Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Advertising to Children and Gender Role Stereotypes.

Madison Stricklin

Advertisements are everywhere.

They can be on the television, the radio, in printed products like newspapers and magazines, and especially plastered all over the Internet. The average American sees 5000 advertisements a day. Older viewers have learned to ignore a majority of them, but young children are for more coherent. There are many advertisements for products like clothing, food and especially toys that are geared towards children especially.

“Children are exposed to 40,000 ads on television alone according to an article from the Official Journal of American Academy of Pediatrics.” Writes Matthew McPartland in his blog article about advertising to children. Time and time again, the effects of the amount of media children consume can be seen taking a physical form: there are issues with childhood obesity because a majority of the snack foods advertised to children contain massive amounts of sugar and ingredients that are unhealthy, fast food caters to children with toys in a the kid’s meal which contains greasy food – even the “healthy” options are not as good as they claim to be, the use of cartoon characters to be used for products like tobacco is now illegal because the impression left behind on children.

And then there are the advertisements for children’s toys.

The towering playset that includes plastic toy hammers and nails is obviously meant to catch the eyes of little boys; Barbie dolls and their extravagant outfits are geared towards young girls. But with the evolving idea of gender roles in place – the idea that there are “girl toys” and “boy toys” – is it still okay to advertise this way to children?

College courses aplenty discuss the issue of advertising and the gender roles that are implied through them. When Susie has a birthday, family members are expected to buy her something pink and frilly because she is a girl; when Bobby has a birthday, it is expected to present him with something blue and ‘manly’. Why? “The answer is gender stereotypes.” Writes Dr. MonicaBrasted from Sociology.org.

Gender stereotypes are heavily used in advertising to children. “Girls are presented in traditional roles such as playing house and cooking.” Explains Brasted before continuing on to point out that girls are presented as concerned with being popular and beautiful, are shown as cooperative and passive when boys are presented “seeking power, speed and physical action.”

Children learn at a young age what roles are associated with their gender. They learn from not only their family and peers but also from the media around them. The roles of genders in today’s society are changing: more and more women are obtaining jobs instead of staying home and caring for the house, more men are choosing to be stay-at-home parents versus their female companions. Young girls are interested in science and mathematics when they are young. Young boys are interested in makeup and art and fashion.

Even high end brands are releasing campaigns about changing the way we teach girls and boys about their gender. One of the most popular examples is the Verizon campaign that is geared towards inspiring girls to do what they are interested in – math, science and so on – with the phrase “Isn’t it time we told her she’s pretty brilliant too?”

"Inspire Her Mind" Verizon campaign, 2014.

So, if the gender roles of the modern world are changing, why are the advertisements to children not taking on the same changes? Now is a better time than ever.

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