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Gender Stereotypes in the Marketplace and the Effect on Children

Updated on November 17, 2012

If you have ever walked through a toy section you know there is a huge distinction between toys for boys and toys for girls. The girl section is every shade of pink - oozing with My Little Ponies, dress-up clothes, Barbies and Easy Bake Ovens. The boys section usually has an entire aisle dedicated to super-heroes, Star Wars and G.I. Joe's and walls upon walls of Lego's, balls, trucks, trains and anything else with wheels.

I have two girls and my youngest has always been more interested in the toys that are typically stereotyped as "boy" toys. Even when she was a toddler, she preferred balls and trucks over baby dolls. She loves comic books and will talk superheros with anyone who will listen. I think it's awesome and my husband and I encourage her interest even though it might not be popular. I don't see a problem with her running around in a Batman costume or playing with superhero figures in her sister's doll house. What I do find a problem with are the weird looks I get when I ask stores why they don't have superheros on the girl aisle. I can't even find a girl superhero in the boy toy section! What does that tell girls? That they aren't supposed to play with superheros. This negatively labels our children. Why is toy marketing so gender based saturated? And someone please tell me why Disney princesses and Barbies are pushed so heavily on little girls but not strong female figures like Wonder Woman and Super Girl? Our culture is being brainwashed by this form of marketing that is targeted at our children from a very young age.

It didn't really occur to me how much the marketplace is set up in such a divided way until I became a parent. Do you want a blanket for your new baby? Your choices are pink or blue. And if you choose a "neutral" theme for your baby decor people get really confused. Do you or do you not know the gender of your baby?! Green is not girl OR boy!! I know society has come a long way in this aspect but I still think it could be better.

Don't get me wrong, I love girly stuff and so do my girls. We have tea parties, do our nails and play dolls. I would just like to see toy marketing and manufacturing more balanced so that kids don't grow up thinking, "only boys play with that" and vice-versa. I hope that someday a little girl can wear a Star Wars shirt to school and not come home in tears because the boys made fun of her for liking something that has been stereotyped as "boys only." This happened to my child and now she won't wear her favorite shirts to school anymore. I don't think this is the kind of labels we want being put on our children. They should be able to love whatever they want no matter what. Maybe instead of separating toys by gender, stores could separate them by type. It wouldn't solve all the issues but I think it would at least be a start to bridging the dividing gap between "girl toys" and "boy toys."



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      Jade Stilwell 4 years ago from Iowa Falls, Iowa

      Power Puff Girls Rule! My girls really get into Sheera, Gem and all the cool eighty's and ninety's shows. I really think it is what we do as consumers and who we support. There are a lot of small businesses that are online and cater to the eclectic child/PARENT... The more we shop at mass corporate conglomerates the further our children get trapped in a small box that lacks individuality and freedom to think.

      Best of all is us. I think what you are doing is the perfect example of a superhero girl. Put on a lime green cape with your girls and go to that store and buy some garden utensils and play rope. No stereotyping needed and lots of looks/possibly oohs and aahs. People try to be to important and to cool. Be a kid with your kids sometimes! I forget that so much these days and it goes to show how much we all take for granted.

    • deadpoets79 profile image

      DeAnne 5 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

      Agreed! I have worked in marketing/merchandising as well and you are so right. They would definitely benefit from thinking outside of the box.

    • shiningirisheyes profile image

      Shining Irish Eyes 5 years ago from Upstate, New York

      How true! When I was a little girl I played with dolls and had tea parties as well but I really enjoyed playing with my brothers GI Joe's and dump trucks. Imagine how well the advertising agency could corner the market if they started thinking out of the box. As a previous merchandiser, I know the sales numbers could be staggering.

    • deadpoets79 profile image

      DeAnne 5 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

      I thought about that as well - basic supply and demand. And you are right, they will only make more of what sells the most. Just wish they could make more superhero girls. Every kid is so different so I guess they have to go with the "norm." Good point about the clothes! So true!

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      Angel Ward 5 years ago from Galveston, TX

      I wonder if its based on statistics, and what sells. My girl was drawn almost primarily to pink and pastel purple no matter what I showed her, that and animals she knew every animal and their noise before she could talk.

      my boy, all boy, he only liked bright blue, red, and green and cars, most boy toys he refused except cars and Mickey Mouse. I tried to see if he liked LOL

      I guess stereo typing is a fact but i wonder if the sales are all by stats on what is marketable to who. I always wondered why girls ans women have more styles to choose from but they are more expensive, and guys are stuck with the same basic shirt pants combo that is plain and boring, but far cheaper.... that irks me! I miss when men were lavish like peacocks in the 1700's.... but old navy seems to be the basic prototype for the average Man...what gives!cute hub.