Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Children and Toys: Gender Roles being represented through toys

From a very early age children begin to be indoctrinated with an idea that there are certain roles that they need to perform. Even mundane things such as toys tend to get split up into either boys toys or girls toys, with very few, if any, that fall into the category of being "gender-neutral". While some "feminist" (I put feminist in quotes so as not to label all parents who try to keep gender roles away from their children as feminists, because that is not often a term that can truely be applied) parents do everything that they can to prevent these gender roles from being taught to their children, they do not actually have much control over what their children learn when they are outside of the house. "Children acquire information from a
variety of sources-books, television, video games, the Internet, toys, teachers, other children, other children's parents, strangers they see on the street."(Newman, 108) As much as parents praise children's ability to "soak things up like a sponge", in a family that is trying to break the gender stereotypes that exist in todays world, it is obviously not a very good thing.

My brother, chosen to represent the category of a 13 year old boy made a wish list of 4 toys that he would absolutely love to have. He said that the things that he wants are the Xbox 360, a Playstation 3, the Halo video game, the Grand Theft Auto 4 video game, and an Airsoft gun. All of these toys are toys whose marketing campaigns specifically target the teenage male. Even things such as video game consoles are gendered, because each system has its own target demographic.

The xbox 360 for instance, "targeted at two core target groups - ‘players’ who are interested more broadly in a digital entertainment lifestyle and ‘gamers’ who openly reject advertising and choose to seek out their own experiences as they see themselves as a more savvy, conscious consumer."(Microsoft) All of the people within this target group and male, usually in their late teens to early thirty's. The Playstation 3 (PS3) likewise only tried to get a certain group of people interested in their systems." The PS3's prime target audience is 20-to-30-year-old gamers who previously owned the original PlayStation or PS2." (Thomas) Both systems are specifically targeting a specific age group and gender, and both seem to forget that there are many female gamers.

The companies manage to portray these gender requirements through simple things such as the packaging of the consuls. The PS3 comes in either black or silver, while the Xbox comes in white, with some green accents. While the coloring of the game consuls might not have been done intentionally, never the less the colors are those that would traditionally be associated with boys. When video game companies do finally start to acknowledge that they have a female audience as well, they feel the need to make a special edition consul in pink and make a big fuss over the color and how it should appeal more to their female audience.

As for the video games that my brother picked out, both of them are centered around violent behavior. Grand Theft Auto 4, much as the title suggests, is all about stealing cars and staying away from the police. The game tells you that you should shoot the police if they get close to catching you, because if you do not get the drugs that you are carrying to the destination that it tells you to, you die and lose the game. Halo is also very similar in that the game is all about shooting and killing your enemy.

Even a tried and true toy such as a toy gun feeds into the gender roles. The toy gun, much like the video games condones violence, and tells boys that they should always be willing to go out and shoot something and "protect their house". This message of violence is only spurred on by the Airsoft gun, simply because some of them are rather real looking.
Many of the other guns on the Airsoft website looking extremely realistic. The only thing separating them from looking exactly like the real thing is an orange tip where the bullet would come out of. But one cant help but wonder if that slight difference is enough to keep remind boys that this gun is o.k. to use because it is fake.

In today's society more and more advertising is being done to specifically target the children and teenagers of a family. This is being done simply because " children [have] 'spending power of over $108 billion per year and the power to influence parental spending'"(Giroux, 172) While this trend in advertising to children has managed to create new economic possibilities for many companies, the types of advertising that they use is still very segmented. No matter what toy store you were to go into there is a very definite line that gets drawn as to where the boys toys are and where the girls toys are. Things like this being seen by children only further goes to segregate the boys from the girls. So long as boys and girls are as segregated as they are by the media and by advertisers, society will continue to have the stereotypical gender roles that it does today.

Work Cited:
Electric P220 Pistol FSP-150 Blowback Airsoft Gun. Hobbytron.Com: Airsoft. 20 May 2008 . (Photo)

Giroux, Henry A. "Kids for Sale: Corporate Culture and the Challenge of Public Schooling." Gender Race and Class in Media: a Text Reader. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2003. 171-175.

"Microsoft Xbox 360: Case Study." Thinkbox. 2008. 20 May 2008 .

Newman, David M. "Learning Differences: Families, School, and Socialization." Identity and Inequlaities. New York: McGraw Hill, 2007. 106-143.

Thomas, Peter. "UK: the Poor Cousin, Part II - PlayStation 3." PC Advisor. 21 Apr. 2007. 20 May 2008 .

1 comment:

Jessiebg said...

Nice job with your first post. I like your use of your brother as the focus of your toy shopping endeavor. Try to keep that element in the intro and thesis so it's not lost in the body of your paper.
Also, when introducing the argument of the paper, try to go from slightly broader than the narrow & focused argument you need for your thesis, but not so broad that the intro starts out in a way that's tough to relate to the thesis and/or the body of your paper (which you should be using to prove your thesis' validity using each of the sources as a way to back-up your own voice and ideas).
This scenario seems to help many students...pretend you're a lawyer in a courtroom. Think of the quotes like pieces of evidence. Your thesis is the argument and you're a lawyer trying to convince a jury you've got a winning case...just use the quotes as "back-up." The quotes are your evidence (aka "proof") to assert that you're making a point and you've got scholars to back you up!
When the quotes start substituting for your own voice, you need to step back, make sure you have a thesis, and that you have a set of your own ideas that you can articulate to "argue your point."
You chose great quotes from the readings. The only other issue is the need to integrate the quotes into a sentence (so that the quotes aren't sentences on their own... something as simple as adding "Newman argues," before quoting Newman may be all you need in some cases.
Overall nice job with the post and you make some really great points about toys and their not so innocent values


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