Gender socialization begins the very moment you come out of your mother’s womb and take your first breath; it is present in everyday life whether you’re in the comfort of your own home or out roaming the streets. Gender socialization is the psychological, social, and cultural aspects of maleness and femaleness through which one learns how to act according to the rules and expectations . I figured the best store to evaluate gender socialization would be Walmart. Not only did this store have a variety of clothes but it also contained a lot of toys and essential supplies for children. I guess I should start by explaining myself a little bit on what information I have gained from this research.
Last weekend on Saturday I took a visit to Walmart. The whole place was neatly organized, so it wasn’t hard at all to find what I was looking for. There were a lot of aisles that contained essential needs for children; from baby clothes to baby toys and nursery equipment to bath and potty supplies. I instantly knew Walmart was the perfect place for this project and began my research on my observation of children’s clothes and toys.
Clothes and toys set children up early on for the roles they are expected to play or better yet known as their gender norms. Girl clothes are primarily known as “cute” they are usually made of silk or cotton. Most of their clothes come in bright colors such as pink or a nice orange. Sometimes girls would have cute looks for their clothing such as a princess or rock star theme.
Girls are predominantly seen as passive and mothering, that is why they are given dolls instead of action figures. Dolls, makeup kits, and toy kitchens continue to be the most profitable items in the girls’ market. The most common toys girls are seen with is the “Barbie doll.” Manufactures create Barbie’s in an image of an ideal women; Barbie is created to perfection, bright blue eyes, flawless skin, and voluptuous lips.
Boys on the other hand are active and adventurous. They have more freedom than girls, so it’s ok for boys to climb trees, wrestle, and play in mud. Their clothes are usually in darker colors such as brown or black; they sometimes have cute shapes of basketballs and footballs decorated on their shirts. Toy manufactures continue to make fortunes promoting war toys, competitive games of strategy, and sports paraphernalia for boys . Mainly boys are seen sitting at home playing video games such as Madden and Grand Theft Auto. Instead of playing with Ken dolls, boys are usually given more masculine toys to play with such as the G.I Joe action figure, toy trucks and dinosaurs.
Clothing and toys portray a broad message to both girls and boys. For girls it is telling them that they are supposed to be “cute,” “young,” and “caring.” If girls were to wear guy clothes and participate in sports or “rough housing,” they would be portrayed as “tomboys.” The girl who is a tomboy may fight, use profanity, compete in sports, and climb trees [ many girls today are portrayed as tomboys and even dress similar to boys].”
Boys are supposed to be seen as the masculine and confident type, if they were to wear makeup or play with dolls, they would be perceived as gay or too feminine and be called sissys. For instance, boys are more likely to mow the lawn, shovel snow, take out the garbage, and do the yard work, whereas girls tend to clean the house, wash dishes, cook, and babysit their younger siblings .
Although boys and girls have a lot of differences between how they dress and the toys they play with; they still share a couple similarities. When I was at Walmart there was an aisle that read “neutral clothing.” It contained a plethora of items such as baby body suites, that came in a variety of simple colors like yellow, green, and a smooth blue but predominantly white. There were even bootee mittens, and hats that could be used for either gender.
I also noticed that both girls and boys enjoy fluffy teddy bears. For example the “pet-plush koala,” was out of stock. I believe both genders like this bear because of its warmth and companionship. The toy is neither too “girlish” nor “boyish.” It contains neutral colors such as a soft black and clean white.
Children’s clothing and toys, I believe have a partial impact on gender. The huge role is primarily in the parents. Parents are known as “our first teachers,” they are the ones who have the most control over the outcome of their children. Children look to their parents as examples and role models. If a boy sees his father putting on make-up he would think it was ok to do so, and lose his definition of masculinity. The same thing goes for a girl, if she saw her mom partaking in sports, she would grow up to know that it’s ok to be a girl and play sports.
Concluding to my research, I thought it was very interesting to learn more about the male and female gender. There was a lot that I already knew so doing this research did not really change my perspective about the two genders. An alternative method I would use to understand gender socialization would be mass media socialization such as commercials. Children absorb more and find it more appealing. For example a toy commercial for a boy would be about hot-wheels. It is masculine for these reasons, the narrator is a male versus a female, and the colorization of the truck would be dark solid colors with flames on the side. My little pony would be a commercial for a girl because of how feminine it is. The ponies come in a variety of light soft colors such as a pink or baby blue. The narrator is usually a women’s voice softly singing and the background is rainbow colors of joy and happiness.
There are advantages and disadvantages of the two methods. An advantage of Walmart would be the fact that it is organized and you can physically play with the toys. A disadvantage would be that Walmart is such a huge store and has a wide variety of items that it may be hard to locate what you need right away. An advantage of mass media socialization would be that you’re in the comfort of your home; you don’t have to travel to get what you want because it’s only a phone call away. A disadvantage would be the fact that the items on TV are limited and you don’t have the opportunity to try out the products/ toys before you buy it. Based on how I was born and raised on gender socialization, I used that knowledge to figure out the differences between the male and female roles throughout Walmart and the mass media.
Do you believe that our parents are our primary teachers? Is it ok for a women to take on masculine traits? Is is ok for men to take on feminine traits such as caring too much and even shedding a tear or two? Does the media create stereotypes?