Daily Archives: April 11, 2011

Boys will be boys…

Boys will be boys, and girls will be girls. At least that’s what advertising executives in the toy industry are hoping.

I like to see information presented visually. Today, I ran across a visualization that presents, in a word cloud, the phrases and words used to advertise to children, separated by the gender they are aimed at.

The results are a fascinating look at how the advertising industry views gender stereotypes. They seem to be saying that boys are warlike and externally motivated, while girls are loving and introspective.

Behold, first the boys’ list, then the girls’ .

Put them together, and you’ve got a ying and a yang…

If the “child is the father of the man,” and the “hand that rocks the cradle rules the world,” what does this say about how we raise our children? What do the kind of toys they are playing with mean for our future?

On the other hand, are these advertisements shaping children, or are they a reflection of what children already are? Anyone with children knows that a boy of three can turn any stick into a sword, light saber, or gun, and a girl of the same age will fawn over babies and puppies of all shapes and sizes. It doesn’t take a t.v. commercial to induce a child into using its imagination.

For example, our daughter doesn’t have a television in her home to persuade her one way or the other, and we’ve exposed her equally to Yoda, the Care Bears, and Olivia, among others. Equal time notwithstanding, she’s more likely to ask for Olivia over Star Wars almost any day of the week (the outlier, of course, is The Incredibles…but then, it’s because she wants to see Jack Jack). On the other hand, my Dear Ol’ Mom regularly refers to my nephew as a “warrior.” That’s just because it’s how he rolls, not out of wishful thinking or intentionally nurturing him to be a soldier.

Nurture or nature, it’s a fascinating word cluster. I recommend the full post, where the author explains her methodology and what sounds like an upcoming book on the research.

(h/t The Achilles Effect)