One of the most engaging topics of the gender and sexuality field is the categorization of children into male and female genders when they are born. The idea that a doctor defines a child’s gender at birth is a socially constructed practice rooted in defining gender as male or female based on genitalia. This idea of gender identity will strengthen as children grow up, through media exposure and toys they are given to play with. Parents often reinforce these stereotypes and buy their children either “boy” or “girl” toys. These gender specific toys usually differ from each other in color and theme. Toys that are labeled as “girl toys” are often pink or purple. They are usually princess themed toys, horses, and replica home appliances. Toys that are supposedly meant for boys are action figures, cars, and LEGOs for example.
The meme I found challenges these stereotypes of gender specific toys by poking fun at them. It was originally created by Kristen Myers. The meme gives advice on “How to tell if a toy is for boys or girls?” It guides the viewers on how toys should only be categorized as adults’ toys and children’s toys by their intended use. If a toy is meant to be operated with your genitals, it is a toy for an adult and not supposed to be used by kids. If it is not intended to beused with your genitals it is a toy for kids of all genders. This attacks the gender stereotypes because it says that toys that are meant for kids are for all genders and not specifically for boys or girls. My other supporting piece of media exemplifies this gendering of kids toys. It is a toy commercial by the popular toy company Barbie. The company is advertising their new product, a pink toy kitchen. In this commercial a girl calls for her friend and asks if she wants to help her to make dinner on Friday. The commercial goes on and the girls cook imaginary dinner using the Barbie Gourmet Kitchen. The main focus in this commercial is to picture how much fun the girls are having while doing things that are “natural for girls.” It would be “unnatural” to have two boys or even one boy and one girl cooking food with this toy. It is noticeable that the girl who asks for her friend to come over is wearing pink dress, and her friend is wearing red and yellow outfit. This shows us how this toy is meant to be “girls toy” because of the stereotypic appearance from both of the girls in this commercial. This idea of selling replica home appliances to girls emphasizes the femininity associated with domestic work. Girls are taught to enjoy cooking and other tasks around the house.
Target audience and purposes of these two media pieces are very different. The meme is meant to entertain people who understand the idea of having non-gender specific toys, and that it is totally normal for children of all genders to play with any toys. For people, who believe that it is unnatural for boys to play with “girls toys” or vice versa, this meme is educating through its use of humor. When kids see this picture, they are encouraged to think of where their toys fall in this category and how all toys can be gender neutral regardless of color or other factors. For the Barbie Gourmet Kitchen commercial, the target audience is young girls ages 5-10. It is also targeted to the parents of these girls, who are buying the product for their daughters. The purpose of this commercial is to sell the product and that is why it is emphasizing the fun the girls are having. The joyful music and happy girls are intended to make parents think that this product is good for their daughters. This commercial is especially targeted to traditional families, where gender roles are emphasized and parents want their daughters grow up to become traditional feminine women.
Both of these pieces have multiple details that are trying to catch reader or viewer’s attention. The use of big font in the meme pops up and gives the meme a title. The title presents the idea that the meme is challenging gender norms. Like all memes, this one is easy and quick to read. The main purpose here is to be funny and educate the audience by using humor as a tool. Little details in this meme are important. The colors that are used play a significant role. The question “Do you operate the toy with your genitalia?” is in a blue circle because it represents the neutral part of this meme. The line that says yes leads to a red circle with a text “this toy is not for children” and the other line saying no leads to yellow circle with a text “it is for children of all genders.” It is important that the gender-neutral answer is in yellow circle because yellow is considered one of the gender-neutral colors. The adult toy answer is in a red circle because it can be considered “dirty” or “naughty.” The use of the word genitals increases the humor of this meme because talking openly about genitalia can be considered funny. In the TV commercial, the high tempo and joyful music, the girls with high-pitched voices, and the decorated room are details that draw the viewers’ attention. The commercial’s purpose is to attract people and create a happy feeling, and this commercial does it.
The Barbie Gourmet Kitchen TV commercial supports the stereotypes that the meme is trying to challenge. The femininity and masculinity that the kids’ toys represent are being challenged when kids are encouraged to think about these issues themselves. Memes like the one analyzed above try to make people understand that traditional gender roles are outdated and children of this generation should not be forced to accept the gender assigned by a doctor at birth.
Michelle, B. (2014). How to tell if a toy’s for boys or girls…. Retrieved September 17, 2016, from https://secretlyfabulous.wordpress.com/2014/12/07/how-to-tell-if-a-toys-for-boys-or-girls
Toys Commercials Barbie gourment kitchen Kuchnia Barbie Mattel–. (2014) Retrieved September 17, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Opbg3lxserc