I just so happened to read a very interesting article titled: Care Bears vs. Transformers: Gender Stereotypes in Advertisements. At times, the post gets a little bit over my head but I’m distilling a bit of the information that I feel you can easily and naturally relate as we continue on reading.
The article starts with the poster saying how she stopped at a fast food place with his 6 year old daughter and she told him she was sad because the lady behind the counter gave her a pink care bear. So you’re thinking “so…?”. The thing is that she says she didn’t liked it because the lady chose the care bear for her, assuming she likes playing with that sort of thing, which she does not, she points, because she’s a tom boy.
The reason the fast food worked did this assumption was because of, as she points out on her post, is gender stereotypes. The gender stereotypes are first and foremost started by and reinforced by the media and specifically advertisements targeting children.
The kind of ads, TV or otherwise, that children are exposed to, that are targeted towards their market, are images that make two very clear, distinct pictures: those of boys and girls.
Boys are shown doing things relating to speed, action, excitement, adventure and any kind of aggressive behavior on advertisements shows only boys, and targeting to boys. On the other hand, girls are shown inside their houses, being passive, cooperative, less aggressive and more dependent than boys.
What do you see when you turn on the TV on Saturday morning? You can see pretty much what you’ve been reading so far.
Between the commercials of Saturday morning cartoons, boys are shown sporting adventure and physical action.
Girls are shown in their homes, sometimes just playing in their bedrooms playing with their dolls and being reasonably passive. The boys on the other hand are much more active, and the kind of toys they play with show this excitement, battling against other boys with their toys and figures.
So girls play with dolls and boys play with… figures? That’s about it, or so it seems.
Girls plays with dolls and boys play with action figures. Look at what the name implies, action, everything that is shown and stereotyped in advertisements targeted towards boys. Even though an action figure can pretty much resemble a doll, boys play with action figures because it’s unacceptable for them to do otherwise.
He then mentions another great example: Friends. In one of their shows (you know what Friends is right?) Ross had recently become a father.
At one point in the episode he was caring for his son when he realized the baby was holding and playing with a Barbie doll. He then proceeds, for the rest of the episode, to try to make his son play with a G.I. Joe instead, because that’s with what he should be playing afterall.
When another one of his Friends tells him the G.I. Joe is a doll, Ross responds saying that it isn’t a doll, it’s an action figure. His son was content enough playing with Barbie, but in his head, Ross, as a parent, was reinforcing the whole gender stereotype because he was uncomfortable with having his son playing with a doll, supposedly for girls, and not an action figure, for boys.
Check out this very interesting by Dr. Monica here: http://www.sociology.org/2010/02/17/care-bears-vs-transformers-gender-stereotypes-in-advertisements/
Also, do yourself a favor and go read the history of the action figure as it relates to this post.
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