Gender stereotypes are exaggerated generalizations that are based purely on gender. The area of study for this investigation is sociocultural influences. This is a contemporary issue as it is becoming an excessive thing in modern society due to companies increasingly gender marketing their products towards children. The toy sections at shopping centers are divided into two categories: girls and boy’s toys. Aisles are filled with either pink, frilly princesses or blue, aggressive action figures. Toy marketing has changed dramatically in the past 50 years.
As a matter of fact, it was not until the 1990s that toys were exceedingly targeting specific genders The age group that will be focused on are children from the ages of 6 to 8 years old. The media that will be referred to will be from a variety of TV advertisements, catalogues and shop layouts. In regards to the investigation the following topic questions will be explored: 1. How is the media targeting gender specific products to children? 2. Are there implications for children only playing with gender specific toys? 3. Are parents being influenced by media to provide their children with gender specific products? The investigation will contain both primary and secondary resources.
Primary data that will be analysed for this investigation will be collected by 30 parents who reside in Darwin or in the surrounding areas. Children’s toy aisles in Darwin will also be used as primary sources. Secondary data will be collected from trusted websites and articles that have been published in the last three years. Collecting this data will ensure reliable and updated information to be presented in this investigation.
Parents will be interviewed as they will be the main source of the information gathered. They will be asked questions relating to what type of toys their child/children play with and what they allow them to play with. They will also be asked if they think media influences their decision when buying toys. Discussion of Findings Focus Question 1 – How is the media targeting gender specific products to children? In modern society a large range of media that targets children are available and can be accessed through TV, shopping catalogs, the internet and children’s magazines.
Shop layouts target gender specific children by colour coding their aisles. The sections normally begin with newborn/baby toys which are generally gender neutral. This changes as it progresses into toddler toys for young children. Girl sections are filled with bright pink toys such as dolls, dress ups and household appliance sets. These are associated with vanity and domestic and nurturing skills. Boy toys consist of masculine action figures, building machinery and engineering toys. Three popular stores were visited and their toy aisles were investigated and documented.
All three stores used gender targeting techniques such as colour coding and likes and dislikes to separate the boy’s and girl’s toys (see figure 1 and figure 2) When reaching their milestones correctly, children begin to understand similarities and opposites. The media takes children’s milestones into consideration with toy displays as children aged 6 to 8 years old begin to separate into the two gender categories. A Sears catalog published in 1975 showed less than 2% of toys were gender targeted (Sweet, 2014).
Now, toy advertisements on TV and shop layouts use advertising techniques such as jingles, colours, likes/dislikes and models to target their products to a gender specific audience. Advertisements directed to girls will contain many feminine colours such as pinks and purples, and uses young girls as models. This is a big representation factor as it specifically targets young girls to like their products. These advertisements tend to sell the most popular toys used by girls such as dolls, kitchen sets and make up kits (Commericals, 2015).
This “restricts their imagination of what women are capable of and prioritizes appearance over intelligence” (Feministfrequency, 2013). Many of these are advertised on TV using upbeat, girly jingles in the background that attract the attention of young girls (Planet, 2014). Advertisements targeting boys include masculine colours such as blue, green and red. Toys range from trucks to building blocks to manly superheros. Models seen in the ads are young boys which, just like girl advertisements, target a specific gender.
The narrators tend to be aggressive and assertive while describing toys (Wheels, 2013). Many toys that are marketed for boys tend to try influence their future careers such as becoming an engineer or builder. These advertisements encourage boys to use their imagination and be creative. Emotive language is used to entice boys such as “You can build the massive Neptune sub” and “You decide how much firepower to arm your ships” (Feministfrequency, 2013) which allows boys to feel powerful and in control.
Focus Question 2 – Are there implications for children only playing with gender specific toys? There are stereotypes that generalise children by the toys they play with, which can lead to them being judged or bullied (Williams, 2015). Boys are especially affected by this as they are expected from a young age to be tough and masculine. They are taught to enjoy things that involve building, athletics and science, while being told household chores such as cleaning, cooking and caring after babies are for women.
Boys who are seen with girl toys such as dolls or dresses tend to be shamed for liking the ‘wrong’ thing. This can leave a negative impact on their social and emotional wellbeing as they grow older such as falling into depression, developing anxiety or even committing suicide (Reed, 2014). This can progress into their teenage and adult lives by convincing boys that showing ‘woman traits’ such as expressing emotions will make them feel foolish and that their feelings are invalid. Parents are a factor when it comes to being influenced to play with certain toys.
A survey conducted on 30 parents was asked if they thought the media caused children to bully other children who played with the opposite gender specific toys. Results showed that 62. 07% said yes, 37. 93% said no and one person skipped the question. When asked for a reason for their choice, one parent said “You don’t see commercials of little boys playing with an easy bake oven, so it’s considered weird for a boy to enjoy non-aggressive activities”. In contrast, a parent who had chosen no for their answer replied with, “I think it’s more to do with other people’s opinions and expectation”. Both parents have opposing ideas.
The parent who had agreed with the statement used a kitchen appliance toy (a product which is marketed to girls) as an example for her opinion. She explained advertisements don’t show boys playing with certain toys that are targeted to girls, which would seem abnormal. Due to this being an ongoing technique the media uses, it is now “weird” for a boy to enjoy things that are not aggressive; something that is not aimed at boys. In oppose, the other parent doesn’t believe the media is responsible for the bullying. They believe its other people’s (such as family, friends, classmates) opinions that