Alright, it's a race to the bottom of the page. Let's see who's faster: Boys in one team, Girls in the other. First team to get there wins the title of "Best Gender" for all eternity. On your marks, get set, go!
Yes, it seems the men and women of fiction are always fighting. They're from two different planets, and all that, and with their differences always comes a lot of tension...often romantic tension, but still, tension nonetheless. And, of course, nobody wants to admit that the other "side" might just be better than they are. So how better to settle it than a proper competition?
One way or another, it always seems to happen. They'll split into teams and fight, often for no greater prize than to prove their own gender's superiority. It can be sports, it can be dancing, it can even be an all-out war— the basic plot is usually the same.
Most often, there'll be some division between them, even before the battle begins. It may be the men treating the women as weak, it may be the women trying to prove they're just as good as the men are, it may even be that both groups saw the other as inferior. That said, it isn't always the result of sexism but can sometimes just be a fun game between friends. Regardless of why it happens, the plot continues, with the lines being drawn, and the rest of the story showing their conflict unfold.
For one reason or another, the girls will usually win. This can be to deliver An Aesop about feminism or gender equality in general, a result of some Positive Discrimination in the girls' favor (such as that Women Are Wiser), or even just because the men were too over-confident in their own abilities. This isn't a guaranteed outcome, but it happens more often than not. Despite losing, though, the men will often take it in stride, learning along the way not to underestimate their female loved-ones, or even falling victim to Defeat Means Friendship. Another common outcome is for the contest to end in a tie, with the Aesop being that neither gender is better than the other.
Compare Slobs vs. Snobs and You Go, Girl!, both of which overlap, as well as the Friendship-Straining Competition, which these can sometimes turn into. This may involve a Macho Disaster Expedition or a Gender-Separated Ensemble Episode. Finally, see also Girls Have Cooties.
- The fourth episode of Boruto features all the boys and girls in Shino's class facing off against each other after Boruto and Sarada get into a fight over lunch.
- Pokémon: "The Bicker the Better" does this, with Ash and James engaging in a double battle with May and Jessie after both groups (Ash's friends and Team Rocket) get into arguments over who is more competent. It ends with Jessie deciding to cheat by using an extra pokemon, which Brock says disqualifies the girls' team, but by then Team Rocket are only interested in stealing Pikachu, anyway.
- The 1998 anime series Princess Nine is the story of a group of girls who want to play high-school baseball, but as there is no girls' baseball in Japan, they must play baseball in the boys' league, against exclusively male teams. The "battle of the genders" trope also extends to a more systemic level, as the girls' team must contend with discrimination based on gender — in fact, were it not for some interested parties in high places, their team would never have gotten off the ground at all.
- Frozen II: Early in the movie, Anna, Elsa, Olaf and Kristofer are having a miming contest, with the boys' team handily winning due to how easy it is for Olaf to take on different shapes (successively doing a unicorn, ice cream cone, castle, Oaken, teapot, mouse, and Elsa). Anna looks disgruntled and says Olaf shouldn't be allowed to rearrange himself.
- In The Chipmunk Adventure, The Chipmunks and their Distaff Counterpart trio have a competition to see whether the boys or the girls can win a race around the world first. Both get repeatedly sidetracked and nearly die, and in the end, the winner is left ambiguous.
- Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown has elements of this in the competition between the girls' and boys' rafts, though the true enemy is the bullies, and neither the girls nor the boys win in the end.
- Blake's 7 got into the act with the controversial Ben Steed episode "Power", in which a post-apocalyptic society is at war on gender lines.
- The Big Bang Theory: In "The Re-entry Minimalization", Sheldon and Leonard arrange a Pictionary game night for themselves and their girlfriends. Penny casually suggests that the teams be boys versus girls, prompting Insufferable Genius Sheldon to claim that any team without him on it is bound to lose. Unsurprisingly, he ends up eating crow, as Amy and Penny prove far better at Pictionary thanks to Sheldon's Complexity Addiction: the first word given is "present," and while Penny simply draws a box with a bow, Sheldon insists on depicting the current situation that they're all experiencing—that is, the present moment. The night quickly devolves into a series of games that the boys keep losing, including wrestling (Penny pins Sheldon in seconds), a pie-eating contest, tracking down Waldo after removing glasses, and even deliberately making themselves dizzy and then solving a long division problem.
- Big Time Rush has had a few of these, which generally end with the boys and girls coming together and teaming up.
- In "Big Time Pranks," the boys refuse to let Katie participate in their annual prank war, with Kendall asserting that girls shouldn't take part because they might get hurt. Determined to prove that they can handle it, Katie and several other girls challenge the boys. The girls get off to a strong start, eliminating the boys faster that they can retaliate, but then Kendall pranks most of the remaining girls. In the end, Bitters attempts to shut down the entire contest and proclaim that he wins and they all lose. Kendall and Katie, the last two remaining, choose to team up against Bitters and share the prank champion crown. From then on, anyone is allowed to take part in the Day of Pranks. In fact, in "Big Time Pranks II," it is actually Katie who declares that the last person standing in the new prank war would be crowned its King, and Kendall who adds, "or the Queen."
- In "Big Time Girl Group," the boys become jealous of Kat's Crew, a new girl group Gustavo intends to produce, because the girls are given a poster (which the boys don't have) and get to sing the boys' new song. The boys try to make the girls look bad, which leads to Gustavo deciding not to produce Kat's Crew because he doesn't want to deal with another rivalry between bands. Realizing they were wrong, Big Time Rush urges Gustavo to keep Kat's Crew on, and the two groups create a music video together.
- In "Big Time Camping," Gustavo refuses to let the boys camp in the wilderness, fearing they will get hurt. The girls convince the boys to join them in sneaking onto a Hollywood sound stage set up to look like a forest, despite the boys not wanting girls on their camping trip. In the ensuing "best camper" competition, the girls thrive while the boys are freezing, starving, and miserable, mainly because the boys keep trying ideas that would only work if they were really in the wilderness, e.g. lighting a campfire, only to be drenched by the overhead sprinklers. The girls invite the boys to join their campsite, but the boys refuse to give in and instead search the studio lot for food and warm clothing. Eventually, the two groups set aside their differences and team up, when the blond Jennifer is caught by a security guard and Carlos and James must rescue her, and Logan, in a bear suit, is mistaken for a stuntman and attacked by ninjas, and everybody fights the ninjas to save him. The episode ends with the boys and girls all waking up at the end of their camping trip together.
- In "The One With Poker" the girls discover that the guys have regular friendly poker games and want in. The guys are reluctant, worrying they won't be able to keep up. Offended, the girls challenge them to a serious game for money... and lose miserably as none of them have ever played poker before. Later having taken lessons from a female professional poker player, they challenge the guys to rematch hoping to win back their money and still lose as a few lessons aren't enough to beat people who've been playing for years.
- In "The One With The Football", the cast decides to play some Thanksgiving football. While the teams are originally mixed, Monica eventually trades Joey for Rachel, and it becomes a battle of the genders— complete with the girls using their femininity to distract the boys. The episode ends with the rest of them getting bored and quitting, leaving Ross and Monica fighting over the ball.
- In "The One With The Embryos", Rachel and Monica play against Chandler and Joey in a game of trivia about each other. If the girls win, the boys get rid of the chick and the duck, but if the boys win, they get the girls' apartment. Since the girls failed to answer the question about Chandler's job, the boys win and the episode ends with the apartment switch.
- A few episodes later, there's "The One with All the Haste", a continuation of "The One With The Embryos". Monica and Rachel try to win their apartment back, trying to bribe Chandler and Joey with Knicks tickets (the guys refuse) and then betting the apartment and the tickets once more with another game, but the guys win again. After the guys return from the basketball game, they discover the girls have switched the apartments round while they were away. Chandler is initially angry at the girls for stealing the apartment after losing the bet, but the girls have another proposal: they offer to kiss each other for one minute, if they can have the apartment back. The guys happily accept the deal and, after seeing the girls kissing, they say "totally worth it".
- Glee: Once a Season the Glee club is divided between girls and boys, with the groups then having to perform a musical medley. This is supposed to be a friendly competition, but often the groups take it too seriously. For instance, in the first season, both groups take drugs in order to keep their energy up.
- Grange Hill: In S4E18, tensions between the sexes come to a head. A boys vs girls contest is planned, with various sporting, practical and academic competitions. Boys just win the quiz (with a suspicion of cheating), but are thrashed at netball, also not without some cheating. Meanwhile, the cake baking of Mr. Sutcliffe leaves a lot to be desired, as does Miss Mooney's metalwork. Their respective assistants though have bought ready-made versions as a backup. Mrs. McClusky declares the contest a draw!
- The Island With Bear Grylls is a 2015 British television series that planted fourteen men on one tropical Pacific island, and fourteen women on another. Though neither group fared well, the women's group had two members med-evac'd during the first week: one fainted from dehydration, and the other was inconsolable for wrinkly fingers. Both groups fragmented into factions over leadership and survival duties.
- In one episode of the CBBC comedy Kevin's Cousins, the girls and boys have a basketball match. It's won by the girls, thanks to the substitution of Milo's Annoying Younger Sibling Brian onto their team when one of them is injured.
- On the MythBusters: it was episode 183. The team tested several claims about one gender being "better" at something than another. They also alluded to this during "No Pain, No Gain", when they looked at which gender has better pain tolerance.
- Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide: In "Guide to School Car Wash", the seventh graders decide to split their car wash into two gendered teams, both competing for a monetary prize to use for their school thought for different reasons (The Girls want gym equipment, the boys just want a Jacuzzi). The girls work together like clockwork once Moze convinces them they need to beat the boys, while the boys spend most of their time struggling, slacking off and failing to clean Mr. Sweeney's dirt-coated car. There's a bit of Hope Spot for them when Ned manages to rally them at the last hour and they seem to catch up to the girls in record time... except they didn't properly wash the cars in their haste, note instead just moving the dirt around. This ends up disqualifying them and giving the girls the win. Though Ned concedes their idea for the money was the more worthy of the two.
- Saved by the Bell had several episodes centered around this. For example, "The Will", where a deceased graduate leaves a $10,000 inheritance to Bayside, resulting in a contest to see whether the guys or the girls get the money.
- Victorious: In "Cell Block", after it becomes apparent that none of the students can handle being away from their cellphones, Sikowitz turns the competition into a gender battle, which gives the students a lot more interest in the bet. The boys start to play tricks to make the girls crack, but it doesn't work... until Sikowitz gives them their phones back. When the girls immediately use theirs, they lose the bet, as the boys didn't actually use their phones.
- Zoey 101:
- The Pilot episode involves Zoey trying to prove that the girls belong at PCA just as much as the boys do, by having a Girls Vs Boys basketball game. The girls, however, suck at sports and get crushed. Even when the athletic Dana steps in to help, she and Zoey can only carry their team so far. They lose by a single point...but the coach offers them both spots on the male's basketball team in response.
- The "Spring Break-Up" special involves the students starring in a special reality-show produced by Logan's father. The show, "Gender Defenders", is entirely about this sort of plot, meaning that they're put into this conflict intentionally. It starts out fun until Chase accidentally steals Zoey's Tek-Mate, which cost her team a game they would've otherwise have won due to a communication failure, and suddenly, it becomes a lot more serious, and the fighting becomes real.
- The episode "Coffee Cart Ban" starts with the Dean banning coffee at the school after a coffee cart hits his wife. The boys then start an underground coffee shop, that overcharges the customers. The girls start their own business that charges less. The two then try to sabotage each other. Eventually, the competition is rendered moot when it's discovered that the Dean has been drinking coffee, despite his ban. Once this comes to light, he lifts the ban on coffee on campus.
- The episode "Jet-X" has the team of the girls working against the team of the boys to produce a Jet-X commercial, to get a chance to have free Jet-X scooters. The boys seem to have better chances because they use Logan's money to have a glamorous commercial with famous actors, while the girls keep arguing because they don't know what to do, with Quinn trying to shoot their commercial. However, their arguments about the Jet-X turn out to be useful when Zoey does the editing to make her team's commercial, which ends up appreciated for being realistic, making the girls win.
- In "Broadcast Views", Chase and Michael have their own broadcast where they are simply doing dumb stuff. But during a broadcast, Logan and Zoey start arguing in the background about gender preferences. This causes the broadcast to get more views and leads to their own segment "He Says, She Says", but also creates disruption among the students by gender lines.
- During "Prank Week," the returning students play pranks on the new students - which, since this is the first year girls are allowed at PCA, amounts to the boys playing pranks on the girls. Although the new students traditionally aren't supposed to retaliate, the girls do so anyway after getting drenched with water balloons. The prank war grinds to a halt, however, when the girls get caught defacing a statue and threatened with expulsion. In the end, the boys deliberately play another prank and openly take responsibility for it, forcing the school to either expel all of the students (which is obviously impossible) or let the girls stay.
- Survivor season 6, The Amazon, started with this premise, initially splitting the tribes along gender lines, fostering this sentiment until tribe-mixing took place.
- "The Screwfly Solution," an episode of Masters of Horror, uses this trope to terrifying effect. One day, men all over the world find themselves slowly succumbing to a Hate Plague that causes them to become insanely violent and murderous toward every woman they find—up to and including their own wives, mothers, and small children. After the initial purges, the episode plays out like a dark version of this type of plot: the few women who avoid the first wave of attacks band together and do their best to survive, only to be slowly hunted down by the still-crazed men, who do gruesome things like mutilate their victims' bodies and turn them into trophies (at one point, a man proudly walks around carrying a bag made from a woman's breast). The episode ends with one of the last women on Earth discovering that the plague was caused by aliens, who arranged a Gendercide to make the planet easier to conquer.
- One first-season episode of Gilligan's Island sees Mary Ann and Ginger go "on strike"—that is, no longer doing the cooking, cleaning, and other chores for the castaways—until the men follow through on a promise to build them their own hut. Mrs. Howell joins their cause when she points out that Thurston hasn't yet fulfilled his own vow to construct a separate hut for themselves. The men are surprisingly nasty about the idea, prompting the women to strike out on their own. The rest of the episode sees Mrs. Howell, Ginger, and Mary Ann trying to live on their own while Gilligan, the Skipper, Thurston, and the Professor struggle to get along without them. The girls prove more capable than the guys, who resort to trying to scare them back rather than apologize or admit their mistakes.
- This was a very popular trope on I Love Lucy. The first few minutes of several episodes set up a conflict between Lucy and Ricky based on some stereotype (men being slobs, women being unable to manage money, etc.), with Fred and Ethel getting dragged into the scheme along gender lines as well. The two groups would then compete to prove their individual points, often resorting to increasingly convoluted gambits against each other to win. In a mild subversion of this trope, the women didn't always come out on top—Ricky and Fred were just as likely to come out ahead in the conflict of the week as Lucy and Ethel were. A few famous examples:
- The best-known episode that uses this trope is probably "Job Switching." Ricky and Fred claim that having a career and earning money is the hardest work imaginable, and Lucy and Ethel counter that running a household is no small feat either. The two groups agree to trade jobs for the day, with the men trying to keep house and cook and the women getting jobs in a chocolate factory. When disaster strikes on both ends, they realize that neither group has it easier than the other.
- In "Equal Rights," Lucy and Ethel demand equal rights regarding money and household affairs. Their request works too well when the quartet goes out to dinner—Ricky and Fred ask for separate checks, and since their wives don't have any money, they end up having to Work Off the Debt by washing dishes in the kitchen. They later get back at the men by claiming that robbers are holding up the restaurant, prompting them to run down and "save" them.
- One of the first episodes, "The Girls Want to Go to a Nightclub," centers on this. The group can't decide how to spend Fred and Ethel's wedding anniversary: the men suggest a trip to the boxing ring for the prizefights, while the women would rather go dancing at the Tropicana. After both groups claims that they'll go to their preferred event with some new dates, Lucy calls up a friend of hers who knows every bachelor in town. When Ricky calls the same woman, she sides with the girls and fills them in on the plot. Lucy then hatches a Zany Scheme: she and Ethel disguise themselves as hillbillies and pretend to be the "bachelorettes" that Ricky wanted. But when Lucy gives herself away, Ricky and Fred see through the disguises and turn the tables, and the episode ends up with the quartet going to the prizefights after all.
- A few episodes of The Cosby Show used this trope in later seasons, as son Theo was the only boy among five children in the first few. Once the cast balanced itself out with the addition of boyfriends and husbands for the women, it became a more common plot.
- In one episode, Cliff and the other male doctors in his hospital agree to a basketball game against the female staff. The men are overly cocky about their abilities, but end up humiliated when the women (who admittedly seem younger and more athletic in general) wipe the floor with them.
- Another episode sees Cliff hosting a barbecue, where the subject of a bachelor party—and the stripper the organizers plan to hire—leads the men and women to talk about this trope at length. Sondra, Denise, and Clair claim that such events are degrading and objectifying, while Elvin, Martin, and Cliff argue that men are subjected to the Female Gaze as well.
- One episode has Cliff and a friend of his entering a "battle of the sexes" bridge tournament and using overly convoluted code signals and clues to pass information to each other. Clair and the other man's wife prove far more capable both at cards and secretly communicating.
- A late episode in the show sees Cliff, Elvin, and Martin arguing over which of them is the most romantic, prompting Cliff to organize a "King of Romance" contest: whichever man can get a meaningful, amorous present for the lowest price will be the winner. When Olivia overhears the plan, she reports back to Clair, Sondra, and Denise, who decide to counterattack with a scheme to act indifferent to whatever gifts their husbands offer (the women even lampshade the trope's prevalence when they tell Olivia that girls always stick together in situations like this). All three women end up failing to follow through, though, as the presents their husbands offer are genuinely thoughtful and romantic; Cliff wins the title by not only tracking down a wooden bracelet that Clair admired as a teenager, but setting up a Batman Gambit where it seems as though he remembered wrong and purchased her a barrette instead.
- When Jack claims that men have more self-control and willpower than women after Chrissy impulsively eats a pie that he prepared for a cooking exam in an early episode of Three's Company, Janet proposes a contest to test if Jack can resist women for longer than Chrissy can resist food.
- In this music video by Evgeniya Otradnaya, everything is going to that... and then ends up with a kissing scene.
- Arthur: The conflict in "Arthur's Birthday" is caused by Arthur's and Muffy's birthday parties being scheduled on the same day, causing the boys to side with Arthur and girls to side with Muffy. The two sides play a game of tug-of-war so intensely that the rope breaks straight down the middle. As Arthur summarizes, "I guess nobody wins."
- The Codename: Kids Next Door episode "F.U.T.U.R.E." centers around a girl named Margaret teaming up with her future self to eliminate all boys on Earth. This leads to a future where the last remaining boys, led by an old aged Numbuh 4, fight against Margaret's army of girls.
- Duckman has "Exile in Guyville", where Duckman and Bernice arguing on TV gets exponentially out of control and causes every man and woman in America to start arguing with each other, and separate with a big wall dividing them, men to the west and women to the east. The two sides eventually come back together because of the kids of both sides wanting to meet and start relationships with each other.
- Fairly Oddparents
- In Love Struck!, Timmy made a wish that segregated the sexes in their own society with a wall between them. But when the opposite sexes feel absent of something, Timmy wished for a wall that segregates them to break... except because they were separated for so long that they went into war with each other. It took assistance from Cupid, who's literally dying from no love, to make things right.
- In "Squirrely Puffs", Timmy's scout group, the Squirrel Scouts, gets into a competition with the girl scout, the Cream Puffs, when his father and mother get competitive as usual, with the bet that one of the teams has to reach the top of a mountain before the other. The Squirrel Scout seems to initially have trouble while the Cream Puffs look to have an easier time what with the wildlife helping them. However, things soon turn around when Timmy's dad manages to get some local squirrels to help them get further up the mountain while the Cream Puffs's animal friends become a bit too helpful, to the point of annoyance. When Timmy's mom finally snaps at them, the animals turn on the girls prompting Timmy to get his dad to call off the bet and save them.
- In the The Flintstones and Bewitched crossover, Fred and Barney challenge Wilma, Betty and their tag-along new friend Samantha to a bunch of camping activities expecting to win, but thanks to Samantha's magic the girls have it all easy and the boys get an extremely absurd Macho Disaster Expedition.
- Futurama: In "Neutopia", the characters end up stranded on a barren, hot, rocky planet, and bicker relentlessly about which gender was responsible for the crash. A local rock-alien notes that, due to the gender divide, there clearly must be a superior gender, and makes them compete for the title...with the losing team dying in the heat. They all struggle until it turns out that this was a test to try and teach them about cooperation. Because they failed, they simply get their genders removed, instead...
- Phineas and Ferb: "Got Game?" starts with Buford angry over Isabella defeating him at foosball. In trying to prove that women are weaker, he sparks Phineas and Ferb's grand idea of the episode- a battle between the genders, playing a nonsensical game with strange rules. It's Buford and Baljeet against Candace and Isabella, and while it's neck-and-neck for a while, Isabella and Candace eventually win, thanks to the final game being foosball.
- A less direct example in the Sonic Boom episode "Into The Wilderness", where Sonic and Knuckles try to prove they are more fluent outdoors than Sticks and Amy, though not out of any perceived sexism but merely Sonic's boastfulness. Due to Stick's Wild Child niches and Amy's better willingness to learn, in contrast to Sonic's arrogance paired with Knuckles' boneheadedness, the girls make it through easily, at one point even trying (and failing) to help the boys get through out of pity. It is notable as one of the very few episodes, or much any story in the Sonic franchise, where Sonic is left the clear and unnegated "loser" of the story, if in a scenario much more mundane than usual.
- South Park featured this in the Sex Ed episode, where Mr. Mackey was completely clueless, and Mrs. Choksondik takes the Scare 'em Straight approach. This leads to the girls being absolutely terrified that even being near the boys will result in them becoming pregnant, and the boys take to wearing condoms daily to protect against STDs, before culminating in a full-blown parody of the ending fight from Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior.
- In Season 20, more than half the season focuses around this, as the girls decide to do a mass break-up with their boyfriends, even with Wendy (reluctantly) breaking up with Stan, as they believe that one of the boys is a online school troll who has been harassing them over the internet.note What ends up setting off the Gender War is Butters' girlfriend, Charlotte, breaking up with him even though the girls' plan had nothing to do with either of them. Butters, in retaliation, starts the "Wieners Out" movement, rallying all the boys to go out and show off their wieners across the school by slut-walking, which Stan and even Kyle eventually take part of. By Season 22, the Gender War is already over, with most of the boys and girls steadily making up with each other.
- In the Teen Titans Go! episode "Boys vs. Girls", Starfire and Raven beat Robin, Cyborg and Beast Boy in a contest 3-0, resulting in Cyborg and Beast Boy assuming girls are better than boys in general, rather than two particular girls just happening to be more competent and having better powers than three particular boys.
- Wunschpunsch: In one episode, the wizards cast a spell that pits all the men and women of Megalopolis against each other in a competition for control over the city. The key to breaking the spell is getting a man to help a woman instead.