Yet Another Rant Against Sexist Advertising

Posted by on November 20, 2010
Page from 2010 ToysRUs Catalog

Page from 2010 ToysRUs Catalog

This blog was published yesterday (on November 19, 2010) and is already making its rounds.

An excerpt:

“As we enter the holiday season, the inevitable toy catalogs begin arriving on our doormats. Most of the celebrations this time of year involve some form of gift giving, and if you have kiddos, that means t-o-y-s. Toys, toys, and more toys!”

This (advertising toys in a gender biased manner) is a big problem. Somewhere around 5th-7th grade girls are losing their excitement for math/science. We aren’t getting enough girls in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) fields. Why is that happening? These same girls loved science and were competent in math in 4th-5th grade.

When was the last time you saw a picture of a girl on a Hot Wheels package? Hot Wheels are a good introduction to basic physics. There are girls on the Duplo packages – the pink/aqua/violet jumbo building blocks. Only boys are on the standard (Lego) sized building blocks.

One of the things that gets kids to stick with Math and Science is the sense that they have acquired a certain degree of competence in it. Competence comes with practice; it’s not necessarily innate. Practice through play is one of the most fun and efficient ways to learn. Toys that are marketed primarily to girls are less likely to encourage these competencies than are those marketed primarily to boys.

Page from 2010 ToysRUs Catalog

Page from 2010 ToysRUs Catalog

Advertising works, that’s why money gets spent on it. We need to question a practice that implies a good girl needs to pick quiet activities, obsess over appearance, and choose pink toys. There’s not anything wrong with a girl (or boy) choosing activities like these of their own volition, but it doesn’t seem to be doing girls (as a whole, and I’m basing this solely on data concerning girls/women in STEM fields) a lot of good to subject them and their parents to powerful, effective, and expensive advertising in order to influence their behaviors in this way.

This, of course, is just the tip of the iceberg when we look at why we have gender disparity in the STEM fields (read here) but by taking a long, hard look at how advertising is effecting the way we raise our sons and daughters, we can impact this one variable today, this holiday season, and in the years to come.

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