Today in Gender Role Marketing
Reader Tash alerted us to this fine example of a children’s toy reinforcing gender roles. As sexist toys go, it’s par for the course, and I’m only highlighting it because of how horribly obvious it is and because it is also marketed as an educational toy. Here are the images and copy:
These CHUNKY magnets make learning Fun and encourage reading through Play. Complement your National Literacy range with these favourite Boys [Girls] [sic] words. Ideal for at home or school. Chunky Wipe Clean Magnets. Ideal for little fingers to grasp. Use on Magnetic Board, Fridge etc.
“National Literacy” refers to a UK-based effort (though other regions do this as well) to help children become proficient in high-frequency words. (Obviously this campaign came far too late for whoever wrote the copy for these magnet sets, because that barely qualifies as English.) Many educational organizations provide teachers and parents with word lists and games based on those word lists in order to keep kids on track. Here are some examples.
This company, however, has taken what they must think are high-frequency words and gendered them so that there are two separate sets of magnetic words. One set is for boys to learn and the other set is for girls to learn. Here they are:
The “boy” words are boots, glue, monster, scary, bones, racing, moon, helicopter, aeroplane, tractor, money, lorry, wizard, conkers, frogs, sticks, mud, dirt, spiders, snails, stones, bubbles, sweets, flags, magic, pond, string, grass, rugby, bug, dogs, caterpillar, cobweb, worms, dinosaur, dragon, bike, scooter, forest, treasure, climbing, swinging, skeleton, running, ghost, trees, swimming, lawnmower, treehouse, blue, football, chocolate, and car.
The “girl” words are clothes, hairband, heart, love, sparkle, perfume, beads, necklace, furry, lipstick, ribbon, handbag, wand, glitter, fairies, fluff, candy, flowers, wings, sherbet, bubbles, sweets, pink, make-up, skipping, magic, dancing, ballet, bunnies, rainbow, ladybird, lemonade, stars, sky, shoes, chocolate, doll, party, secret, diary, hair, jewels, princess, queen, tiara, ice-cream, teddy, music, sunshine, birds, butterfly, sugar, angel, diamond, cooking, and friends.
Appearance words: 15 for girls; 1 for boys (boots).
Action words: 3 for girls (skipping, dancing, cooking); 5 for boys (racing, climbing, running, swinging, swimming)
Things you buy: 23 for girls (like lipstick, tiara, diamond) ; 15 for boys (like helicopter, aeroplane, bike)
Nature words: 10 for girls; 18 for boys
Anyway, you get the idea. Boys learn that they are adventurous explorers. Girls learn that they are pretty, inanimate consumers. [EDIT: As pointed out in the comments, boys AND girls can learn to be skeptical badasses with our Word Magnets for Skeptics set which is waaay better.]
This tip from Tash (that has a nice ring to it) happened to arrive at about the same time as @drawingbusiness tweeted this (NSFW) link for my . . . what’s the opposite of enjoyment? Horror? Let’s go with horror.
For those who don’t want to click the link (and I don’t blame you), these are high-quality print ads for the .XXX pornography web domain suffix that play on the idea that internet porn is “moving” to .XXX. They show moving men holding topless and nearly-naked women who are in frozen, sexualized poses – one is bent over with her ass up against the man’s crotch; one is on all fours with her mouth on one man’s crotch and her ass up against another man’s crotch; and the other is held by the ankles with her ass pressed up against, yes, an obese moving man’s crotch.
Apparently these were created by the London branch of M&C Saatchi, a very large, international ad agency. Despite the quality of the ads, I was initially skeptical that this wasn’t just an idiotic college kid doing spec work, but apparently Saatchi really is the agency of choice for .XXX. Here are the credits:
Art Director: Dan McCormack
Copywriter: Luke Boggin
Photographer: Sean de Sparengo
Chief Fluffer: Sara Cummins
Sara is the only one who doesn’t have a link on “her” name, so I guess that’s just a super clever joke. It’s not just the agency that thinks they’re being clever – check out how popular these ads are over in the comments section on Ads of the World (again NSFW). Even Copyranter, who usually recognizes sexist bullshit when he sees it, thought these are great.
Since not everyone seems to grasp even this super obvious example, allow me to spell it out: these ads show “real” men, with objects. There are no actual women in these ads – only props that are used for the sexual gratification of men. This is the very literal example of objectification.
It’s not always so literal, of course, but it is exceedingly common. Check out some of the examples over on GenderAds:
These show dehumanized women as scissors, watches, beer, liquor, dinner, and even a keyboard, for fuck’s sake.
Anyway, I post these ads together with the magnets because they’re all very obvious examples of a problem that is more often much too subtle for many people to understand: the way we behave, the way we express ourselves, and the way we see ourselves as men and as women are influenced by the messages we receive from the moment we’re born, and a shocking number of those messages are coming from advertisers selling us products. And those advertisers are, by and large, complete assholes.