Toys and Gender Roles

        In Roland Barthes’ Mythologies he addresses the topic of toys in French societies, and how they are “reduced copies of human objects” to form a “microcosm of the adult world”(53). In other words what Barthes is saying is that toys are modeled after real world jobs so as to train and prepare the child for a career once they enter the workforce. This is a trend that is also seen in America. In America the toys are often gender specific so as to condition the child for the jobs typically associated with their gender. In other words we often see cooking sets or baby dolls being advertised for girls, so as to“ ‘condition’ her [for] her future role as [a] mother” or as a homemaker; both of which are stereotypical positions often held by women (53). With boys we often see science labs or toy guns being advertised for them, which will prepare the boy for a career in math or science or as an officer of the law or soldier. These are also career fields that have been primarily dominated by men for generations.

        While gender marketing seems to be becoming less prominent, especially as more gender diverse toys flood the market, there are still some toys that are advertised as gender specific. Compare and contrast these two lego commercials, both advertising a toy set. This first video is advertising for a lego café set, though it mentions two more sets, and is clearly targeting girls. The second commercial is advertising a lego fire station and is targeting boys.

“Café” LEGO Friends

“Fire Station” LEGO City

        The first commercial is filled with bright colors-like greens, pinks and purples- and has a backdrop of a beautiful sunny day. These colors are often affiliated with products targeting a female audience as bright colors are interpreted as being feminine. The person advertising and narrating the commercial is also clearly a woman, who is speaking in a clear voice with positive tone. The second commercial has a dark backdrop, the scene being set during night instead of during the day like in the café commercial. These dark colors- blues, reds, and blacks- are often associated with masculinity, as darker colors are perceived as dangerous, mysterious, and, in some cases, erotic. A man who is speaking with a “scratchy” sounding voice and what appears to be some form of an accent is also narrating this commercial. The bright feminine colors evoke feelings of positivity and happiness; especially when combined with the upbeat narration done by a woman. The dark masculine colors, combined with the excited and scratchy voice of the male narrator, evoke feelings of danger or thrill, and power.

        Next, all the lego figurines that are advertised in the café commercial appear to be girls, as they possess the stereotypical feminine features: such as large eyes, colorful attire, and long stylish hair. In the fire station commercial all of the advertised figurines- at least the firefighters- are perceived as being men due to their lack of hair, face stubble, and dark clothing.

        These commercials are communicating to viewers that baking, socializing at a friend’s house, and being a vet are all jobs for women. We can hypothesize that the reasoning behind this is due to women often having the role of being a homemaker who cares for the family members. Being a firefighter, however, is a job for men as the job calls for bravery and strength as well as protecting and saving people, all of which is affiliated with masculinity.

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