Upon venturing from my home in the early hours of Friday, November 27, or “Black Friday”, as the day after Thanksgiving have been so appropriately named, I was met with a vision at my local Toys ‘R Us store that was more disturbing than the hundreds of parents fighting to take advantage of the huge sales and markdowns on holiday presents. The store had been divided into two segments – “Boy World” and “Girl World”. “Boy World” was filled with toy cars, action figures, and sporting goods. “Girl World” was a pink wonderland of pastel colors, princesses, dolls, and stuffed animals. The message was clear; certain toys are for boys, and certain toys are for girls.
Defining such gendered expectations in the world of children’s playthings is problematic in that it only serves to “other” those who may differ from what is expected. Nevermind if you are a boy who enjoys playing with dolls or a girl who likes doing tricks on her skateboard. By labeling some types of toys as “for boys only” and others “for girls only”, stores like Toys ‘R Us are conforming to hegemonic gender roles. Further, by pushing these gender stereotypes, children who may be unsure of their gender identity are being completely ignored and further alienated.
And just to point out, the gendering of certain consumer products doesn’t stop after childhood. Plenty of objects marketed to adults are gendered, too. Cell phones, cameras, computers, even earplugs are constantly being released in pink versions designed to appeal to women. Oftentimes, these products “designed especially for women” will come in smaller versions of the original product with less features and “dumbed down” instructions. To appeal to women, advertisers seems to be following the “shrink it and pink it” mantra. If you’re interested in seeing examples of this blatant marketing practice, check out these articles:
- Katey Sill