary sexual characteristics, as well as the lipstick. Carl's mother has the lipstick but not the clothes or the breasts. The Chung Pow Kitties all have the eyelashes and bows. Which is justified, because they communicate only with kitten-like meows. One really couldn't tell without the eyelashes and bows.
Panini of Chowder has the eyelashes and the girly color scheme, but wears a sweatband/scrunchie around her ears rather than a bow.
Also, in the "Thrice Cream Man" episode: compared to the titular creature, which is an aqua-blue blob of living thrice cream, the Thrice Cream Woman is pink (strawberry-flavored?) with lipstick, eyelashes and breasts.
The short-lived series Sitting Ducks pokes fun at this concept, by having the main character Bill be completely unidentifiable (even being mistaken for a girl at least once) until he is given a bow to wear around his neck. All the ducks are identical, and are only distinguished by their clothes. Some of the female ducks wore makeup and jewelry, except for Drill Sergeant Duck, who lacked every tell except the actress (who was an alto). This was so prevalent that in one episode the aversion was lampshaded. ("Stop calling me sir, I AM A LADY!")
Early female Transformers always had breasts or breast-like torso armor, "feminine" coloration (pinks or pastel shades), narrow waists, and hips. Some modern ones however, aren't like this, sometimes due to being characters whose toys were originally molds used for male characters, other times just due to being less conventional character designs.
In The Land Before Time, females tend not to appear particularly different from males, although in some art, Ducky and Cera are given near-pastel color schemes. In the fourth film, a guest character called Ali is written in, who is the same age and species as Littlefoot, although a different gender. To get the effect, Littlefoot's design is copied, but the eyelashses are lengthened slightly, eye colour is changed from red to blue and her overall colour is slightly redder. Another new female character, an Oviraptor, is added into the series — and she's pink. And she's named "Ruby", presumably to help the colorblind. Amusingly, Ali's appearance evidently isn't enough to establish her gender to the other characters — Ducky checks.
Most of the female robots in Futurama are like this (with some notable exceptions).
Bender gets hammered into Fembot shape in one episode, including reworking implied genitals that he has never demonstrated before or since— his lack of such was vital to saving him from the Space Amazons. Another episode had a robot with an obvious "fembot" figure that turned out to be anything but... at least until "she" finished her payments. And the Crushinator may be a piece of big, clunky Lunar farming equipment, but she's still pink, sporting pigtails, and still female... still has a woman's needs.
There's also the female Nibblonians, with ribbons on their eyestalks and long eyelashes — though oddly enough, their race also has a more realistic sexual dimorphism in the males having larger canines.
The bows and eyelashes are also somewhat justified here, as that makes the girl Nibblonians even cuter!
Female animals in the Ice Age movies tend to have longer eyelashes, lighter colored fur and, when applicable, obviously feminine bodies. Female sloths in particular have girly "hair" and what appears to be lipstick. In the audio commentary for The Meltdown, it is joked by the character designers that they would have saved themselves a lot of trouble if they'd just stuck a bow on Ellie's head rather than try to modify Manny's design to make it feminine. Dawn of the Dinosaurs features Scrat facing off against a female Scrat for an acorn. Scratte has dark foxy coloring, a significantly curvier body, eyelashes, and blue eyeshadow. She may possibly also be a separate species since, like femalegelflings, she can glide.
Lilo & Stitch: The Series has Angel, who is a copy of Stitch but with a very high-pitched voice, pink fur, long eyelashes, an hourglass figure, and long antennae that look like hair. She has a heart marking on her back in her first episode. Her special power involves singing, which causes anyone that used to be evil to turn evil again.
This may have been an attempt to get around the all-too-common Reptiles Are Abhorrent effect, but Master Viper in Kung Fu Panda has eyelashes, flowers on her head, and "lipstick"; pretty much the opposite of Master Tigress (see below). This also suggests that it may be a deliberate choice on the part of the character, who seemed a bit more secure in both her femininity and her martial prowess than the Proud Warrior Woman Tiger.
It could also be because that's all she could be wearing and still believably move like a (cartoon) snake; it's harder to pull off Civilized Animal without copying either clothing or human movement.
Female Irkens in Invader Zim have long eyelashes and curled antennae. Tak and Invader Tenn are the only female Irken characters (aside from Tallest Miyuki, whose episode was never finished), but several Irken with the same traits show up in crowd scenes, and are presumably female as well. To be fair, this may be the only difference between male and female Irken, as it's heavily implied they don't even reproduce sexually.
Sartana of the Dead from El Tigre is an undead skeleton-headed woman. She wears a dress, has lipstick and eyelashes, as well as Hartman Hips.
In Happy Tree Friends, Giggles, Petunia and Lammy all have long eyelashes. Petunia wears a flower on her head, while Giggles and Lammy have hair bows.
Very subtly done in Happy Feet. The female emperor penguins have purple undersides under their beaks and males have orange. The females also have their chest feathers shaped to vaguely resemble breasts.
In Animaniacs, Dot has a yellow flower around her ears (which sometimes appears with a pink bow), a pink skirt and on fancy occasions wears a pink dress and matching jewellery. She also has tufts of fur from the side of her face that make her look like she has a pixie-like haircut. Rita the cat has eyelashes, as does Slappy Squirrel, who also has a hat with a flower on it. On the male side, Yakko and Wakko have shorter hair than Dot, with Yakko wearing pants (oversized slacks with a large belt) and Wakko not, although he does wear a blue sweater and red baseball cap. The Hip Hippos also had a Pink Girl, Blue Boy color scheme.
Inverted in the series What-a-Mess. Well-groomed Afghan Hounds naturally have long hair on their heads, and long hair that tends to make them look like they're wearing fancy clothes. Despite all this, the Afghan Hound protagonist, What-a-Mess, is a male dog. However, this trope is played straight with the cat, Felicia. She has long eyelashes and a bow.
In kids' show Dive Olly Dive, the female submarine has curly eyelashes, pink eyeshadow, and a heart-shaped headlight.
Christmas special, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (the stop animation one) has Claurice, a doe that Rudolph is attracted to. How do we know Claurice is female? Well, she has no antlers for one thing, but she also has lighter fur, eyelashes and a bow on her head. Yup, definitely a female deer.
Except for the fact that both reindeer sexes have antlers. In fact, the females shed theirs later in the year than the males do; the reindeer that have no antlers by Christmas are the old males.
The female locomotives from Thomas the Tank Engine were all specifically designed after real locomotives that appear "feminine" to the show's writers. For example, Daisy has eyelashes and lipstick, Mavis and Flora both have cowcatchers and runningboards that resemble skirts, both Emily and Molly have large drive wheels, Rosie and Lady are both colored pink, and Belle's smokebox is extended in a way so that she appears to have long hair.
In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, as far as secondary characteristics go, males lack eyelashes and have more angular muzzles and narrower ears than females. Some are noticeably taller and stockier, but not all; for example, the exposed muzzle is the only way to determine Wonderbolt (and Shadowbolt) genders (unless they really want to let you know). There are, however, a couple of mixed and non-standard character designs in the background cast, which have been cause for endless confusion.
In one episode, Rarity was shown to wear false eyelashes, and she's been seen applying mascara to Fluttershy.
The main difference seems to be the size of the male ponies who are always one-half or one head taller than all the females (with the obvious exception of the Princesses, of course). For ponies, who are three heads tall, this is actually quite a large difference.
This trope is played with quite commonly in the Rocko's Modern Life episode "From Here to Maternity". The situation involves shopping for essentials for a baby that Filburt and Dr. Hutchison are expecting to be hatched from an egg while Heffer nurtures it. Filburt and Heffer obviously expect the little tyke to be of opposite genders, considering that instances involve Heffer picking out a frilly pink dress while Filburt picks out a football jersey. There is even a montage involving Filburt playing baseball with the egg and teaching it how to shave, while Heffer dresses the egg up in a tutu and dances ballet with it and plays tea party with the bowed egg.
On an episode of Bugged, a female bug appeared who was differentiated from the (presumably) male central bug by having bows on her attenna and lipstick.
If it isn't otherwise obvious, the easiest way to tell if a dog or puppy on Pound Puppies (2010) is male or female is to look for eyelashes. If there are some, it's a female; if not, the pooch is a male. (Unless, of course, the dog's person is making up their male dogs as female for some reason.)
Adventure Time uses this for some characters in the Gender Bender universe—for example, the female version of Cinnamon Bun wears a dress and bow, while the male version of Tree Trunks has a mustache and a bow tie. In the normal universe, neither wears clothes.
In kids' cartoon series Captain Zed And The Zee Zone, the rather macho dream policeman Captain Zed has an assistant called PJ. In early series it is very, very, hard to precisely work out his/her gender, which subverts this trope. The best guess you can make is "maybe a tomboyish female. Or a teenage boy." Later series of Captain Z make it rather clearer: PJ is a normally endowed human female, physically recognisable as such by the usual secondary sexual characteristics, ie wider hips, facial features and a hint of bust.
In the Finnish comic The Swearing Hedgehog female hedgehogs have eyelashes to distinguish them from male ones. Except for the main character's grandmother, who is recognisable by being nearly bald and even more foul-mouthed than the title character.
Human babies. Without their little pink or blue onesies, they're relentlessly androgynous.
They have actually done several social experiments with this. The point of the experiment was to show how people treat girl and boy children differently. Each time they would just use one baby and just give it different clothes (pink and bows for a girl, blue and maybe a sports shirt for a boy). No one could tell the difference.
To many observers, a frilly blanket implies that the baby's a girl, even if the blanket is blue.
In a hospital's neonatal ICU, you can tell which of the scrawny plum-colored creatures in the Isolettes are the girls: they're the ones with a loop of pink ribbon, in the rough semblance of a bow, gently taped to their bald heads.
It is sometimes hard to tell clothed boys from girls before puberty just by looking at them, aside from hairstyles and clothes differences.
Likewise, many children are naturally androgynous due to them lacking obvious sexual characteristics and voice types being more variant. It's not unusual to see a girl with a rather deep or scratchy voice, or a boy with a feminine one. The voice type typically relates to how people talked to the baby as an infant.
Women and teen and tween girls have voice types that are every bit as variant as that of prepubescent girls. It's boys voices that get distinctly deeper become less variant in types as they hit puberty. It's not unusual to see a women with a rather deep or scratchy voice, but it is unusual to see a man with a convincingly feminine one.
The only thing distinguishing the man from the woman in bathroom signs is a dress on the latter.
Attempts at doing something different (such as one Scottish sign showing men in kilts and women with extremely large breasts) can be hilarious.
It's true when we talk about stylistically neutral signs. More stylistic signs are more versatile, but it usually is either clothes (skirt vs. trousers, suit vs. dress), footwear (flat heel vs. high heel) or headwear (top hat vs. lady's hat).
The most noticeable difference between the mascots of the NBA's Charlotte (now New Orleans) Hornets and the WNBA's Charlotte Sting (now defunct), other than the gear of their respective teams? Eyelashes.
Banksy's Happy Chopper◊ piece, painted on a wall in Shoreditch in 2003 (the special effects were supplied by deep fat fryer).
Anime & Manga
Tokyo Mew Mew: Subverted in a way, as the aliens, all male, tend to have some feminine hairstyles. The most prominent of the three would be the youngest, Tart, who has pigtails. They all have very thick eyelashes to confuse you more.
As for the Cat Girl and title character, Ichigo, when she becomes a cat, she has black fur. This makes it very hard to see her eyelashes and when the male cat Ryou comes by and has such obvious eyelashes against light fur, it throws you off. Sometimes voices are the only way you can tell, and even then it's hard, since you have some Crossdressing Voices going on. Though, this is anime...
Eyelashes appear to be the only difference between males and females of most species of Digimon. The voices usually readily reveal gender - but not always. Season 4 has a male Biyomon with the same appearance and voice of the female Biyomon who was a main character in Season 1. The male Biyomon in Season 5 has a more masculine voice, but he isn't any less adorable 'n' pink... and with his debut, we've officially seen more male than female versions of the most stereotypically feminine rookie-level Digimon.
Dykes To Watch Out For: In The Indelible Alison Bechdel, author Bechdel discusses the irritation of comic books wherein The Chick is distinguished by slapping a female characteristic (lips, long hair, the proverbial bow) on the male default. She also discusses how she was initially unable to draw women and only drew men — and was finally able to draw women only by thinking of them as lesbians and drawing them rather androgynously.
Subverted in ElfQuest where Picknose the troll often wears a dainty bow on the end of his beard. Maybe his girlfriend tied it.
Kung Fu Panda's Master Tigress completely lacks the usual tells — no hourglass figure, cleavage, "lipstick" or long eyelashes. Her clothes are not stereotypically girlish either.
Not quite obvious, but still subconscioussly telling signs might be her feminine "seductress" eye shape and (but only in comparison to male characters in the movie) lean, not obviously masculine body shape. To This Troper, it was enough to recognise her as female (but not girlish).
In Stuart Little, the fluffy white cat, Snowbell, is male and voice acted by Nathan Lane.
Subverted in Up when we find out Kevin, the brightly-colored bird with no obvious male or female distinguishing characteristics is both female and a mother.
Which makes even less sense, as in most sexually dimorphic bird species it's the male who is colorful and often sports long tail feathers, brightly-colored wattles or eye-catching patterns, while the female is of a muted color that blends into the background.
But play straight with Ellie, who as a child looked so Tomboyish in her explorer gear, the only indication that it was a girl was the pale, pink bow on her messy moptop.
In 9, all of the stitchpunks are asexual artificial lifeforms, but 7 has a female voice. Other than that, "she" shows no feminine habits of dress; if anything, "her" birdskull helmet and militant stance are so stereotypically male as to create a Samus is a Girl effect when 7 first speaks.
Sabor the leopard from Tarzan has no feminine characteristics, and doesn't speak. She however is confirmed to be female and apparently had offspring according to some material. The gorillas too lacked heavy gender differentiation aside from their voices (although Kala has dark eyelids that look like she wears eyeshadows), which led to Viewer Gender Confusion with Terk, who was voiced by Rosie O'Donnell.
Bruce Coville's book Aliens Ate My Homework features a female alien with no real sexual characteristics the human protagonist could recognize except for her voice, but even then he wasn't sure at first. (For an added bonus, one of the other aliens is neither male nor female and asks to be referred to by the pronoun "it.")
Very pointedly averted in Blues Clues. Blue is (duh) blue - and female. Her non-girly color was deliberately chosen for this reason. Blue's friend Periwinkle the cat, despite the girly name, is both pastel and a cat... and male. Furthermore, since most characters have generic "little kid" voices, you frequently can't tell if a character is male or female until someone uses a pronoun on them. Random side characters were actually far more likely to be female!
Subverted, dragged behind the shed, chopped into pieces, and disposed of in several dumpsters by George Herriman's Krazy Kat, where the lead character looked male but was treated by the author as indeterminately gendered; when a pronoun was used, it was usually "he" (perhaps in a nonstandard gender-neutral sense?), but Herriman deliberately muddied the waters with the romantic triangle between Krazy and the indisputably male Offissa Pupp and Ignatz Mouse. Most people since have treated Krazy as definitively female based upon the strip's cultural context. Which is odd, as he will bow to ladies, tip his hat (if he has one) and occasionally be subject to the wiles of the local "vamp." Of course, he'll start comparing himself to Juliet one panel later. Essays have been written. Not to mention the fact that "he" wears a red bow on his neck. And no, not a bowtie.
In Garfield, the grey kitten Nermal is believed by many to be female due to his long eyelashes and excessive cuteness (and in the TV series, female voice actor), but Nermal is actually a young tomcat.
Also played with in one mission, where there is a rule against harming characters of the opposite gender. The fight features Night Dancer, an apparently female bangaa with long eyelashes, lipstick, and a feminine way of speaking. This is not breaking precedent; unique characters are allowed to have a different gender than the species standard (such as Adelle, Frimelda, and Penelo, the only playable female humes in the whole game - though Penelo has access to the Viera class set). However, if you attack Night Dancer with a female, you're suddenly informed that you broke the law - which means "she" is a cross-dresser!
In Final Fantasy Tactics set the precedent of Ribbons as female-only equipment but made a very special exception for guest star and one-time (forced) cross-dresser Cloud Strife.
A similar thing happens in Dissidia: Final Fantasy with the armor set "Allure of Honey" made up of items from Cloud's famous cross-dressing adventure. He and all of the female characters can wear the set... along with Kefka.
In Zombies Ate My Neighbors there's apower-up potion that temporarily transforms the player character into a hulking unclothed purple beast. Julie's monster form is identical to Zeke's — one can't tell the gender of the underlying human via visual inspection. This trope is applied in that it is Julie, not Zeke, who retains a characteristic of her human appearance so that the two can be distinguished when both transformed at once. This trope is downplayed in that the retained characteristic is... her bright red baseball cap.
Despite being pink, no one seems to mistake Kirby for being female.
Smiley from the Riddle School games has a mouth as her characteristic...seriously. As a style choice, Jon Bro made all the children bald and gave all the adults hair. Since Smiley didn't have the usual TSC of hair, he tried giving her a mouth instead. It didn't work: The special features section in Riddle School 5 lists "Smiley is a guy" as the biggest misconception about the series.
The Art Evolution in Riddle School 5 gave her slightly more feminine-looking eyes. Even with that, it's still slightly difficult to tell since Riddle School 5 regularly shifts art styles, and this change is most prominent during sequences when you're in the space ship.
Subverted with this Pokémon-based trophy from Super Smash Bros.: Brawl. Yes, that trophy actually admitted the fact that some Pokemon that appear to be only one gender can actually be both.
Played with in Team Fortress 2: The Pyro, whose gender is up for debate, has a flower purse in his/her/its locker and a Southern Baptist-styled Nice Hat as one of its possible headwear.
Parodied in the online game Lee-Lee's Quest. In the intro, the titular character Lee-Lee, a blue blob, assumes that Lulu, the pink blob standing next to him, is his girlfriend. Lulu is OF COURSE just another guy who happens to like pink and have long eyelashes.
The sequel opens by revealing that Lulu is pregnant and heavily suggests that she was just saying anything she could think of to get Lee-Lee to leave her be.
Chica in Five Nights at Freddy's. Watch a Let's Play video, and chances are the player will refer to her as a he or a mister. No bow, no eyelashes, a dingy yellow color, and wearing just a bib that says, "LET'S EAT!!!" in gender-neutral purple and yellow letters.
Played straight with her redesign in the sequel, though.
Bonnie spawns similar confusion in the fandom, with having a feminine name and a purple color scheme, but wears a red bow tie that usually designates a male.
Totally averted in Digger, which may confuse people used to tertiary sexual characteristics in Humanoid Animals. Digger is female, as are many of the matriarchical hyenas, but you'd only know it from the dialogue. She does have what look like Non-Mammal Mammaries, but Word of God suggests they are pectoral muscles, as a wombat's mammary glands are in her pouch.
Homestuck: Calliope, a Cherub who happens to be female, has visible eyelashes. She shares a body with her brother Caliborn. When he is first properly shown, he also has the eyelashes. Both wear the same, gender-neutral outfit (the main difference being Calliope wears a suit jacket with her symbol, while Caliborn takes it off to reveal his on their shirt), and the way they're told apart is by their eye and cheek colors. This is most likely to make them look as androgynous as possible.
Vattuzigzags with this one; the women of the dog-like Sahtans are distinguished by their clothes and particularly their veils, but otherwise lack any overt dimorphism. Fluters on the other hand are a complete mystery to all outsiders.
Subverted frequently in an untitled stick figure webcomic that expresses the differences between males and females in body language and anatomy. Usually keeping both a circle with five lines and deriving humor (and elitist criticism) from the fact that most people perceive some thing without clear gender specification as male by default.
Invoked, Subverted and Conversed in the span of a single page in Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures . The character invoking the trope was not recognized as female, and the one subverting it was not recognized as male. The latter justified the aversion of the trope on the grounds that they're part of a race of shapeshifters, making such traits superficial at best.
Wonder Pets has another toy-around with this. The hero, Linny Guinea Pig, wears a baseball cap and overalls. She's a girl, though. (The fact that her name sounds like "Lenny" doesn't help the Viewer Gender Confusion, of course...)
Spongebob Squarepants has female style eyelashes. They're probably there to make him look even cuter, as he has an endearing child-like demeanor... but sponges don't even have genders the way we understand them and can reproduce asexually. The show's creator is a Marine Biologist so...
Spongebob: Can you reproduce by budding?
When Mr Krabs tells him that a hat he's wearing makes him look like a girl, Spongebob happily takes it as a compliment:
Spongebob: (starry-eyed) Am I a preeetty giiirl?
Later when Krabs tells him that he isn't beautiful, Spongebob lets out a sad, little "I'm not?" and gets tearful.
Lampshaded sometimes when some characters actually do mistake him for a girl, or aren't sure what gender he is.
Kaeloo has no visible features which distinguish her from the males whilst other females are given breasts, curves and eyelashes. Possible Fridge Brilliance in that said other females have only been seen in men's magazines. Played Straight in the games she and her friends play, as fake moustaches and bows are often donned.
In Recess, Spinelli shares a first name with The Ashleys clique... and nothing else. She does wear a skirt, but she gender-neutralizes it with her very masculine boots, coat, and hat.
She has pigtails though, so not so neutralized.
The show actually subverts the cartoony way of not really having any tertiary sexual characteristics, like the eyelashes, as none of the girls (or if anyone's wondering, the boys) have any. The only characteristic the girls are given to look different are that they're drawn with full lips (with the exceptions of Cornchip Girl and a few others).
In fact, the only female character drawn with eyelashes is Miss Grotke. She probably wears mascara.
Oddly, the Russian animated series Nu, Pogodi!! features a little hare, who, despite sporting long eyelashes, big blue eyes, pink cheeks, engaging in girly activities such as watering flowers, and being voiced by a woman, the artist insists is a male.
It's a Zig-Zagging Trope where Hare is concerned- There's no Viewer Gender Confusion in this case in homeland Russia, because the hare in question is called/named just the Hare, and the Russian word for "hare" ("Zayats") is masculine by default, implying that the Hare is indeed a boy. Don't ask. He is also wearing shorts. Unfortunately, the rest of the world who watched the exported version of the show were rightfully confused given that the English VA preserved Hare's high-pitched voice, left the scenes where he engages in feminine activities uncut, and girls, and just assumed the pants to indicate a tomboy. The trope is played straight with a lot of other anthropomorphic animals appearing in the series, whose gender is mostly determined through the pants vs. skirt method.
On one of The Simpsons Halloween episodes, the aliens Kang and Kodos are revealed to be siblings — and male and female respectively. Both have identical appearances and deep voices (though if you listen carefully, Kodos's voice is slightly higher).
Played with for the inherent humor, in The Venture Bros.. Doctor Girlfriend's physical tells are obvious — she likes the same pink dresses and pillbox hats Jackie Onassis wore. But if you only heard her and her very masculine smoker's voice...
Mama Condor in the Looney Tunes short The Bashful Buzzard has none of these, looking like an ordinary cartoon vulture.
Challenge Of The Go Bots averted this by assigning gender to the (presumably genderless) toys in a completely arbitrary fashion. Small Foot in particular has no human-esque gender indicators apart from her voice.
Partially subverted in The Backyardigans: Tasha in 'reality' is a typical girly-girl in a cute dress and takes similar parts in the pretend adventures, while Uniqua wears overalls more usually characteristic of males or Bokukkos and gets an impressively gender-neutral selection of roles. Then again, she is also pink with darker spots.
Jerry of Tom and Jerry inverts this with his long eyelashes and cute face, leading to Viewer Gender Confusion for some. Female cats in the shorts had long eyelashes, wore lipstick, bows and sometimes female clothes.
Inverted majorly on The Amazing World of Gumball. Darwin the fish has feminine eyelashes and a rather girlish voice, although his VA is a boy. Contrast with other female characters like Tina (a relatively realistic T-rex), Penny (a peanut with antlers), Molly (brontosaur), and Carmen (a cactus), who have very gender-neutral appearances. Several other male characters also have eyelashes (Richard the rabbit, Alan the balloon, the donut cop) while only about half the female ones do.
That said, any time a flashback shows Nicole as a child, she's always wearing a red/pink bow, likely to obscure how she looks almost identical to her own son.
Arthur has at least one. Similar to the Wonder Pets listed above, there was a young female character with a gender neutral voice and a baseball hat nickname "W.D."; she also has a gender neutral haircut and wears masculine clothing, to emphasize she's a tomboy. Her name is "Wilhelmina", but no one calls her that.
Mostly averted in The Penguins of Madagascar and played with in "Miss Understanding". Due to some mistake, Skipper's led to believe that he is actually female. Once he accepts it, he promptly puts on a big pink bow.
As mentioned above, the "Big Brother Ponies" from My Little Pony were essentially the only male Ponies up until G4. They looked almost◊ exactly◊ like the girls except for "boyish" Flank markings, being a tiny bit larger than the girls, and unshorn fetlocks. Depending on whom you ask, several of them look even more feminine than the girls. Fridge Brilliance pops in when you remember that G1 liked to be accurate, and horses have long eyelashes.
Speaking of G4, lots of casual observers think Rainbow Dash is The One Guy because it's exactly the sort of art style where a blue character would generally be Color-Coded for Your Convenience. Additionally, her mane (though still long) is a lot closer cropped than the rest of the Mane Six, her voice is about the same timbre as Spike (who is a boy), and she is tomboyish in behavior.
Zecora has the more angular muzzle of male ponies. Casual viewers may mistake her for a male until she speaks.
The Breezies. Fans have been searching far and wide for any way to tell their genders apart, but nothing yet has been found. Not even the voice, as, being tiny fairies, it's high pitched enough to leave room for confusion.
From around 1947 to 1955, Mighty Mouse was given eyelashes. They were absent from the 1959-61 TV-budget shorts and the Filmation series then reinstated in the Bakshi series.
PB&J Otter had Baby Butter Otter as the baby sister with no tertiary sexual characteristics, which was a triple whammy when came to Viewer Gender Confusion with her also having a similar character model to her brother Peanut and being One of the Boys.
Bunny Maloney stars Bunny, a pink male rabbit, and his girlfriend Candy, a pink female rabbit. Bunny looks like the "Men" silhouette on a restroom door if it had rabbit ears; Candy has a much curvier figure, Blush Stickers, eyelashes, and a bow on her left ear.
The notion of pink for girls and blue for boys is a recent one. Before the 1940s (in America, at least), there were no specific colour attributions to gender. In fact, when pink and blue came into play, it was more likely to be blue for girls, who are 'dainty' and 'flighty', and pink for boys, as it was considered a stronger colour - as decided by manufacturers and retailers and declared thus in a June 1918 article from the trade publication Earnshaw's Infants' Department. Before the twenties, all children wore white dresses until their first haircut, as this was considered gender neutral.
There are many species of animals the sexes of which are completely impossible for humans to distinguish visually. Among Albatross for examples, even trained scientists have to use genetic sequencing to tell the male apart from the female in mated pairs. (this effort led to the discovery that many Albotrosses live and raise chicks in same-sex female pairs.
Among birds, especially waterfowl, it is always the male who is more colorful; because the flashier you are, the more babies you have. (Here's a male wood duck◊ and his female counterpart◊ for reference.) And he always courts the female, who in turn is always "less pretty", right? Meet the Phalarope. They're essentially a whole genus of Wholesome Crossdressers. The females even court the males and the males brood the eggs. It's not yet clear as to why this one group of little Arctic shorebirds has switched gender roles, but it causes a bit of Birdwatcher Gender Confusion for those not in the know.