I recently watched afternoon cartoons on Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network and I was shocked to find a flood of highly gendered toy commercials. These ads not only market toys to children but it also promotes and encourages gender specific values that are very limiting to boys and girls in different ways. The values and skills promoted in these commercials can play a critical role in the socalization of youth and their development of emotional expression, conflict resolution, the confidence to pursue various careers and the ability to maintain healthy relationships as adults.
Related Links and Articles:
Read Media Literacy, an article by Cynthia Peters discussing and analyzing media literacy programs and how we need to transform them and hold the media accountable.
The Reel Grrls remix was made by Sahar & Diana, check out more remixes made by Reel Grrls participants here.
Reel Grrls is an amazing after school program that teaches girls and young women video making skills in a safe and encouraging environment.
Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood is an organization whose mission it is to reclaim childhood from corporate marketers. They are a coalition of health care professionals, educators, advocacy groups, parents, and individuals who are working to stop the commercial exploitation of children
To learn more about what “Male Identified” and “Male Dominated” means read Allan G. Johnson’s The Gender Knot and check out articles and videos on his website agjohnson.us
This kick-ass fake commercial for “Super X-treme Mega History Heroes” latest set of powerhouse action dolls brings us the Bronte sisters, Victorian authors ready to do some damage to get their books into print at a time when women were rarely, if ever, published.
The Bronte’s pretend to be men by sporting fake “super-disguise mustaches,” use their boomerang book throwing capabilities to take down the “sexist pig” publisher and use their extraordinary feminist vision to break gender barriers.
The commercial ends with “remember kids, use your brain and you could make history!”
I’m not ashamed to admit, I have a bit of an obsession with the 80’s. I grew up in the decade, spend plenty of time listening to the music of the time, and have seen VH1’s entire I Love The 80’s series more times than I can count. I toted my books to school in my Lisa Frank backpack, wrote on the stationary, used the pens and pencils, all decorated with trippy-neon penguins, polar bears, dolphins. So last week when I read on Jezebel, that Lisa Frank school products have received an update, I was incredibly disappointed to learn that the brand has traded in fushia and purple unicorns for images that better resemble Bratz dolls.
Unfortunately this is just the newest in a string of recent “makeovers” that 80s toys and cartoons have received:
Polly Pocket’s wardrobe now consists of high heels, miniskirts, midriff tops, and knee-hits, and she’s no longer, uh, pocket sized.
The list of products that pigeonhole girls in the clothes and makeup category goes on and on. Disney sells pink vanity tables for girls as young as 3, for example, and the European retailer Primark stocks a T-shirt in a 2-year-old size that’s emblazoned with the motto “S is for Super, Shopaholic, Soon-to-be-Supermodel.” Even old classics now offer girls’ versions, such as an all-pink Monopoly game in which the houses and hotels have been replaced by boutiques and malls, and a “Designer’s Edition” Scrabble that has letters on the front of the box spelling out fashion. It wasn’t always this way. A couple of decades ago, children’s clothing mostly came in primary colors and princesses were confined to the occasional film or Halloween costume. But as marketing to children has burgeoned into a multibillion-dollar industry, and our consumerist ethos has saddled kids with mountains of stuff, the gender divide has grown wider.
There are serious ramifications to all this marketing, the Moores say. The tidal wave of pink toys and clothes suggests there’s only one way to be a girl — pretty, princessy and fashion-minded. And this segues disturbingly quickly into often sexualized images of tween girls a few years older, says Lyn Mikel Brown, an education professor at Colby College in Maine and co-author of the book Packaging Girlhood. The not-so-subtle pressures of this marketing can damage self-esteem and feed worries about body image and appearance later in life, the sisters say. They also link it to a celebrity-obsessed culture that undermines adult women by glorifying glamour figures like Paris Hilton while neglecting those women engaged in more serious pursuits.
The Jezebel article questions the long-term effects of these toys that promote what Lynn Peril terms “pink think.“
Yet here we are, studiously deployed in the combat of such messages to girls and women. We somehow emerged intact — not immune to internalized sexism, of course, but able to think clearly and beyond it. Was my love of Perfect Wedding a form of Stockholm Syndrome, its effective antidote parents who expected me to be more than a future wife and an internship at Ms.? Or was it just a really, evilly fun game and not much more?
To answer the question posed above, I say no. My students analyze children’s toys and clothing utilizing a critical gendered lens every semester (in fact, I graded this semester’s papers this afternoon). In many ways, toys created and marketed to children today are more sexist and confining than those from my childhood. To say that the writers at a critical and conscious blog emerged unscathed from the messages promoting beauty and domesticity as the sources of happiness for girls and women is not a conclusion that is representative of the mass population. Those Jezebel writers are sassy, smart and conscious. They can sniff out things like misogyny, sexism and sexist stereotypes quickly and easily.
Like the writers at Jezebel, I consider myself conscious and equipped with the ability to detect double-standards, sexist stereotypes and gender expectations. And, like the writers and individuals commenting at Jezebel, I liked my girl toys. I owned over 40 Barbies, the vacation home and the 3-story townhouse with elevator. I had the pink corvette and bags full of clothes and accessories. I loved grooming and dressing my Barbies, getting them ready for parties and dates (and engaging them in naughty behavior with Ken). Given a choice, I would have played with and had my Barbies proudly on display well into my teens. My mother eventually convinced me that it was time to put them away when I got my first boyfriend at 14.
Clearly, I loved Barbie and all the pink paraphernalia associated with Barbie. But I also remember the scale that was perpetually fixed on 110 pounds. 110. The last time I weighed 110 was when I was 5′ 2″ and in 6th grade. But that number, Barbie’s impossible measurements and “perfect” body were stuck in my mind as examples of what a woman should weigh and look like. I am not blaming Barbie and her pink scale as the sole variables that impacted my distorted and negative body image through most of my life. But I do recognize Barbie as one toy and one aspect of gender socialization that is part of a larger cultural onslaught (see here and here) that encourages girls and women to focus on beauty and relationships (the former as a way to nab the latter).
I agree with Irin Carmon’s statement “We somehow emerged intact — not immune to internalized sexism, of course, but able to think clearly and beyond it” only because I spent years deconstructing and decoding the messages reinforcing these gendered themes my entire life. I don’t blame my toys alone and I don’t pretend that these toys didn’t bring me hours of immense satisfaction and fun. But I also don’t discount these toys as agents of gender socialization that helped frame my expectations of my self, my place in the world, my relationships and possibilities. I recognize my ability to transcend these messages and “think clearly and beyond” them thanks to Sociology and Women’s Studies courses and becoming media literate.
The popular all-American toys turn out to have been created by “a full-blown Seventies-style swinger” with “a manic need for sexual gratification,” who based their design on his favourite adult dolls, according to a new book.
Jack Ryan, whose five wives included the actress Zsa Zsa Gabor, is accused of staging wild orgies at his mansion in the exclusive Los Angeles suburb of Bel Air and surrounding himself with busty prostitutes hired because of their resemblance to Barbie.
The Yale-educated executive, who died in 1991 at the age of 65, used his office at the toy firm Mattel to take calls from a local “madame,” and liked to pay for sex with “everyone from high-class call girls to streetwalkers,” including “a very thin and childlike hooker”.
In Toy Monster: The Big, Bad World of Mattel, the author Jerry Oppenheimer claims that Ryan, who also created the Chatty Cathy talking doll, spent decades hiding the seamy private life that might have sullied Barbie’s squeaky-clean reputation.
More sinisterly, the book suggests that Ryan’s colourful sexuality played a formative role in the design of the doll.
“When Jack talked about creating Barbie, it was like listening to somebody talk about a sexual episode,” Mr Ryan’s former friend, Stephen Gnass, reveals. “It was almost like listening to a sexual pervert.”
The Sarah Palin action figure has arrived and joined the McCain and Obama action figures. But, unlike the McCain and Obama doll, the Sarah Palin doll strikes an eerie resemblance to Britney Spears in her heyday and Tomb Raider’s Lara Croft. This doll looks more like the Bratz or The Pussycat Dolls. Hasbro planned on marketing a line of Pussycat Dolls for children which was subsequently scrapped after declaring it “inappropriate” for promoting “unhealthy behavior.” According to the polls, a scantily clad, pistol packing, moose hunting “hockey mom” is not inappropriate nor does she promote “unhealthy behavior.” On the contrary, she has riled and “energized” the Republican ticket. I’m not surprised. She upholds all of the mainstream, traditional values of hypermasculinity and arrives in a “hot” package. She’s titilating. She’s a caricarture.
In a culture that primarily measures women by their physical assets, Palin fits in perfectly and the narrow-minded, conservative, anti-female rhetoric that comes out of her mouth only fuels her appeal. I received an email, from a self-proclaimed “redneck” that is planning on naming his two children Smith and Wesson, confirming his vote by stating, “Yes to Palin! She is one hot gun slining mamma.”