Marketing Gender

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The only time I give into the gluttonous lure of fast food is when I am on a long car trip. I don’t know why, but I cannot resist the greasy goodness calibrating my stomach as the miles roll under the cars wheels.

Yesterday, as I licked the last bit of tartar sauce off of my fingers, I realized that I would probably regret my choice of lunch later in the day as the longest car trip of my life stretched into the double digits. I decided to distract myself by reading the box of my daughter’s Happy Meal. This, however, added to my problem by the simple mechanism of gendered and stereotypical marketing that added food for thought if not for digestion.

One side was blue and clearly geared at the boys, picturing an anime character with an aggressive look.  The game on the side recommended that boys add power to their names so they too can become kick-ass fighters (okay, I’m paraphrasing here) by simply adding -oid or -tron to the end of their names.

The pink side showed pictures of the fuzzy little stuffed toys for the girls. In the corner, a pink heart that could be punched out of the box and divided in half. Give half to your friend, it says. Keep half for yourself. When you are separate, you will have half a heart, but when you are together your heart will be whole. Gag!

I guess that the girls don’t need to worry that they can only be whole through the support of someone else, or that only having half a heart might make them weak, because Paul-tron or Stephen-oid can always come and protect her collection of fuzzy animals.

I wish that my daughter would rather be Sarah-tron, but of course she spent time talking baby talk to her new tiny unicorn.

A few days ago, one of my Facebook friends who is a super intelligent person, posted for input on how to refer to a male with an effeminate term that would not be offensive to gay men.  I didn’t respond because I was disturbed by the question. Why does there have to be a word for it? Why can’t a sensitive, non-macho man simply be a nice guy?

Even as gender roles have changed in some ways in our society, I realize that we have NOT “come a long way, baby.”  We can pretend all we want that women have more opportunities in this world (if still unequal pay). We can be shown images of men being house-moms or crying and being sensitive but still winning the girl.  But underneath that, the expectations remain the same. Girls are supposed to love pink and play with dolls. Boys are supposed to get dirty and roughhouse. Women are supposed to have a mothering instinct and men protect their family. In the family, women are still expected to take time off for sick children while the men bring home the bacon.

We talk as if the above isn’t true, but the little pink and blue box proves otherwise.

I think it is time for everyone to choose his/her own color and for gender to be self-selected. How do we make that happen when every detail of our lives is marketed to us with gender identity attached?

Any thoughts on this?

7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: G is for (G)not Posting Garbage « Woman Wielding Words
  2. Ed Williams
    Apr 08, 2011 @ 06:42:54

    Excellent observations Miss Lisa… most excellent!


  3. nrhatch
    Apr 08, 2011 @ 14:41:52

    I ignore societal expectations for the most part.

    I never wore pink. I decided against being a mother. And I was the principle breadwinner in the family. It wasn’t that hard to do . . . as long as one is willing to be who they want to be instead of doing what others want them to do.


  4. Kathryn McCullough
    Apr 08, 2011 @ 17:49:51

    This REALLY is disturbing–especially, I imagine, when you are raising a daughter and hoping for a better world for her to grow up in. The world really hasn’t changed all that much, has it?

    By the way, thanks again for sharing these posts!



  5. Trackback: Rejecting Assigned Gender Roles « Spirit Lights The Way

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