Gender role reinforcement in children’s toys

I have three boys aged 9, 7, and 4. It should be no surprise that we all like Star Wars. Well, we were all watching another episode of “Clone Wars” last week when all three of us reacted to a couple of toy commercials.

The first commercial we reacted to was for a Mommy Look I Can Swim Doll. The image of a 3-6 year old girl tossing a lifelike baby doll into the pool was horrifying to me. Doesn’t the product description at Amazon sound horrifying to you?

For ideal balance, the manufacturer recommends holding the doll underwater until all the air bubbles disappear through the holes in her back.

My boys and I struggled to make sense of why girls would want a swimming baby doll. Perhaps you can help abate my fears.

The second ad we reacted to was for a Barbie Totally Real House, complete with a toilet with “flush sounds” and a mechanical spinning washer and dryer. The commercial actually featured a barbie sitting on the toilet with a flush sound. The boys, and I, thought that was “totally” gross.

I asked the 4 year-old if Santa should bring him a Barbie for Christmas to which he replied, “Boys don’t play with dolls, Daddy.”

My boys didn’t detect the irony of the dozens of Star Wars Action Figures littering the living room floor.

At any rate, my boys are learning, defining, reinforcing gender roles from the advertisements on TV. Sigh.

What do boys learn about girls from watching the advertising aimed at girls? What are the girls learning about boys from products advertised to boys?

Your Task:

Consider the gender definitions portrayed in advertising directed at children. Pay particular attention to gender role reinforcement in children’s toys. Write a blog post in which you critically analyze 3-5 examples of toys (and their ads) directed at young children.

At the same time, discuss the “Gender Inequality in Children’s Toys/Ads” issue with your classmates in the STJ Forums.

Hint: Pay particular attention to your course focus questions as they relate to gender-based inequality.