Friday, August 6, 2010

Blog Post 4: Action Figures: Educators of the Male Gender Role


While shopping for James, a three year old, I found that many of the action figures targeted towards him were fashioned with guns, light sabers, and other tools of destruction and violence.  Even at the tender age of three, toy marketers don’t spare James from the violence associated with masculinity.  The fairly friendly Buzz Light Year of Toy Story is depicted with a devilish grin and is pointing a laser at the viewer, and there is a whole set of hamsters described as “special forces” or “ninjas” complete with a battle arena.  Many of the toys targeted towards boys suggest inherent combativeness and competitiveness in masculinity. Before young boys are even able to consciously perceive the constructs of the male gender on their own, such advertisements and a spectrum of toys introduce and begin reinforcing the socially fabricated ideology in which masculinity means control, power, and conflict.  The most powerful and dynamic influence toys and marketers have on young boys is that they teach them how society distinguishes gender roles and in particular, how our culture considers violence and the male gender role to go hand in hand.

Toy companies’ depiction of violence in association with masculinity is extremely influential on young boys because it grants them a sense of comfort and peace of mind in knowing their place and how they are expected to behave as a male in a world still so foreign and unknown to them.  As Jackson Katz states in a discussion of masculinity and violence, “By helping to differentiate masculinity from femininity, images of masculine aggression and violence-including violence against women-afford young males across class a degree of self-respect and security (however illusory) within the more socially valued masculine role” (352).    Unfortunately, toys send a message to young boys which includes a sense of gender supremacy, but at the age of three, boys won’t even question this illusion of masculinity as they grow and openly seek a sense of self of which a gender role is a defining component.

In addition, toy companies and advertisers ultimately dictate a young boy’s very perception of differentiation between males and females because they are the creators of the fantasy world in which toddlers play and the characters toddlers imitate (Jhally 254).  Nearly all of the action figures from Toys ‘R’ Us geared towards 3 year old boys come equipped with weaponry or a fiendish pose, while those marketed towards young girls seem to have lesser prevalence of weapons and more smiling figures with bright colors.    Sut Jhally illustrates the effects of these marketing strategies when he states, “Since the marketing targets and features different emotional and narrative elements (action/conflict vs. emotional attachment and maintenance) boys and girls experience difficulty in playing together with these toys” (254).  Thus, a gender dichotomy is already being established for children by the age of three if not earlier.  An impactful consequence of such an early establishment of the gender dichotomy is that as well as sending the message to young impressionable boys that it’s okay to be violent, it suggests to them that girls are weak, inferior, and overtly emotional.

Works Cited
Colvin, Richard Lee.  “violent.”  JPEG file.  2007.  http://www.earlyedcoverage.org/child_care/.
“coop2.”  JPEG file.  2007. 
Costume Supercenter.  “145805-2T.”  JPEG file.  2010.  http://www.costumesupercenter.com/boys+costumes-occupational.html?viewall=true.
Discovery Health.  “oppositional-defiance-disorder-1.”  JPEG file.  http://health.howstuffworks.com/pregnancy-and-parenting/childhood-conditions/oppositional-defiant-disorder.htm
Jhally, Sut.  “Image-Based Culture: Advertising and Popular Culture.”  Gender Race and Class in Media.  Eds.  Gail Dines and Jean M. Humez.  Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2003.  249-257.  Print.
Katz, Jackson.  “Advertising and the Construction of Violent White Masculinity: From Eminem to Clinique for Men.”  Gender Race and Class in Media.  Eds.  Gail Dines and Jean M. Humez.  Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2003.  349-358.  Print.
Time for a Change.  “13275045_afd171f3f0.”  JPEG file.  2008.  http://www.timeforachange.org.uk/Blog/2008/11/violent-children.html.
Toussaint, Kent.  “boy-violent-sticks.” JPEG file.  2008.  http://www.kenttoussaint.com/cluesonkids-002.htm
Toys ‘R’ Us.  “pTRU1-5412040reg.”  JPEG file.  2010.  http://www.toysrus.com/product/index.jsp?productId=3366517.
Toys ‘R’ Us.  “pTRU1-5842834reg.”  JPEG file.  2010.  http://www.toysrus.com/product/index.jsp?productId=3532895.
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Toys ‘R’ Us.  “pTRU1-6594334reg.”  JPEG file.  2010.  http://www.toysrus.com/product/index.jsp?productId=3760336.
Toys ‘R’ Us.  “pTRU1-6935559t130.”  JPEG file.  2010.  http://www.toysrus.com/product/index.jsp?productId=3914628.
Toys ‘R’ Us.  “pTRU1-6937833t130.”  JPEG file.  2010.  http://www.toysrus.com/product/index.jsp?productId=3916137.
Toys ‘R’ Us.  “pTRU1-6937706reg.”  JPEG file.  2010.  http://www.toysrus.com/product/index.jsp?productId=3916215
Toys ‘R’ Us.  “pTRU1-7084283t130.”  JPEG file.  2010.  http://www.toysrus.com/product/index.jsp?productId=3963976.
Toys ‘R’ Us.  “pTRU1-7084313reg.” JPEG file.  2010.  http://www.toysrus.com/product/index.jsp?productId=3963921.
Toys ‘R’ Us. “pTRU1-7365239reg.”  JPEG file.  2010.  http://www.toysrus.com/product/index.jsp?productId=4033531.
Toys ‘R’ Us.  “pTRU1-7365251reg.”  JPEG file.  2010.  http://www.toysrus.com/product/index.jsp?productId=4033538.
Toys ‘R’ Us.  “pTRU1-7475292reg.”  JPEG file.  2010.  http://www.toysrus.com/product/index.jsp?productId=4070608.
Toys ‘R’ Us.  “pTRU1-7475395reg (1).”  JPEG file.  2010.  http://www.toysrus.com/product/index.jsp?productId=4070630.  

1 comment:

  1. Mike-
    Great job with this assignment.
    You chose good sources and a great argument. You also used the sources better in this assignment than the previous ones and I'm glad to see you've improved.
    The only issue I noticed was that you consistently used the phrase "male gender role[s]" instead of "heteronormative masculinity" or just, simply "masculinity." Because it is a phrase used in your title and thesis, I just wanted to point out the importance of using the appropriate terminology.
    Overall, good work
    :o)
    Jessie
    See SOCS rubric on Assessments for my grade-specific feedback.

    ReplyDelete