Monday, October 1, 2007

Blog 1

Do toys and products marketed to children display gender roles and stereotypes? Many toys today are marketed specifically for boys or girls and do develop their understanding of normative gender roles and stereotypes in childhood. Humans have been playing with toys since the beginning of existence. Parents began by making toys from simple materials like wood and stone, to today where toys are mass manufactured. Toys play a huge role in the development of children. Children play with toys to learn about the world, practice skills they will later on need, and create their identity. Not only do they serve to entertain but to enhance physical and metal ability.

Many toys are marketed specifically for boys and others for girls. For instance Barbie, which is targeted primarily for girls. When searching on for Barbie this is the picture that comes up. The girl looks like a miniature Barbie. Barbie puts the image of what a “normal” girl should look like in girl’s minds. Girls that play with Barbie may get the idea that they should look like Barbie. In reality, Barbie’s proportions are not even close to the average girl. GI Joe is a toy that is specifically marketed to boys. This image was taken from

GI Joe is a very popular military action figure. Most of the GI Joe's are male and could give children the stereotype that only men are supposed to join the military. Also, as you can see from the picture this GI Joe is very muscular, as are most of the GI Joe's. Young boys may get the idea they should look like him when in reality very few men look as muscular as him.

The idea that “Environmental cues set the stage on which the power relationships of the sexes are acted out and assigned status of each sex is reinforced” shows how toys can develop a child’s normative gender roles and stereotypes in childhood (Henley & Freeman,85). As a child most of their environment is going to consist of playing with toys. Some toys like Barbie and GI Joe can display negative stereotypes about men and women. Many people say “aww it’s just a toy”, but is it? People don’t consciously think about the effects a toy will have on a child. Toys develop a child’s identity and their ways of thinking, so it’s important to make sure each toy doesn’t exhibit a certain stereotype and encourage children to play with all types of toys, not ones just specifically targeted for his or her gender. Hall uses the saying, “Little boys like playing rough games; little girls, however, are full of sugar and spice”(Hall, 90) , to explain the ideology of masculinity and femininity and how it’s constructed in society. Toys can also display typical masculinity or femininity.

While looking at the age ranges in toys you see that as the ages increase, there is increase in the amount of promotional toys. Younger children play with most of the same toys until they are about five years old. At this point they are bombarded with promotional toys like spider-man, sonic, and Harry Potter. There are a lot less promotional toys until the age of five years old. Children are watching TV more so they are going to see commercials for movies and TV shows and want these types of toys.

The one toy found that was on my child’s list that was gender neutral was a water gun. Most advertising for water guns include both girls and boys. As a child I remember both girls and boys being in all the commercials and also boys and girls in the neighborhood playing with them. In conclusion, I think its important for parents to consider how the toys they buy for their children will effect them and their personality. Some toys can cause children to develop a stereotype or gender specific role, that we as a society need to break away from.


Hall, Stewart. “The Whites of Their Eyes Racist Ideologies and the Media.”

Gender, Race, and Class in Media. Sage Publications, 2003. (89-93).

Lull, James. "Hegemony." Gender, Race, and Class in Media. Sage Publications, 2003. (61-66).


Joe V said...

While the water gun itself may be used by both genders, is it marketed as a gender neutral toy? I feel like it is still a toy that is targetted for young boys. I would also like for you to expand on what message this "gender neutral" toy sends. As you stated, toys are integral part of development, and so if a toy doesn't enforce any message based on gender, what do certain "gender neutral" toys teach children, and how do these messages influence them in their development?

Jessie said...

Dave- Your post is very interesting and you've made some very valid points.

It might help if you concentrated on less examples (i.e. just the person you were shopping for on the notecard). It'll help you go from very general statements about the toys, humanity, etc, to the more nuanced analysis that you need to be really trying to delve into here.

Also, try to use your intro for the purposes of creating a road map for your reader (it may help if you write your intro last after you know where your piece "went") so that it's explicitly mapping out the terrain the reader can expect you to cover. Don't try to cover history since (literally) the dawn of time, because your paper isn't about that.

Try to write your intro after you've created a thesis (and you might want to revisit this issue in your post here b/c the last sentence of the first paragraph is where I look for the thesis and it's tough to see it as relevant to this particular writing assignment).

Once you've authored a paper with a clear one sentence thesis, go back and write the intro and make sure that you're not trying to cover too much terrain in a single writing assignment (it's much easier to analyze fewer items and get much deeper with the analysis when you do so). A bit of change in the approach could really go a long way here (so don't worry, it's doable :o)!