Sunday, March 30, 2008

Gender-specific eggs?

Today in my dorm suite, we had a "Non-Denominational Candy-Filled Egg Hunt." We hid in our rooms while our R.A. "hid" plastic eggs around the suite common area. We then went to find them.

These were two of the eggs that I picked up.


The egg on the left has a purse on it. The egg on the right has lipstick.

Who are these eggs being marketed to? Which children are parents going to purchase these eggs for?

Girls.

Gender-specific marketing bothers me. It encourages the idea that gender is binary (simply male or female), and recent posts on this blog illustrate that gender is NOT that simple. You never see products marketed toward transsexuals, for example. As these eggs also show, gendered products and marketing have a way of reinforcing gender norms (i.e. girls carry purses and wear lipstick) that are a) antiquated and b) just not right the majority of the time.

Think about what it must be like to be a little girl who is given products that are constantly telling her that she should wear lipstick, carry a purse, be pretty, etc.. If she does not feel that she lives up to the standards set up by the products in her life, she could easy grow up with identity and/or other issues.

Seriously, why is that necessary? No child cares if their plastic candy-filled egg has little lipsticks on it. They want the candy. This display of a gendered product is, in addition to unhealthy, also unnecessary.

Just a note (thanks to Geoff for spotting this): Kids don't have to actively participate in their indoctrination into a society that tries to fix gender as binary and things along those lines. They still internalize messages that are sent to them through products, the media, their peers, their family, and the likes, even if they don't realize that they are doing so. This will happen as long as the messages are repeated enough. With things like insignificant plastic eggs giving this message, I think it is happening much too often.

20 comments:

Colt said...

Well as long as there not for boys it is fine with me.

Geoff said...

I think the 2nd sentence of the last paragraph sums it up: "No child cares if their plastic candy-filled egg has little lipsticks on it." If the kids don't care, why should anyone else?

Amelia said...

The thing is, Geoff, that kids don't have to actively participate in their indoctrination into a society that tries to fix gender as binary, etc. They still internalize messages that are sent to them through products, the media, their peers, their family, etc. even if they don't realize that they are doing so.

I think I will add that to the post, actually.

FeministGal said...

i am personally running into this problem a lot lately. My sister-in-law is pregnant and it's SO difficult to find ungendered stuff. A recent example: yesterday i was in Target looking at bibs and there were two sets on the rack. One 4 piece set that was in blue and green and said: "Fireman" "Policman" "Astronaut" "Dinosaur" and the other 4 piece set was in pink and purlpe and said "Lipstick" "pretty but messy" "I clean up cute" and something else as equally gross...

To me, the problem isn't just the gender specific "stuff" it's the message that stuff sends. The boys' bibs encouraged creativity and opportunities for the future (well all except the dinosour... haha) and the girls' bibs were very clearly appearance motivated. It's not always as obvious as my example but obvious or not, the message remains the same.

Tyler said...

you know why they make they stuff? because people buy it and love it.

Michael said...

I suspect the reason they don't market to transgender individuals is that they don't hold enough of a market share for it to be particularly worth the cost. Such is the nature of Capitalism and Consumerism.

It's substantially more cost-effective to market to two groups-- Masculine and Feminine-- than it would be to market to the whole spectrum of sexual orientations and identities. I personally hypothesize that, even if we did have a society that fully recognized and supported the whole spectrum of gender and sexual identities, people would feel marginalized, simply because it's simpler and more cost-effective to quantify gender and sex.

Not saying that it's morally right, of course, just that it's basically what's expected from an economic perspective.

judgesnineteen said...

Amelia, I'm thinking your readers aren't with you on why gender-specific marketing (and the demand for it) is unhealthy. Maybe you could explain why teaching males to act "masculine" and females to act "feminine" can be a bad thing. Aside from that, I love the application of feminist theory to your everyday life, that's awesome.

Amelia said...

Yes, Michael, I see you point, but the problem is that plastic eggs, and a lot of other products, are purposely gendered even though it is completely unnecessary. Why did those eggs have to have purses and lipsticks? They could have been simply colored eggs.

And yes, judesnineteen, I think I will do a follow-up post with some of your ideas.

Thanks, readers!

Tyler said...

Well Aimee, those eggs had lipstick and purses to make their product more attractive to buyers. Most people actually are attracted to these products, rather than manufaturing a problem with them.

Michael said...

Oh, yeah, Amelia, I completely agree. The gender-specific eggs are absolutely pointless. I'd wager, though, that the addition of the .2 cent stickers to the eggs enabled the companies to sell those eggs for a few more cents apiece, which, at a large scale, probably generated a few K in revenue. Why pick gender-specific stickers as opposed to gender-neutral stickers, though? That is, in my opinion, a better question.

Although, hell, the only non-gender specific stickers I ever recall getting as rewards in school were either pretty shiny gold stars (which, if you were totally hardcore, could be called phallic...) or crosses and crap from CCD teachers and religion teachers in Catholic high school. The rest were all like firemen, trucks, and crap like that, where the girls got pretty ponies and that Lisa Frank(tm) shit.

Tyler said...

Micheal, I addressed this on my blog, but basically, the gender-specific stickers sell the best.

Dutch said...

If purses are feminine, then why is there the murse?

And men wear lipstick too, ever heard of the band Kiss?

Amelia said...

Just a thought, but the idea of a murse, is it not short for man-purse? That kind of strips the femininity of the purse away, by associating "man" with it, and therefore, it loses the significance of being a purse in the sense of teaching female gender roles.

If it was more like, "Hey, I like that guy's purse," instead of "murse" it would more likely be associated with feminine qualities.

I'm tired. I hope I made sense.

judgesnineteen said...

And when a man wears lipstick, it's usually either to purposely do something "weird" or to try to look like a woman. It's the exception that proves the rule, so to speak. Not that lipstick and women are inherently linked, just that our society still sees them that way.

dutch said...

clowns are trying to look like women?

judgesnineteen said...

What is it with commenters on this blog and only paying attention to part of the alternatives I list?

dutch said...

i'm still waiting for an answer:

clowns are trying to look like women?

Michael said...

No, they're purposely doing something "weird". lrn2read.

Anonymous said...
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apclypseishere said...

While I agree that indoctrination of gender roles is dangerous I don't think that this is as sinister as it is made out to be. I got to this post by reading Tyler's and he has a point. These were marketed to a specific group, and they bought them. Giving children things that express gender roles isn't bad. It's forcing them to adhere to those roles if they are uncomfortable with them or stifling those actions which fall outside the role. If I had girls I would have no problem giving them these eggs, but then again, but then again I would probably lodge toy cars and airplanes in them as well. The point is, parents are supposed to indoctrinate their children with acceptable behavior patters; I would probably try to raise any girls I have with a traditional female roles, but also teach them the importance of accepting themselves, and allowing for them to choose what parts of the roles they want to live out. I'm glad my parents were lenient with my gender role programming me; I like cooking, baking, sewing, and prancing about while fussing about how pretty my hair is.