Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Barbies, Homemakers, and Gender Inequality as the “New” Black

“ Mom, I want a new Brat doll” or “ dad can I have that new video game please? These are some of the frequent questions asked daily towards stressed overworked parents. I’m almost sure all parents want to make their little girl or boy happy so they give in to these demands; thinking most times it’s just a toy. Before getting a new toy may have been difficult because parents were working or doing other tasks. So taking time out to go to the toy store was out of the question after an exhausting day. But in 2008 the world of online shopping has become a great source. Online shopping is really easy, especially if an individual is looking for toys for children. All you have to do is go online to find his or her favorite toy. It’s almost impossible for you to pick the wrong toy, because as soon as you scroll down there are three categories {1}. On one part of the page lies a category of toys for girls, and in the middle outdoor stuff, and to the far right there is a category for boys. Most parents go online, click, and buy. It’s really sad to say that some parents go shopping with the mindset that they are actually buying their kid a toy that will make them happy. Instead, they are buying a toy for their child that may be aidingin societies unequal distribution of gender roles. It is my aim through a small shopping experience to expose how children’s toys have become the new age vehicle for distribution and implementation of societal gender roles.

During my excursion I analyzed toys that fell in the age range from 5-7 for both girls and boys. I focused on their colors, their themes, and what type of messages they were sending to children. I found that in each category there was a complete contrast of toy selections. In the girls section the toy selections where dolls, make-up, plastic kitchen sets, nail design, skates; and the most infamous Brat Dolls shown with a flower watering pot while her boobs protruded out. One other really interesting toy I saw was the Lego set that was glazed in pink, but on the front of the box a house and a little girl jumping rope was shown. The colors were almost all the same every page I went to; the colors were either pink, purple, yellow, or some type of pastel color which leads me to think a young girl would have to be extra cautious about making sure the toy didn’t get dirty.
The selection of toys for boys was completely different. The colors shown were bright reds, blues, and black. These are all very dominating colors. Also the toy selection had symbolic characters that boys could identify with in society like fire men, action cars, air pilots, planes, baseballs, and animals like dogs and lions; amongst other things there were toys shown that would challenge young males intellectual capabilities like cash registers dealing with money, chess sets, there was even a tool set shown. Just from viewing a couple of toys on line one could see that there are serious gender roles that are being represented through toys. Analyzing the toys for boys I got the idea that if I were a boy I could fit many identities. I could be a fireman; I could be a business man, a captain, a tool man, or even architecture and build things. “Author Goerge Lipsitz addresses the idea that these type of identity traits or gender roles are not just thrown into society but inserted gradually; and accepted over a period of time. They began to become encouraged and accepted when they are identified through new products. He noted that products sold have traditional, historical, sanctioned practices of behaviors (Lipsitz, 43)”. These roles and jobs listed above for boys are very dominant in today’s society, and are some of the most important people we utilize to keep our economy and world thriving. So in a sense they are highly valued. The idea that all of these characteristic are being portrayed to young boys and girls as being a male oriented is scary.
Out of all the toys I observed from the girl’s selection the theme seemed to surround the ideas of beauty, a women being soft, taking the role as a care taker, or insinuating that a girls place is at home. I say this because all of the toys were babies, barbies, doll houses, nail kits, hair streakers, or make up. This is a really scary thought because the age group that I typed in was from
ages 5-7. I thought to myself is this what we are teaching young girls today, beauty and homemaking over brains? At the age of 5 – 7 why should a young girl be concerned about her nails, streaking her hair, or pretending she is cooking dinner for a husband she doesn’t have? Why weren’t there toys in this selection that challenged young girls or showed them that they could be anything they wanted to be? Or even showed them they could have a career outside of being a nurse or a mom?
I can answer my own question and say this is happening because toys, media, and the gender roles or expectations of children have become embedded in society’s stages of socialization. The media is an important purveyor of information about gender. It is from very young stages of girls lives that they are taught they always need to fix something on their bodies whether it is their hair, nails, or their face. While being faced with all these issues they are also being socialized under then norms that they need to be tender, affectionate, and take care of the house or home. I’m almost sure every girl has been told “act like a lady” ladies don’t do that”. Gender roles are everywhere, if young girls don’t get it from toys they get it from parents, television, or they learn it at school. Newman argues that “everyday symbols in our lives are what we use to represent who we are and what we stand for (Newman, 73).” He also talks about how images we view in the media are becoming ideals that both women and men base their lives on.
“Newman says that women are portrayed as sex objects whose only attribution is beauty or idea that they are shallow, vain, or materialistic (Newman, 92).” This quote explains my argument; children are being brainwashed or what some call ‘socialized’ at an early age and being shown through toys and media what roles they play in society. Whether society wants to admit it or not there is a problem, and we are all contributing to it. The idea that a girl that’s between the ages of 5-7 needs to be beautiful only plays into the images that are shown on television today like the Swan, America’s Next Top Model, or even the reality shows that show dozens of women trying to find love in one man. It is these very images that create attitudes of inferiority, guilt, and negative body images in young girls and women in today’s society.

The problem with media, gender roles, and consumer consumption appears to take on the presence of a web that has spun out of control. But as consumers, mothers and fathers we all have the power to take control. It’s true that the categories that differentiate both males and females is constantly being embedded in our minds and in our culture; but we can fix it. As women we can stop buying those products for our daughters, sisters, or friends that make the statement that they need to change. Men can stop trying to identify or take on the role as a dominator and actually view women as human; if men stop roughing their sons up, and telling them “boys don’t cry” this may make them understand its ok to express emotion. I’m not sure these are the steps to addressing such a terrible problem that existed for so long in our society but, it’s a start.

2. Newman,. “Portraying Difference: Race, Class, Gender, and sexuality in Language and the Media”. Chapter 3 pp.72 and 92
3. Lipsitz, George. “The Meaning of Memory: Family, Class, and Ethnicity in Early Network Television”. pp. 43-44


Jessiebg said...

Hi Charda'
One last request, can you change the font colors all to white?

Go into edit posts---to do so,
1. click the post tab (where you see settings and layout tabs) and to the right of create a new post there's a link for "edit posts" click that link,
2. then click "edit" for the first post (the toy shopping assignment) 3. When you see the text editor (blog creation screen with your post in it) select all of the text, to do this part,
hold down the "Control" key and press the letter "A" key once.
4. At the top of the window you'll see a button with the letter T (by where you see the button used to add your pictures to the post) and several colors arranged in a grid, hit the button (it's the text color button)
5. and then select the white color from the options you see, or you can change it another way...there may be a 6 number/letter combination in a text entry box, if you change that to "FFFFFF" it'll make all your text white too (FFFFFF is just the hexadecimal code for the color white in computer-land).
6. Then hit, "publish" once you're back at your post.

Please do the same for the next post too.


Jessiebg said...

Nice job on the first post Charda'

You do a great job outlining the scope, focus and rationale for your piece. The sources are well utilized and it reads quite well.
Two areas that need a bit of your attention (which, thankfully are rather structural and format-related, so should be pretty easy to address) are proofreading for spelling (i.e. Bratz spelling) and the MLA format for your in text citations. The quotation mark should begin when the author's text begins, and then end at the end of the citation. Ex:
Newman argues, "toys are..." (12).
or He contends, "toys are..." (Newman 12).
Other than that, great analysis and great job getting a hang of blogging :o)

Nep Next said...

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