It was a couple of weeks before Christmas, and I was in a Wal-Mart in the metro area of a large city in the Southwest. I was in a hurry. I’d grabbed what I needed and was booking it to the check out counter to pay for my purchases and get the hell out of there.
On the outskirts of the toy department, I saw an endcap stacked with boxes of Easy Bake Ovens.
I always wanted one of those and never got one, I thought idly.
Then I saw a young boy pictured on the box.
That’s nice, I thought. Hasbro is showing that boys like to bake too. Inclusivity is a wonderful thing…
Then I thought, WAIT! WHAT? as I realized the boy was dominating the use of the Easy Bake Oven.
Ever hear about those studies of toy advertisements that show boys are depicted as being more active while girls are depicted as passive? Thought that kind of thing went out of fashion in the 70s or maybe the 80s at the latest? Uh, no. We’re living in the second decade of the 21st century, and I’m showing you a real world example of sexism aimed right at kids.
So yeah, the boy is taking the active role in the baking game while the girls look on in admiration and wonder. Wow! the girl in the middle seems to be thinking, He sure can slide in that cookie sheet! (Gag! I hadn’t even thought of the sexual undertones of having the boy slide something long and thin into a small opening until I started ranting here. How could that seem like a good idea to the Hasbro’s marketing people?)
The girl in the purple shirt seems to be adoring his baking prowess.
In an article called “Care Bears vs. Transformers: Gender Stereotypes in Advertisements” (http://www.sociology.org/care-bears-vs-transformers-gender-stereotypes-in-advertisements/), references a study by B.A. Browne published in the Journal of Advertising in 1998 [Browne, B.A. (1998), “Gender stereotypes in advertising on children’s television in the 1990s: a cross-national analysis”. Journal of Advertising, 27 (1), 83-97.] The study
provides further evidence of the substantial gender stereotyping that is found in advertisements. According to Browne,
Boys appeared in greater numbers, assumed more dominant roles, and were more active and aggressive than girls. (p. 12) In commercials containing both boys and girls, boys were significantly more likely to demonstrate and/or explain the product even when the product used was not sex-typed.
So um, yeah, Hasbro, sociologists already know this kind of gender stereotyping is a problem. You too should know it’s a problem and YOU SHOULDN’T DO IT!
While I’m ranting, can I point out just how white that group of kids looks? I know we can’t determine everything there is to know about a person’s ethnic and cultural heritage by the tone of her or his skin (and maybe the girl in the purple shirt is Latinx), but some diversity in skin tone could have gone a long way here.
What can parents do to combat this sexism and racism? Contact Hasbro and call them out on it. Send them links to this blog if you like. More importantly, talk to your kids–your girls AND your boys about this kind of gender stereotyping and racism. Point it out and have a discussion when only white kids are pictured playing with a certain toy. Tell your girls they don’t have to look at a boy with adoration simply because he knows his way around the kitchen, and tell your boys not to expect a girl to think they’re the greatest things since sliced bread just because they can put cookies in an oven.
In my ideal world, all people will take turns baking for each other because baking is fun and a cupcake is a lovely gift.
I took the photo in this post.