Saturday, May 5, 2012

Gender Stereotypes in Toy Advertisements

So I was watching the Buffy vs Edward video, yet again, and I started looking into Rebelliouspixels' work, (the guy who made the video) and found that he/ they do a lot about gender roles and advertising. In fact they've also made a second site called The Gender Advertising Remixer which does mashups of the video and audio to toys marketed towards boys and towards girls. Here's an example of one (it's not the best, but it's one that could be embedded into the blog)

Watching this, and even making my own mashups, really made me realize how ridiculously stereotyped toys are for young kids. Personally, I grew up playing with toys geared towards both genders including, American Girl dolls, Polly Pockets, Legos, Rockenbok, among others and my sister and I loved playing with either. What's even more concerning now, is not only the blatant stereotyping, but the violence associated with toys geared for boys. In the video below is a mashup of different LEGO advertisements over the years and the increasing amount of violence and weapons.

It seems that now a days, toy companies think boys won't be interested in a toy unless it blows up, or gets destroyed, or has a very deep male voice narrating the advertisement. For girls, unless it has something to do with hair, puppies, or the color pink, toy ads don't think girls will be interested. It amazes me how gender is thrust upon us from day one. No, not even day one, but several months before we're even born. Right when mom and dad know "it's a girl!" they, and their families go out and buy a TON of pink, and anything associated with this. Once we're old enough to pick our own toys, we've already been surrounded by gender geared toys and advertisements and are practically drilled into buying the appropriate toy. What's even worse, is the notion that it's okay for girls to like video games and legos, but it's not acceptable for boys to play with Barbies (unless you're a dad to two little girls). 

The gender roles and their repercussions surround us as children and keep us separated. While there is obviously some cross over, with too much we are ridiculed. If anything, I believe that for true gender equality we need to go right to the source, our childhood, and fix these classifications and judgements. Maybe one day they'll finally make a LEGO Star Wars advertisement with girls playing too, because contrary to the company's belief, girls can like Star Wars too! 


  1. Madelynn, I absolutely agree with your postition of pointing out the lack of crossover between "boys' and girls' toys" in advertising and how it promotes specific roles that kids should fall into: boys being violent, girls loving pink. I also think the most effective, and possibly only way to end the stereotypical, "gender appropriate" way of thinking in this country is by taking out these toy companies that advertise this way.

    My best friend when I was younger is a guy and I remember when we would play with our toys together it would be a jumbled mess of Barbies and legos, stuffed animals and toy trucks. We played with all of them and didn't care whose was whose. I think it would be healthy for every child to be exposed to the "other sex's toys" as they could find out what they really love in life before they are an adult.

    1. Your best friend's a guy...? Do you think he has a huge secret crush on you? lolz

  2. Madelynn and Sophie, I completely agree with how child advertising establishes these gender categories so soon and so strong. In my HD 1170 class, we discussed how childhood is the optimum time to sway children towards gender-specific or gender-generalized roles. While this media is heavy on the gender-specific toys, it is really up to the parents whether or not they teach their children to think in this way. If the parents discuss one-on-one with their children the idea that any person can play with any toy, wear any clothing, do any sport, etc, then the children will most likely grow up to be very flexible when faced with gender, despite the media's influence. So while media influence is important, I don't believe that these toy companies need to be "taken out" entirely, since it is not the companies sole fault in the matter. Instead, the people with the main influence on the child's way of thinking is their parents.

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  4. This is a very interesting topic. Those commercials shed light on the stereotypical ideas of boys and girls in this country today. They believe boys are more attractive to guns and cars which is most of the time true. They also believe girls are attracted to animals and hair, which is also most of the time true. But maybe advertisers do this because it is the best way to sell their products. They are targeting certain audiences, and making the advertisements around that targeted audience. Now if boy/ girls are interested in playing with gun shaped leggos, then the advertiser did his/her job by connecting to that audience. I think this is a case of if it's not broke don't fix it, meaning, if their advertisements were successful by targeting them to specific audiences, they should continue to do so until it is no longer successful.

    As for the idea of inequality between genders, i don't believe advertisements are promoting the idea of girl vs boy toys. I think parents do that by buying toys that are "made for boys" for their sons, and "girly" for their daughters. I think advertisers know this is the case so they make their advertisements in a way that would attract mothers of sons and mothers of daughters.

  5. There are definitely huge differences between toys marketed towards girls and those marketed towards boys; however, I think Tia brings up an interesting point in saying that that these companies are just doing what they know works. Sure we can blame the companies for gender stereotyping their products and commercials, but if it gets them business, then why change their strategy? It could very well be that if Barbie stopped making pink commercials and LEGO stopped using violence and intense music, they could lose customers.

    What we really need is for something to change in both the media and the mindsets of the people in our society in order to move towards equality of gender. Would it be more shocking for us to see a Barbie commercial in which both girls and boys were playing with dolls, or for a boy to actually play with dolls? It's hard to say, but I know that both would elicit strong negative reactions from many people today. In order to truly move towards gender equality, breaking gender stereotypes must not be shocking to us anymore... now the question is just how to get to that point.

  6. Though toy companies are not the source of gender stereotyping, they certainly are playing a large part in perpetuating and promoting it. The problem comes from the way society portrays gender roles, and that idea affects how the rest of the people view it. Though just changing the way toy companies advertise their products will probably not be beneficial to the companies at first, it is upsetting to see that children's freedom of expression is already being limited by society at such a young age. There was a study done in which a young boy was left in room with both male gender typed toys and female gender typed toys. When there was someone else present in the room, the child spent significantly more time playing with the male gender typed toys. But when the child thought that nobody was watching, he would spend equal amounts of times with both types of toys. This goes to show how influential society's norms are even on children.

    I agree with Emily that the only way to end this is by somehow changing the entire mindsets of the people in our society. Only then will the corporations respond to this change in demands.


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