Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Marketing Sexism

I read Mile of Aisles of Sexism by Sudie Hofmann as my chapter to focus on. This article further explores gender roles and expectations through the lens of children's toys. Hofmann found "several areas of concentration such as gender segregation, career-related toys, militarism, and themes in packaging such as color usage and marketing language" (208). 

In her study she found links between male toys and violent weaponry as well as female toys and domestication. Male targeted toys "encourage violence during playtime in the name of peace and justice" (208). Female targeted toys focus on either appearance or domestic. Household items such as kitchen toys, childcare toys, and cleaning products are marketed only towards females projecting the image of stay at home duties although this role rarely exists in modern day society. These results are frightening because  trips to the toy store are common place for parents and often made without much thought. The shelves promote gender roles to many unknowing consumers.

Even more dangerous is the gaming aisle. Science kits, chess sets, and games that required intellectual thought only have males on the packaging. Only simpler games and workbooks marketed using females; for example, bingo and coloring books advertised using young girls. This divide suggests that girls are not capable of or not allowed to enjoy academic engaging activities. These products promote the image that males are mathematical, scientific thinkers while females should stick to the arts.

In addition, woman were exploited throughout the store. In all the video games displayed "the only women shown were in 'compromising positions' with 'major cleavage'" (213). In addition to this unrealistic female body image portrayed for boys, Barbies come with features including Barbie's scale set at 110 pounds.  Hofmann found "girls' toys promote unattainable physical perfection and materialistic values and typically strengthen the cultural messages of inferiority... [that] affect self-image and academic performance for many girls" (211).

With Hofmann's research in mind, it is interesting to see the history of male and female marketing. Here is an excerpt from Peggy Orenstein's book Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Frontlines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture.

“Children weren’t color-coded at all until the early twentieth century: in the era before Maytag, all babies wore white as a practical matter, since the only way of getting clothes clean was to boil them. What’s more, both boys and girls wore what were thought of as gender-neutral dresses. When nursery colors were introduced, pink was actually considered the more masculine hue, a pastel version of red, which was associated with strength. Blue, with its intimations of the Virgin Mary, constancy, and faithfulness, symbolized femininity…Why or when that switched is not clear.. 

1 comment:

  1. It seems as children learn gender roles through instinct because they begin to show signs of them at such a young age. It is a part of our culture and the adults around them might portray these gender roles but they become even more ingrained when they see them in all of these places you wrote about. It was very interesting to read about how males and females are portrayed differently on aisles in stores.