Follow TV Tropes

Following

Tertiary Sexual Characteristics

Go To

https://mediaproxy.tvtropes.org/width/350/https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/drawing_genders_comic.png
Ben: What makes you think it's a girl?
Kevin: Yeah, if it was a girl, it'd have a big bow on the side of its head or something.

Writers tend to assume that for some reason most viewers will assume that a non-human 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 female characters, and sometimes the male characters as well. The male characteristics tend to be 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. (They are likely to remember that male lions are the only ones with manes, though.) The writers either didn't do their research, which can end up with Animal Gender-Bender, 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.

Feminizing accessories and traits include:

  • Noticeable eyelashes and sometimes eyeshadow. Even if the animal isn't anthropomorphized in any other way (including not possessing hair in the first place), long eyelashes are one of the quickest ways to establish that this character is, in fact, female.
  • A bow, or, less commonly, a flower of femininity.
  • Ears as Hair
  • Some type of jewelry, especially if the character is meant to be older.
  • Pink, purple, or pastel-colored clothes and/or accessories.
  • A pink, or purple pastel "girly" coloration, or at least lighter than the male.
  • An all-white fur color in mammals (As a feminine tertiary sexual characteristic, this is most commonly applied to cats and mice. White dogs, white wolves, polar bears, and beluga whales are also white or appear that way, but their white coloration is not applied as a feminizing trait, and the latter two animals are or appear white by default.)
  • A bare midriff.
  • Lipstick.
  • High heels, or a leg shape suggestive of them.
  • Painted fingernails/toenails/claws.
  • A skirt, with one possible exception. (Amusingly, equivalent male characters rarely wear pants, making most of them Half Dressed Cartoon Animals.)
  • Long or heavily-styled hair with decorations, even if their species doesn't even have hair in real life!
  • A head full of "hair". (Though this one would, technically, be a secondary sexual characteristic if the hair is natural.)
  • A full outfit, if equivalent male characters wear minimal clothing.
  • Sitting with legs closed, keeping limbs more to herself in general and of course the Girly Run.
  • If the character has a more human-like figure, a colored underbelly stylized in a way that resembles a leotard or a one-piece swimsuit.

Masculinizing accessories and traits are naturally far more generic:

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:

Compare Secondary Sexual Characteristics, Group-Identifying Feature, and Non-Mammal Mammaries. For more drastic and often bizarre differences between the sexes, see Bizarre Sexual Dimorphism.


Example subpages:

Straight examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Advertising 
  • 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.
  • M&M's: The green M&M and later, the brown M&M.
  • The Jamster female bunny character Snuggelina would usually be seen wearing a pink bow or a flower around her long ears.
  • Dairy Queen Lips: The picture charades ad reveals the lips have a girlfriend, who is pink in color and wears a flower.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Kentaro Yabuki draws essentially all female characters with thick eyelashes, long fingernails, and glossy lips. This even extends to the gender-bent protagonist of Ayakashi Triangle, who's definitely not wearing makeup or doing his nails.
  • In Berserk (1997) Casca despite managing a Sweet Polly Oliver with her amour still wears a pink tunic in the anime, skin tight legging making her buttocks pronounced and even thigh-high boots in contrast to males of the Band of Hawk.
  • 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.
  • Female characters from Croket! have shinier eyes, longer eyelashes and mouths that show no teeth or tongue when open (completely blank). The mouth thing is more typical of girls' manga (Croket! is a boys' manga), and it's especially jarring to see a female character next to a male one with fully visible teeth, a tongue and a uvula.
  • 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.
  • Earlier in Fujiko F. Fujio's career, notably while he was working on Doraemon, female characters were only set apart by their cuter eyes and feminine eyelashes, while their mouths and noses were generally the same as the males. Later, as he got better, female characters also gained more dedicate-looking mouth shapes and smaller and pointier noses (except for those who are considered uglier, like Gian's mom and his sister Jaiko who are essentially his genetic doppelganger).
  • Dragon Ball Z has the invading Saiyans 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.
    • Speaking of the Saiyans it's shown that female Saiyans e.g Goku's mom Gine had a skirt on her Battle amour and Fasha from Bardock's squad has a pink Leotard of Power.
    • Android 18 looking so similar to 17 has visible eyelashes on her eye lids but aside from that (and clothes) looks basically the same.
  • 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 Ninja color.
  • In the gender swap arc of Gintama, female characters lose long eyelashes when they're turned into males, while male characters gain long eyelashes when they're turned into females. Sadaharu the giant dog was no exception: he was turned into a realistic female horse, but with luscious long eyelashes. Parodied with Shinpachi, who looks the same save pink glass frames... because he is the same. His glasses were the ones that were genderbent, playing on his status as The Generic Guy.
  • Hetalia: Axis Powers:
    • Liechtenstein wears a cute little ribbon, bought for her by her Onii-sama Switzerland. This was required since, without her previous long braided hair, she looked very much like a boy (which she attributes to her non-existent chest, but may very well be because she simply looks almost identical to her adoptive brother).
    • 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.
  • In Kamisama Minarai: Himitsu no Cocotama and its Sequel Series Kira Kira Happy Hirake Cocotama, Cocotama gender is determined mainly by whether their eggshell-shaped underpants have zig-zags or curves at the waistband. Male Cocotamas wear underwear that has zig-zags, while underwear with curves are worn by females.
  • In Nyaruko: Crawling with Love!, Hyrda-chan, the goddess of the deep ones, looks just like her male counterpart Dagon-kun, with an added pink bow and lipstick.
  • 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 Mythology Gag, Shiny Butterfree do have a pinkish tint, and have distinctly pink hands, feet, wings, and a mouth in the second generation.
    • The anime began using gender differences starting with Best Wishes. It's most obvious with Pikachu— he was always implied to be male however, thanks to female Pikachu having heart shaped tails post-Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, if he had been meant to be female they would have likely needed to retcon him male in order to avoid having to completely redesign him. Future episodes show Pikachu with gender differences and when Disguised in Drag Pikachu even has a heart-shaped appendage taped onto his tail. Oddly though, the fact no heart shaped tailed Pikachu appeared retroactively implies literally every Pikachu seen before has been 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.
    • Jessie's Dustox averted this trope, except for the episode she was released in. In it she wears ribbons on her antenna while her mate doesn't.
    • Meowth's crush Meowzie has eyelashes, unlike the other (presumably male) Meowth do. She also wears bows, which shows that she is both a female and that she is a pampered pet (in contrast to both Meowth and the others, who are street cats).
    • Serena's Eevee wore a ring of flowers on her head. When she evolved she became a Sylveon, which is usually male but has a very pink and frilly design that makes it look effeminate.
    • May's Bulbasaur had a heart-shaped mark on her head. Her gender was confirmed when she was depicted as a Venusaur.
  • The Electric Tale of Pikachu had a version of the "Pikachu's Goodbye" story where Pikachu hooks up with another Pikachu with a flower on its head. Its presumably meant to be female, with Ash's Pikachu being male.
  • It happens in Pokémon Adventures where one of the main characters, Yellow, has a Pikachu (named "Chu") that also has a flower in her hair, and is a mate to Red's own Pikachu, Pika. They even have a Pichu together.
  • Female characters from Rurouni Kenshin have longer eyelashes and shinier irises.
  • A Certain Scientific Railgun has Kongo's pet snake Ekatyerina wearing a pink bow. Justified in that there's usually no way to tell reptile genders apart without sticking your hand into a certain orifice and feeling up their... equipment.
  • 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 a Robot Girl, pilots herself most of the time).
  • The cats from Whats Michael aren't that stylized or anthropomorphized, but female ones still get slight eyelashes treatment just like humans.
  • Female characters from Yu-Gi-Oh! have longer eyelashes and shinier irises.
  • Arina Tanemura depicts her characters with overt sexual dimorphism, quite typically like many other manga creators: guys tend be taller, have noticeable sternocleidomastoid muscles (SCM), smaller eyes which are mostly tsurime; while girls tend to be shorter, have no noticeable SCM, much bigger and childlike eyes which could be either tareme or tsurime (although being girls, their tsurime look softer and less sharp), and of course, absurdly long and luscious eyelashes. What's notable about Tanemura's style is that she has designed transvestite characters on more than one occasion (examples include Maora from The Gentlemen's Alliance and Maimai from Sakura Hime: The Legend of Princess Sakura), in which a male character, when donning a feminine outfit, barely resembles his male self at all: his physical appearance (all of those traits mentioned above) completely changes accordingly to his so-called "female disguise." That is to say, thanks to some weird rules in the Tanemura multiverse, a tall and hunky guy can completely turn into a little petite girl merely by putting on a skirt, some makeup and girly accessories. These characters tend to serve as mere plot twists that will put even the most adamant suspensions of disbelief to shame.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1999) features a female Goron. Only male Goron appear in the games and the species might be male-only. In the manga, a mother Goron is depicted with eyelashes and breasts.
  • In Osomatsu-san, multiple female incarnations and counterparts to the Matsunos have some characteristic that makes them stand out. The Girlymatsus had eyelashes and some wore lipstick among other changes, while other skits had a brother put on a feminine costume and wig. The straightest example are the female lookalikes from the Season 3 opener, who look exactly like the brothers save for distinct hairstyles and skirts.
  • In Ojarumaru, Denboko would look literally exactly like Denbo if not for two features that distinguish her as female - eyelashes and a ribbon.

    Asian Animation 
  • Happy Heroes: The bare minimum that is done to distinguish female characters is adding visible eyelashes to them, such as with Sweet S. for example. There are some characters with other feminine features such as lipstick, though.
  • In Oddbods, all of the female Oddbods are given a strip of eyelashes that matches the color of their jumpsuit. This also includes the generic background Oddbods, which gives the female ones an extra feature that the male ones do not, as all the background ones are simply in grey jumpsuits with no special antenna.
  • In Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf, Wolnie has visible eyelashes and lipstick to distinguish her as a female in comparison to the male wolves, who don't have either feature.
  • In Simple Samosa, the four main characters all display some degree of tertiary sexual characteristics. Samosa, a boy, wears red shorts; Vada, another boy, wears blue shoes; Dhokla, yet another boy, wears blue shorts and shoes; and Jalebi, the only female of the main characters, wears jewelry (earrings), is usually seen wearing a pink skirt, and has visible eyelashes.

    Comic Books 
  • Wellington Grey's Miscellanea gives female stick figures skirts (and occasionally a square head).
  • 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.
  • While X-23 is very clearly a young woman, creators Chris Yost and Craig Kyle have said that the arrangement of her claws was intended to be this, and that two claws in the hands and one in the foot is a female trait for Wolverine's particular mutation.
  • Sonic the Comic:
    • As in the games, Amy is pink. Unlike the games Sonic is not naturally blue furred. He gained blue fur in an accident that caused his superspeed. What this means for Amy is never specified, except for one issue that insisted she originally had brown fur too. It had numerous issues so whether it's accurate is dubious.
    • Minor character Sally Acorn has a bow on her head while her younger brother wears goggles.
  • In Catstronauts, all the female cats in the series have the hair on the sides of their heads styled like a woman's hairdo.
  • In one Growing Paynes strip in The Dandy, the Paynes attend a wedding, and the boys wear kilts. Percy hasn't had a haircut in a while, and people keep mistaking him for a girl. In the end, he gets frustrated and proves he's a boy by lifting up his kilt to show off his... blue underwear.

    Comic Strips 
  • 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.
  • Female characters in Garfield — such as the titular cat's girlfriend Arlene — tend to be drawn with eyelashes and lipstick.
    • 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: His 9 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 Garfield and Friends doesn't help with the confusion at all. Later adaptations would ease the confusion by giving him male voice actors.
  • 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.

    Fan Works 
  • Dungeon Keeper Ami: In the first chapter, the Horned Reaper correctly identifies Ami as a girl based on her clothing:
    A female, judging from the skirt and the oh-so-cutesy ribbons.
  • In Pokémon fanworks certain Pokemon are almost always depicted as one gender or the other despite the fact they can be male or female. For example, when Espeon and Umbreon are paired together (and they almost always are) the Espeon (which is a pink, slightly feminine looking species which is associated with the sun) will always be female and the Umbreon (which is black colored and associated with the moon) will be male, despite the fact Yin and Yang (which is their motif) are female and male respectively and that Eevee have an over 80% chance of being male. Other Eeveelutions follow similarly (for example the scruffy looking Jolteon are usually male while the more feminine looking Glaceon, Vaporeon, and Sylveon are usually female).
  • This is slightly justified in ''Kill la Kill AU, because of the overall artstyle, leaving one to figure out if a character is a boy or a girl by their clothes mostly, as they don't have the usual tells (like eyelashes, for example). A more overt case is Mako, in that, if it wasn't show to a degree with her green bow and dress, one would have thought she was a boy, as she had shorter hair than the other girls, while Shiro verges on Dude Looks Like a Lady (with his hair). We also have this with a baby Ragyo, as her incubator has pink decals.

    Films — Animation 
  • Anastasia - At the end, Bartok gets a love interest. You can tell she's female because she has eyelashes, a Furry Female Mane and her mouth is drawn to look like there's lipstick on it.
  • In early Russian Stop Motion classic The Cameraman's Revenge, a (presumably) sexy nightclub dancer is represented by a dragonfly with long, delicate wings.
  • Female characters in the BIONICLE movies were changed from their toy-looks to be more gracile, with more slender limbs and in some cases high-heeled feet, and more feminine poses were emphasized.
    • The design of Gali's torso was flipped upside down to emphasize her wider hip. Conversely, whereas Pohatu's toy had a massive hip and tiny upper body, his movie design switched these proportions to make him look like the other male Toa.
    • Concept art shows Nokama's Toa form was designed by drawing her over a human female body, and she even had exposed mechanical gears in her chest, resembling a cleavage. Her elderly Turaga form meanwhile had chest decoration that looked like drawn-on breasts. Even her canonically ugly mutated Hordika version had slender, pointy feet and grooves above her eyes to evoke eyelashes.
    • Turaga Vakama and many Matoran, both male and female, wore the same type of mask that had a small "pharaoh's beard" — to differentiate them and make Vakama look like a wise old man, his beard was elongated and he even got Big Ol' Eyebrows, while the others' beard was shortened.
  • Finding Nemo: While the franchise generally averts this with their characters, there are still a few examples:
  • 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.
  • 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 female gelflings, she can glide.
  • 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 slightly reddish lips; pretty much the opposite of Master Tigress (see below), who is androgynous to the extent that many people (including her own voice actress) initially thought she was a guy. 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.
  • Inverted with Littlefoot in The Land Before Time. A notable part of his design is his long, feminine eyelashes, despite being a boy.
  • The Lion King:
    • Male lions cubs have black ear markings, while as adults they have none. While with the exception of Sarabi and adult Vitani, none of the lionesses have ear markings. Oddly, when Simba first appeared as a newborn cub, he lacked these ear markings.
    • All the male lions from cubhood onward have visible whiskers, while none of the females do.
    • The hyenas 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.
    • This trope is the reason for a huge debate in the fandom. The cub at the end of the first movie has male markings but the cub in the sequel film is a female named Kiara. They have numerous design differences which have not gone unnoticed by viewers. This has caused Epileptic Trees that the cub in the first film is actually Kopa, Simba's retconned son in series of books released shortly after the first film, and Kiara is actually Simba's and Nala's second cub.
  • Shrek:
    • 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. Granted, Fiona is not a natural born ogre like Shrek so this may have something to do with it.
    • 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?
  • Smallfoot: Female yetis have thicker fur around their legs, suggesting that they are wearing skirts.
  • Moxy, the lead character in Uglydolls is pink with hair-like extensions and thick eyelashes. She is the only Uglydoll in the movie to have the latter.
  • 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 single blue one visible in the background in one shot.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Just look at the cover of the film Space Buddies. Can you spot the token female?
  • 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: The New Batch, one Gremlin gets into a potion that turns it female, resulting in long hair, a garish makeup job, and streetwalker clothes.
  • 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.
  • Another rare live-action example in The Descent, where the male Crawlers are bald while the female Crawlers have long hair.
  • This was specifically asked for when Saban asked for new footage in Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers when it came to the yellow ranger. Dubbed "Zyu 2" by fans since the yellow ranger has a male build and didn't act differently in terms of mannerisms in terms of mannerisms compared to pink in the new footage ordered it was specifically asked for the yellow ranger to simply act (while still played by a male in suit) more feminine by keeping her legs together when teleporting, being more of pink's friend and simply just acting more girly. The build difference is noticable when seeing the Zyuranger footage compared to seeing Trini actually wearing the suit herself, especially at the back of her hips.

    Literature 
  • In Animorphs, female Andalites have smaller tail-blades than males. Male Hork-Bajir have three horns on their faces, while females only have two.
  • Played with in A Brother's Price. Jerin Whistler wears ribbons in his long hair, jewelery, and walking robes. In-universe, this makes him a normal, masculine man. His sister Corelle, on the other hand, is chastised for letting her hair grow too long. At one point in the story, though, Jerin has to disguise himself as a woman, as to not draw attention to himself. However, the kind of women he can most easily disguise himself as is a whore, as due to male Gender Rarity Value, whores are usually women who try to look as masculine as possible. Jerin dons make-up, and a feather boa to hide his adam's apple, and his shirt is arranged such that it looks like he's hiding breasts underneath. It works, as most men dress a bit less colourful than that, and don't walk around unveiled and unchaperoned. (The Real Life equivalent would be a woman dressing up as Drag Queen.)
  • In one of Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan 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.
  • Discworld, of course, messes with this:
    • 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. He is also depicted as wearing very frilly clothes in some illustrations, while other dwarves of both sexes wear armour.
    • 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 the Mr. Men books, the "Little Miss" characters usually have a bow or other hair decoration to set them apart from their male counterparts.
  • 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.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, fraternal twins Jaime and Cersei Lannister, as children, would sometimes switch clothes, causing adults to mistake them for one another.
  • In Slimy Underbelly, the only way to tell which of a pair of Senior Citizen Gods is female is that she has big floppy red bows decorating one of her many tentacles.
  • In The Goblin Emperor Chenelo gives her son Maia her only pair of earrings that is suitable for a boy to wear. There's pearls on them. Later on, when Maia becomes Emperor, he wears so much jewellery that one wonders what makes jewellery feminine in this universe. Gender roles clearly exist in the very patriarchal setting.
  • In Barbapapa, all of the girls have flowers on their head. Since the Barbafamily consists of amorphous blobs, it's the only sign. Interestingly, they all have eyelashes. This is best illustrated in the Google Doodle for the 45th anniversary of the books.
  • In Paths Not Taken, some amateur wand-wielders use probability-magics against a gigantic monstrous arm, which had seized them when they tripped a sorcerous security-system. One of the unleashed change-effects causes the arm to transform from masculine to feminine, complete with pink nail polish on its claws.
  • Stick Dog: All of the female dog characters can be identified by their eyelashes, like Stripes and Karen.
    • Stick Cat: You know Edith is a girl because she has eyelashes, and a boy on the single hair sticking up from her head.
  • Hop On Pop: Pop's daughter wears a bow on her head.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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. Notably when the series features female Blue Rangers, their suits are always a paler shade than the normal. Compare Tori's suit and Madison's to Billy's.
  • Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger puts an interesting spin on this.
    • 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 Fairy Princess (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 (male) dog.
  • On Mystery Science Theater 3000, the robot Gypsy has a high-pitched voice and over-sized lips.
  • In a parody of a then-famous TV shows about animals, the German humorist Loriot presented the stone louse (a stone-eating bug) to us. This is how the female looks like.
  • Invoked and Played for Laughs in Le cœur a ses raisons:
    Criquette: Let me see out baby! Is it a boy? Is it a girl?
    Brett: My medical expertise allows me to see that the pajamas are blue, so it's either a boy or a colorblind girl.
  • Discussed at least twice in Out of Jimmy's Head.
    • Jimmy initially mistakes Dolly for Golly before he notices her bow.
    • The cartoon side plot of Episode 3, "Sleepover." At the beginning, Dolly loses her bow and her dress gets torn to shirt length, and she comments on how those were the only ways anyone could tell she was a girl. Later, Golly puts the bow on, and the situation is treated as a Gender Bender plot among the toons.
  • In Li'l Horrors, the tomboyish werewolf Claudia wears a pink bow in her fur.
  • The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss: Many of the female Muppets such as Jane Kangaroo, Sarah Hall Small, Eliza Jane, Pam-I-Am, Lady Fretibula, and Princess Tizz have these.

    Music Videos 
  • The music video to Angus And Julia Stone's "I'm Not Yours" portrays the molly cat as having breasts, wearing a dress, and having eyelashes while her husband has no eyelashes, wears a tie, and has darker fur. His other lover is actually darker than him - averting Pale Females, Dark Males - however she has breasts too, wears a dress, and has a bow on her head.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • OI4k members Irish Airborne and Sami Callihan are represented by a skull missing its lower jaw and crossbones. Nevaeh is a member too with the same symbol, only with a pink bow tied around the bones.
  • A variation of the skull with bow symbol is also used by Shantelle Taylor, who added cracks that resemble eyelashes.
  • Jay Briscoe put a bearded skull on his personal Ring of Honor title belt.

    Theatre 
  • The Bad Idea Bears from Avenue Q use the bowtie/hairbow version, plus the 'female' bear has eyelashes and a pearl necklace.
  • Mystère: Bebebe has a pink bow or two in her hair, which makes the performer appear more childlike.
  • The Wiz: In the original Broadway production, Dorothy wore red bows on her Girlish Pigtails. The TV special featured her wearing a headband.

    Toys 
  • 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.
  • My Little Pony: The Big Brother Ponies are a bit larger than other adult ponies (all female), have overall bolder color schemes, and are given hilariously exaggerated "masculine" names, accessories, and occupations. However, their most prominent designating male feature is... big hairy feet.
  • The LEGO Life on Mars theme has the female Martian Cassiopeia, whose gender is distinguished from the male Martians by her eyelashes.
  • BIONICLE toys rarely used traditional characteristics; arguably the only overtly female-looking character was Roodaka with her pronounced breasts, hips, high heels and robotic ponytail — thoughe the writers explained both genders of her species looked like that. However, the line created an internal Tertiary Sexual Characteristic for the Matoran-Toa-Turaga species, the color blue. The only female tribe to get toys was the water tribe, and at least ninety percent of all blue figures were members of said tribe. Even when other tribes or races were introduced that didn't follow this one-gender rule, the females were still nearly always the blue ones. So, any blue figure was assumed to be female until otherwise noted. In the short-lived reboot of the franchise, this rule no longer applied. Korgot, the black colored Protector of Earth was retroactively chosen to be female in the written story.
  • Leap Frog Scout and Violet toys, specifically the “My Pals” line, are basically the same internally. The only three things to tell them apart: Their names, their colors (Leapfrog uses the “Purple Girl, Green Boy“ variant) and the fact that Violet has eyelashes. If you drill them down to only the internals, you cannot tell which belongs to which even if you power them on- this is of course done to save costs, since they’d have to host two different sets of programming data online otherwise. Other Violet toys which doesn’t have the customizations capabilities gives her a more feminine voice.

    Webcomics 
  • Faux Pas has foxes where the females have slightly darker fur and eyelashes, as well as makeup-style fur around their eyes. The humans in the comic are likewise confused. Randy, a male red fox, even was miss April once: "Some humans are weak on details".
    • 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 The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, after one of the lobster-like Pirates of Ipecac is suddenly revealed as female, she is then always portrayed with eyelashes and slightly rounded curves on all the pieces of her shell. Up till this point, both pirates had been drawn identically. Since the transition occurs between panels of the same strip, Cleaveland is probably Hanging A Lampshade on this trope.
  • 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". They affix it to the head of a newborn baby girl before throwing her in the wolf pit. She tears the wolves limb from limb, causing Kronar to proudly declare her his son.
  • 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.
  • Schlock Mercenary has elephants with eyelashes.
  • Fruit Incest mostly averts this. Nelly looks exactly like Wally but with a horn. Dahlia has long eyelashes, but that's more to do with her personality than anything else.
    • Also inverted with Molo and Zeke. They're both male, but Zeke has a feminine tuft of hair, curlier whiskers, and lighter colored fur.
  • Pretty straightforward in Mountain Time, where females always wear skirts. They also have hair much more often than males.
  • minus. illustrates the titular character's problem with lacking Tertiary Sexual Characteristics here. Many readers have probably thought she's a guy, too.
  • Housepets! has Peanut Butter helping Grape prepare for a date, revealing what he'd done with a mirror.
    Grape: (Gasp!) Wait, did you just comb my eyelashes out?
  • In Goblins, all female humanoids have an hourglass figure. Goblins, however, don't typically have hair on their heads, and it is not considered an attractive trait. Complains, however, finds those that do have head hair to be absolutely gorgeous.
  • Crow Cillers leans hard on the eyelash subtrope, even when body switching is in play. The sole exceptions are Bloodwolfe and Ru'mel.
    • Lampshaded in the pilot episode, where a combination Mons strategy guide and furniture catalogue features a pink desk with legs shaped like a pearl necklace captioned with "SHE IS ONLY FOR YOUR FUCKING."
  • Played for Laughs in this Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.
    Sweetie, you're becoming a woman now. Soon you'll develop long eyelashes and a hair-bow.
  • Off-White: Kaya, the female wolf Iki takes a liking to, has eyelashes. Very ugly eyelashes, even the co-author doesn't like them. Thankfully they are only visible in closeups.
  • Yumi's Cells: The Cells that live in Yumi's brain are little people that wear blue jumpsuits that normally cover all of their hair, making them look androgynous. Named Cells have Custom Uniforms to distinguish themselves from the generic Cells and provide gender clues. Female Cells tend to have long hair or Girlish Pigtails or wear skirts. Love Cell only has bangs, but her suit is pink.

    Web Original 
  • Dorf Quest: The girls are pink! And the gods, Blue.
  • Parodied by The Crew of the Copper-Colored Cupids, where Juliet-178 is the only known female Cupid (seemingly created by a quirk of the Great Foundries), and the only practical consequences of this are that she has long eyelashes, a high-pitched voice, and wears a bow. Also Justified, of course, in that the Cupids are clockwork beings who are only very stylized representations of humanoid figures.
  • Game Grumps has Danny lampshades this when he finds out Birdo is trans by saying that pink bows are "practically video game genitalia"
  • Zero Punctuation features red bows on female imps.
  • 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.
  • Lampshaded by The Nostalgia Chick in the Mulan review (after Samus is revealed to be a girl):
    Lindsay: (as Mulan) At least I have eyelashes again.
  • 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.
  • Martynne "Martie" Bennet from Killerbunnies has a mostly gender-neutral or rather tomboyish appearance, however, one can tell she's girl due to her eyelashes and her frilly socks. Similarly, this can occur for Mullein "Muli" Wayleaf who's distinguishable as a girl due to her eyelashes and pigtails.
  • Feminist Frequency: Discussed in Ms. Male Character – Tropes vs Women:
    The design elements that were used to transform Pac-Man into Ms. Pac-Man are referred to as feminizing gendered signifiers – the bow, the makeup, the long eyelashes are all specific stylistic choices; they are all part of our culture's visual vocabulary intended to convey information about gender to the viewer. Game designers use these stereotypical attributes as a sort of shorthand to quickly identify a given character as female.
    Childlike hair decorations are by far the most frequented accessory used for this purpose. It’s standard practice for creators to, just, put a big bow on top of an anthropomorphized animal or personified object in order to communicate that the character is not male.
  • Played with in Llamas with Hats in that the llama on the left hand wore a hat brighter than Carl and was even adorned with a daisy. Later on the llama revealed he is a guy called "Paul" to which Carl only replied he needed to delete some photos.
  • One Minute Fly: The female fly seen in the first video and "Happy Valentine's Day" is depicted with prominent eyelashes and large, red lips.

    Other 
  • 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.

    Real Life 
  • Human babies. Without their little pink or blue onesies, they're undeniably androgynous.
    • They have actually done several social experiments with this. The point of the experiment was to show how people treat female and male 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.
    • Not all white babies are bald. People generally assume any baby with long hair is female, any baby that's bald is male, and that any baby that has short ''hair'' is male, and any baby with pigtails is female.
    • 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. This is also the reason why female voice actors are often hired to voice children, whether they are boys or girls. Male voice actors usually cannot do it.
  • 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 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).

Exceptions:

    Anime & Manga 
  • Somewhat subverted in Chotto Edo Made, because boys who are cute still have lightly pronounced eyelashes. Soubi, a boyish girl also has that kind of light eyelashes, while her love interest, a girlish boy has much more pronounced eyelashes.
  • 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...
  • Much of Osamu Tezuka's works. Most male characters designed by him has long eyelashes, and in certain cases, even end up looking feminine (Astro Boy could easily pass off as a girl if his name didn't make it clear that it's a he). Kimba the White Lion actually caused some Viewer Gender Confusion, and it didn't help that he was voiced by Yvonne Murray in the new dub.
  • 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.

    Comic Books 
  • Subverted in ElfQuest where Picknose the troll often wears a dainty bow on the end of his beard. Maybe his girlfriend tied it.
  • Tangle of Sonic the Hedgehog (IDW) averts this, as she has a rather boyish appearance and a gender-neutral color scheme (black, orange, and yellow). If it weren't for the eyelashes and Sega's no-pants-on-boys-allowed clothing mandate, you wouldn't be able to tell at first glance.

    Comic Strips 
  • Dykes to Watch Out For: In "The Indelible Alison Bechdel", author Bechdel discusses the irritation of comic books wherein the lone woman 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.
  • Pointedly averted in 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.

    Films — Animation 
  • In 9, all of the stitchpunks are artificial lifeforms with no defining characterisitcs, 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. The only notable difference is that her fingers are shown to be smaller than 9's.
  • Parodied and subverted in A Bug's Life, where Francis, a male ladybug, has long eyelashes, full lips and a beauty mark, and voiced by Denis Leary.
    Francis: SO! Bein' a ladybug automatically makes me a girl! Is that it, flyboy?!
    Flies: YIKES! She's a guy!
  • 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 subconsciously 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.
  • In the first Lady and the Tramp film, the Darling's son has an extremely pink bedroom and an equally pink wardrobe. The sequel released decades later swapped it for blue, probably due to pink becoming less unisex since the original film.
  • The Rescuers Down Under:
    • Apart from her name, Joanna the Goanna has nothing that indicates she is female, due to her lack of gendered features and ability to speak.
    • Marahute, a female golden eagle, has a more realistic design compared to other animals in the movie, and thus lacks any typical feminine traits. Much like Joanna, she is incapable of human speech as well.
  • 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.
  • Uglydolls:
    • Wage, unlike Moxy (listed above), has no defining feminine features. This is due to being a Gender Flip of the original toyline's Wage, who was a male character.
    • Similar to Wage, Wedgehead is another male character in the movie flipped to be a female one, with no defining features, save for her voice. However, she is colored bright yellow in the movie, compared to the dark blue that her male toyline counterpart is.
  • Up:
    • Subverted 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 she was a girl was the pale, pink bow on her messy moptop.
  • The Boob from Yellow Submarine sports very prominent eyelashes.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Baby Herman of Who Framed Roger Rabbit fame not only has eyelashes and a hair bow, but his hair bow is pink.
  • In Stuart Little, the fluffy white cat, Snowbell, is male and voice acted by Nathan Lane.

    Literature 
  • Bruce Coville's Rod Allbright Alien Adventures series 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".)
  • In The Goblin Emperor, female and male mazei (mages, basically) wear the exact same robes and wear their hair in he exact same way. The reader knows this because when the Adremaza introduces Kiru Athmaza, he hopes to be able to pass her off as male nohecharis, but Maia can immediately tell she is a female nohecharo. At no point is it mentioned that the female character changed anything about her appearance before or after this incident. As the setting is quite patriarchal with strict gender roles, it is quite possible Maia would not have seen through it if the character had worn gendered clothes.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Very pointedly averted in Blue's 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!
  • Ojo from Bear in the Big Blue House is female, but lacks any human hair, eyelashes or makeup, wears no clothing or accessories, has a low, scratchy voice (keep in mind that prepubescent boy characters tend to be voiced by women) and her fur is darker than Bear's, inverting Pale Females, Dark Males. Even her name sounds like a boy's name (though it appears to be a derivative of "Jojo", which is typically a girl's name). It's enough to cause some Viewer Gender Confusion.

    Webcomics 
  • Totally averted in Digger, which may confuse people used to tertiary sexual characteristics in Humanoid Animals. Digger is female, as are many of the matriarchal 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.
  • In Sluggy Freelance neither talking rabbit Bun-Bun (who's male) nor talking ferret Kiki (who's female) are given any sexual characteristics, tertiary or otherwise. Likewise Aylee (an alien with Involuntary Shapeshifting powers) has often had no features indicating she's female, though her current Green-Skinned Space Babe form has plenty of female features, right down to the "naughty parts."
  • Vattu zigzags 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.
  • It's even mandatory for one-celled organisms, as this installment of Super-Fun-Pak Comix demonstrates.
  • In the Pokémon webcomic Lil Char and the Gang, newer readers often have to be told that Wartortle and Ivysaur are teenage girls, since the dialog rarely mentions their gender and they have no obvious feminizing features.
  • The Order of the Stick: To his surprise, Roy remains bald when he uses a magical Gender Bender to disguise himself from assassins, forcing him to improvise a wig from a mophead.

    Web Original 

    Real Life 
  • In ancient Egyptian illustrations, men had darker skin than women. The same goes for ancient Greek and Roman art. It's because ideally women stayed indoors, in their view, with men being tanned from being outdoors. To modern eyes this can look very odd, because they unintentionally look like interracial couples.
  • 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 1920s, 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.
  • Men, especially macho men, typically have longer eyelashes than women because they have more body hair. Long eyelashes are likely associated with femininity because they make the eyes look bigger, and feminine eyelashes also have a prominent curl, which does naturally occur in babies.
  • Similarly, some time periods (notably the '60s, '80s and especially 2010s) consider thick eyebrows to be an ideal of feminine beauty. Unibrows are actually considered youthful and attractive in Tajikistan, with women using a special herb to make them more prominent.
  • Some toilet signs avoid the outdated "women wear dresses" implication by having XX and XY instead, the female and male sex chromosomes, respectively (this would still be a problem to some intersex people however).

Alternative Title(s): Put A Bow On Her Head, Tertiary Sexual Characteristic

Top