Monday, April 11, 2011

They're Talking to You

Or your little sisters and brothers, nieces and nephews, daughters and sons. The Achilles Effect blog recently created a couple of word clouds that show the most common words used in ads that target boys . . . and commercials meant to sell toys to girls.

Which is the boys' cloud. Which is the girls'? What does this mean?


Anonymous said...

I always noticed how comercials for easy bake ovens only showed girls, and like hotwheels and stuff were for boys. Last year in English class, we had to advertize a product to an unlikely gruop of people (we were studying propoganda) and I made an ad for cars that said "Why should BOYS have all the fun?"
It's not just for kids. Commercials for cleaning products, food, or stuff like that show women as the ones who are cooking and cleaning. Never men. Even though men cook and clean all the time now. It's the 21st century, but our ads use stereotypes from the 1960s.
Sorry I said so much. It's just that I see this stuff all the time.

Zelia said...

Hate gender stereotype. Ads talk straight to kids and it can only get worse without proper advice from parents.

I once saw a mother slapping a little girls hand only because she insisted on getting a ball. The mother told her it was a toy just for boys and she should get a doll and even called her own daughter "weird" in the middle of the toystore. And it was a ball, I imagine what would the woman do if the girl wanted a monster truck figurine...

Anonymous said...

this gives me an idea for an editorial for our school newspaper. Thanks!

Ari the Awesome said...

I think that proves just how much the media has to do with gender inequality and stereotypes. The only word that I could see on both Wordles was 'friends'. I thought this was really interesting.

Netta said...

The first one is for girls we all love fashion babies cute pretty things acting all girly boys are like oh YEAH were all tough and gonnna beat u up cause where boys and girls are all weak and we love fighting and where amazing battles rul and we like ation figures and armours and girls are all like girl power oh look a cute puppy boys are disgustuing so yeah the first one is defintly girls and second of obloisoly boys

Anonymous said...

At a custom bike show this past weekend, one off the builders was talking about how he was asked if he could "build a bike for women." "I would build a bike for YOU" was the response. The punchline -- this guy does some of the best pink paint jobs I've seen on a bike.

Robert in San Diego

K W said...

I guess it kind of shows how incredibly shallow we are. And- major stereotyping. Sheesh. Aren't we supposed to be passed that?

brave chickens said...

A few days ago I was thinking the same thing and started to rant about this to my family.

Why can't a man be shown doing household chores and using the cleaning product being advertised? Even for children (obviously not babies or toddlers), don't they use, for example, paper towels to clean up glue or whatever it it after an arts or crafts activity? With so many women in the workforce, 'mothers' are still shown in ads, preparing the meal, cleanining the toilet bowl, washing the dishes, doing the laundry or giving their baby a bath.

As for teenagers... they're shown as being too sullen (except when its an add targeted to the youth, then its all happiness, good looks and sunshine).

Hazel said...

I think everyone's reading way too much malice into this.
Advertising is designed to make money. Girls, as an aggregate marketing target demographic, tend to be interested in love and style, and so on. Boys, as an aggregate marketing target demographic, tend to be interested in battle and ninjas. Companies target the girls who are into fashion because there are more of them than girls who are into killer-boots, and the boys who are into motors because there are more of them than boys who are into cooking. That way they make more money.
What the Achilles Effect post doesn't seem to take into account is that girls who are into killer-boots will pay attention to the "boy toy" ads and boys who are into cooking will pay attention to the "girl toy" ads. (Apart from the obvious uselessness of a toy oven when compared to a real oven, of course.)

Kirsten Miller said...

Hazel: You make a good point. But here's the question: To what extent does advertising reinforce these stereotypes?

When I was a girl, it seemed that the drive to be like OTHER girls was far more powerful than the drive to play with dolls. And how do you know what other girls do? You watch them.

Unfortunately, most of the girls we "watch" these days tend to be on TV.
And if the ads we see show girls playing with dolls, you're not just being sold dolls. You're being taught that playing with dolls is what girls do.

See what I mean? The question becomes: Do most girls love dolls--or have girls been taught that other girls love dolls.

There's nothing wrong with liking dolls, of course. I think dolls are great. (And fun to behead, as I recall.) But as you can see from the word clouds, there's very little variation in the sort of products that are marketed to female kids.

As we all know, there are plenty of girls who are more interested in kicking butt than playing house. Why aren't there more toys marketed to them?

Which brings us to advertising. Once again, you make a good point. However, there are plenty of brands out there that don't target "everyone." You can make gobs and gobs of money targeting what are known as "niche markets." One example of a niche market would be: Girls who want to be dangerous. It may not everyone, but this is a big country. Even niche markets can be huge.

So why aren't there any ads that speak to girls who DON'T like dolls or magic or babies? Because (and I say this as a person who used to work in advertising) the people behind the toys and their ads are stuck in another era. And that's the nice way of putting it.

Jin Ai said...

AUGUHSGDAF I can't even get started on this.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

To get people to stop seeing something as a boy's toy, they need to stop seeing something as a girl's toy, too. It's not enough telling girls they can get dirty from playing with monster trucks, but also to tell boys they can dress up to go to a tea party. One boy in my English class said "No son of mine would grow up liking Barbies," when I asked him about buying a doll for his hypothetical son, but I think that was just to bug me.

Anonymous said...

Just today I was reading a translation of the original Bros. Grimm version of "Little Red Riding Hood." They had the usual version where the huntsman (yup, a guy) saves the day -- BUT these nutty Grimm boys also recorded an alternate ending where LRRH gets to Granny's cottage before the wolf. LRRH and Granny bait a trap with yesterday's cooking leftovers, and the wolf drowns. No huntsman needed.

I know for a fact my nieces have raided their male friends' GI Joe collections for activity-appropriate clothing for their Barbies. And my nephews like cooking shows.

Robert in San Diego

Toodles*** said...

Why am I not surprised. It's sad what this world has come to :( .

But I suppose it IS their job to make money, and people are most likely to buy things that they are used to, what they are 'meant' to be playing with, or what makes them 'cooler' to play with. So, naturally, to make more money they make their ads to promote this- I mean, wouldn't you?
Sad, but true.

Hazel said...

I agree that it's a vicious cycle. The problem is that the girls who build ICBMs out of Lego are probably often the same ones who don't pay much attention to advertising; the advertisers don't care as much about them since they're less easily influenced. The girls who pay attention to ads, and therefore have ads targeted to them, are the girls who play dolls because they "should".
However, I have to say that I don't think this is entirely an advertising-imposed social construct.
I almost never watched TV as a young child. I don't remember any of the ads; in fact, I don't remember there being any at all, so I think they influenced me very little if at all. I played dolls and learned to knit and bake (well, that was because my mother never bought cookies), but I also played sports and ran around yelling and wishing for trees to climb. However, I never felt the instinctive attraction to battle (Relatively straight and longer than it's wide? It's a sword! Wait, it's wider at one end? Hello, rifle!) that my equally TV-less brothers show.

TheSadWriter said...

It's so stupid!

Have you ever noticed that on commercials for spy video cameras and those weird bug things and all that, that they always show a brother creeping out a sister and the sister screaming at the obviously fake bugs. Very demeaning; they're shaping us like this, on purpose.

They don't want us to take action.

MushroomCloud said...

Interesting. Now personally, the only Barbie thing I liked was the vet one cause I could be an otter. :) I think it's necessarily sexist, just aimed toepwards popularity.

Anonymous said...

Dear SadWriter:
THIS will really make you weep.

"With a James Bond, or a Saint, or a Bulldog Drummond, you don't have to explain how he got to be so smart, so skilled in karate..., so accurate with a gun, so knowledgeable about weapons, explosives, knockout drops... and everything else a hero needs to know to beat the bad guys. He's a hero, so naturally he knows that stuff, doesn't he?
But girls don't come quite so ready-made...."

Peter O'Donnell in the essay "Becoming Modesty" about the story behind the origin story for the action/adventure heroine Modesty Blaise. I left out a lot of stuff, but fisticuffs, blowing stuff up, chemical weapons and the occasional found object converted to shrapnel sounds like a moderately exciting Kiki Strike chapter, doesn't it?

Robert in San Diego

MsellWrites said...

Most stereotypes exist because they're somewhat accurate and they're used in advertising because of that accuracy.

However, I remember growing up and seeing commercials for toys (aimed toward girls and boys) and I never really found anything appealing. Maybe I was just an independent thinker, but I don't think toy advertising was ever really effective.

Also, I played with barbies and dolls and "girl" toys, but I also played with Hot Wheels and my brothers' G.I. Joes and Nerf guns. And my brothers played with my barbies and dolls. Our parents didn't care. They were just happy we were getting along and sharing.

I'm sure ads affect how we think of genders, but fault also lies in parents only getting their daughters "girl" toys and only getting their sons "boy" toys and incriminating them for playing with the "wrong" toys. If ads aren't affective to the kids, than maybe they're more aimed at the parents -- or even grandparents who still hold onto those stereotypes -- than the kids.

The advertising is the way it is because it's effective somehow. Otherwise they'd change it.

The fault, then, isn't so much in the advertising as it is in the people who buy into the advertising -- the authority figures, the parents.

Anonymous said...

I think that it's sad human nature, if you are studying ancient history, you must be well aware of the fact that women could never taks action, they couldn't even vote until recently! The're job was to take care of the house and look nice. I think girls are pressured to wear makeup and nail polish and jewelery cause that's just how it is. No one had to say so it's just how it is. I think us girls should prove our justice. Also, boys should be happy about how we look. If you were on a date in some gym shorts, let it be! If the boy questions you, tell him he should be happy with who you are! So wipe off your mascara ladies, "cause your already beutiful, and show 'em how you shine!

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous:
If you look at really ancient history you'll see at least one woman, Kubaba the tavern keeper, ran the whole schmear. "Marduk, the king, the prince of the Apsû, favored her and said: "Let it be so!" He entrusted to Kubaba, the tavern-keeper, sovereignty over the whole world." Of course, this is so far back in the Sumerian King List that Kings and Queens had day jobs like tavern-keeper, leatherworker, etc., instead of lineages.

Bet she played mace-fighter as well as with dolls.

Robert in San Diego

anonymous science-fiction writer24495 said...

Whhhhhyyyyyyyy?!?! When I was little, I played with Bionicles, and I'm a girl! Never understood the thing with baby dolls! It's rediculous that the media can't support action-loving girls a little better, but I guess that just goes to show what most people already knew, equality is presently a myth. And even sadder, once you hit high school it's worse than most ancient civilizations... :(

Anonymous said...

A Bank St. Irregular wordle: