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Gender and Toys

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Lauren Akeley

on 22 July 2014

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Transcript of Gender and Toys

Gender, Play and Our Culture

200 million people a year watch at least 1 Disney film or TV show a week
3.8 million people subscribe to the Disney Channel
810,000 make a purchase at the Disney Store
(Gillam & Wooden, 2008)
Gender and Toys
Gender and the Media
Juliana Liberman
Gender and Play
109.6 million estimated number of TV Homes
Average time a child spends watching TV per day is 4 hours
54% of children have TV's in their bedrooms
(Parents Television Council, 2011)
Gender stereotypes Disney Promotes
Females have an unrealistic barbie-like body shape, long flowing locks, domestic roles, and are saved by "prince charming"
Males are characterized as being strong, the problem solvers, and the heroes.
"The Media has be come a focus of study related to social learning because the most readily availiable sources of models for children to emulate aside from their parents are movies, books, and especially television. Considering the number of hours of television that children watch, their exposure to televised models through programs and advertisements, may even be greater than their exposure to their own parents' behaviors"(Brasted, 2010).
Barbie princesses and dinosaur dragons: narration as a way of doing gender
By Eva Änggård (2005):

looked at young children’s narrativess in words and pictures from a gender perspective
based on a project in which eight pre-school children made their own books
in their stories, the children reused narratives picked up from different media, both traditional fairytales and popular cultural products
there was an obvious dialog between the girls’ stories and fairytales in which princesses and princes are traditional characters
Even more obvious is the dialog with popular cultural products like weekly women’s magazines, comic papers, films, TV programs and so on
The boys’ books are partly reminiscent of traditional fairytales with hero themes
There is also a dialog with media products such as TV programs, films, computer games and toys. The composition of the boys’ stories, with repeated struggles, is reminiscent of cartoons and video films about Pokémon, which the boys watched at home
Disney Research
Gender Role Portrayal and the Disney Princesses
by England et. al., (2011)
researchers looked at the gender roles of the princes and princesses in the popular Disney Princess line
They focused on the behavioral characteristics and climactic outcomes of the films: SnowWhite and the Seven Dwarves (1937), Cinderella (1950), and Sleeping Beauty (1959). Thirty years later, a group of five middle movies began release: The Little Mermaid (1989), Beauty and the Beast (1991), Aladdin (1992), Pocahontas (1995), and Mulan (1998). The most current Disney Princess film at the time, The Princess and the Frog (2009)
The researchers found that there were both stereotypical and non-stereotypical gender role portrayals in the Disney Princess movies
The gendered messages did not consistently move away from traditional themes in more recent movies. Some movies showed a number of non-stereotypical gender qualities, However, all of the movies incorporated some stereotypical representations of gender
Both the male and female roles changed over time, but overall the male characters had less change than the female characters and were more androgynous throughout
The princess role retained its femininity over time, but also expanded to incorporate some traditionally masculine characteristics
The Boys who Would be Princesses: Playing With Gender Identity Intertexts in Disney Princess Transmedia
By Karen E. Wohlwend (2012)
used data from a 3-year ethnographic study in US early childhood classrooms to examine two kindergarten boys’ classroom play with their favorite Disney Princess transmedia to see how they negotiated gender identity imbedded in the franchise’s commercially given storylines and consumer expectations
What she found was the activity of boys taking up feminine identity texts and playing princesses evoked reactions from peers that reinforced gender as fixed and separate categories.
This kind of gender boundary work is reinforced and legitimated by its creators and educational practices circulating in classrooms where girls are constructed as passive, who read and write about teacher introduced topics and boys are constructed as active learners who need play and resist literacy.
The need for the boy’s to negotiate and maintain shared meanings while playing the feminine Disney Princess identity made gender constraints more visible and available for critique
What can we do to change it?
What gender roles are being promoted in the media through popular movies and TV shows, specifically Disney, to our children? What can we do to change the gender roles promoted to our children by the media? And has Disney taken any steps to change gender stereotyping?
Content Analysis of Gender Roles in Media: Where Are We Now and Where Should We Go?
by Rebecca L. Collins (2011)
provides a commentary regarding gender roles in media, specifically females, published in two special issues of
Sex Roles
women are under-represented across a range of media and settings. When women are portrayed, it is often in a circumscribed and negative manner
Women are often sexualized, typically by showing them in scanty or provocative clothing. Women are also subordinated in various ways, as indicated by their facial expressions, body positions, and other factors. They are also shown in traditionally feminine roles. Women are portrayed as nonprofessionals, homemakers, wives or parents, and sexual gatekeepers
After reviewing evidence, she suggests that next steps involve the development of theory and a body of empirical evidence regarding the effects of exposure to under-representation of women. Data concerning the effects of exposure to sexualized or stereotypical portrayals on young audiences is lacking.
content analyses of new media, including those created and distributed by users, are recommended as a next step
It is concluded that, while increasing the representation of women in media may be valuable, it is also critical that the manner in which they are portrayed be considered to avoid increasing negative or stereotypical depictions that may be particularly harmful to viewers
Post-Princess Models of Gender: The New Man in Disney/Pixar
by Ken Gillam and Shannon R. Wooden (2008)
looked at the major films that Disney/Pixar has released since 1990 that feature masculine protagonists, in comparison to their previous films that feature stereotypical female leads and traditional representations of gender
They chart the pattern of masculine development in three films: Cars, Toy Story, and The Incredibles. The researchers note that Pixar consistently promotes a new model of masculinity
each character travels through a significant homosocial relationship and ultimately matures into an acceptance of his more traditionally “feminine” aspects
However, after charting these movies, Gillam and Wooden find that although these movies have good intentions to get children to see “the new man” that is in touch with his feminine characteristics, children will ultimately interpret what they see in the movies the way that they want to
With a society that is driven by media that promote gender stereotyping, most children will take these masculine characters and apply the social norm to them, regardless of the message that is being sent in the movies
Idea's on what we should do as educators?

7 months:
Infants can begin to tell the difference between male and female voices. Infants can tell the difference
between their mother’s and their father’s voices.
12 months:
Infants begin to tell the difference between male and female faces. Infants will spend more time looking at their mother or father than other less familier people. At this age they will look at a women if they hear a womens voice, or a man if they hear a mans voice.
2 years:
Toddlers begin to use gender stereotypes in their play. Young girls begin to play with “female toys” and young bosy play with “male toys.” Parents also may treat their children differently. Many young girls are dressed in pretty clothing and treated very delicately. Young boys are often dressed in clothes that are easy to move around in. Boys are believed to be active and rough and girls are believed to be docile and quiet.
2-3 years:
At this age, young children are developing “gender identity.” This means that they begin to label themselves and others as male or female. They can use words to label friends, family, and themselves as a boy or a girl.
years Children at this age begin to use “gender typing.” They like putting things in categories and gender is one way to do that. For example, a three-year-old child may think that trucks are male toys, because boys usually play with trucks.
years Children at this age begin to understand and use “gender scripts.” This is another way to put things in categories. Instead of grouping things, they put events or activities in groups related to gender. For example, a five-year-old child may think that a person putting on make-up has to be a female. That child may also think that only males lift weights, so everyone lifting weights must be a male.
years Before this age, boys might think that they will grow up to be women. Girls might think they will be daddies when they are older. By age 6 or 7 though, most children understand and believe that a person’s gender is constant. They know it will not change throughout life. Most children this age also know that a man is still a man, even if he dresses like a woman.

How do we as parents encourage the proliferation of gender stereotypes during play?
How can we combat stereotypes?
Begin by watching what you say.
Can you think of an example when you were put down or inhibited because of your gender?
Let children develope many different skills and interests.
When have you been discouraged to do something because of your gender?
Provide toy choices that both boys and girls would like.
Name some toys that don't imply they are for a boy or a girl.
Ages and Stages
Clearly boys and girls are different. One difference is the person's
. However a person's
is learned. Gender is what people
about being men or women. It is also what people think men and women can and should do.
Gender is not what we are
but what we do.
How can we discourage gender stereotyping in our classrooms?
Take children on field trips to see men and women in a variety of roles.
Let children choose their own clothes.
Encourage children to make their own toys.
Role play situations. Let boys play girl characters and girls play boy characters.
How do we as teacher's and caregiver's?
Fantasy Play & Gender
Define That!
Gender :
the personal traits and position in society connected with being a male or female

Sex :
the biological makeup of a male or female

: one of the primary routes through which early gender development takes place
"Gender is
a set of traits or roles; it is the product of social doings..."

(Carl, 2012, p. 27)
Take a closer look at fantasy play and imagination in relation to gender roles
What did girls play versus boys?
How big is either gender's imagination?
Girls toys are usually identified by their interest in more sendentary play. These toys include dolls, and art materials. Boy toys are more identified by phyical play such as blocks, cars, and balls. (Frost, Wortham & Reifel, 2012)
Martin, Eisenbud, and Rose (1995) found that children preferred toys stereotypical for their gender but had a more difficult time identifying toys for the other gender. If they liked the toys less than they supposed that all children would like the toy less. This shows that children in this study were not viewing gender as diametrically opposed identities.
We all worry that gender identity is limiting children's play. As this study added gender definitions for the children the children's preferences also changed.
When preferences are correlated with biological differences the bias becomes stronger. Some adults participating in the study also showed similar results.
The older children in the study were more likely to modify the stereotypes to accomodate for individual differences as they became more informed.
According to a study by Eisenberg, Tyron and Cameron (1984) children who are playing with same sex playmates tend to use more gender specific toys. Children generally picked gender specific toys by themselves when they were not being used by anyone else and would proceed to interact with children of the same gender. They found that interaction with toys depended more on prior assosiations rather than peer relations. They also found that the boys in the study were more likely to use gender specific toys than the girls.
What does that say about the evolving male identity?
According to Caldera, Huston, and O'brien (1989) many children express stereotypical preferences for toys. The reasons may be because of cultural messages and availability but parents often unknowingly promote gender stereotyping through the toys they provide. In their study they video taped children with their parents. Fathers with sons and mothers with daughters expressed the most excitement when presented with gender "appropriate" toys for their child. Their excitement as coded by the observers was most prevelant when playing with gender specific toys for their children such as dolls for girls and trucks for boys. The observers also noted that the play the children engaged in varied according to the toy they were presented with.
Strong Boys Save Pretty Girls
Boys and girls really are similar! They just don't always fit into preconceived cultural norms.

Children will pick up on these norms and follow behaviors that they
are appropriate for their gender - most by the time they are 3 years old.

(Carl, 2012, p. 28)
Gender Comparisons in Play Patterns
Gender preferences for toys begin around 2 years of age
Boys prefer manipulation via blocks, trucks, guns, and other objects
Girls prefer the softer toys like dolls and animals, doing art, and dancing
However, boys and girls spend the
amount of time in fantasy and dramatic play
Girls can create fantasy play without props or objects
Girls' play tend to be more detailed and complex

(Neppl & Murray, 1997)
Neppl & Murray
1997 study looking at gender dominance in a stereotypical feminine and masculine activities
Girls did more dramatic play during activty whereas boys simply participated in feminine activity
Boys did more dramatic play (i.e. adventure) during masculine activity
Boys did tend to do adventure themes in all types of dramatic play, where as girls adjusted their play based on the environment
Boys Can Be Princesses, Too!
Gender Roles & Development
Preschool boys are more physical and more likely to participate in "rough-and-tumble" play than girls
Boys prefer more different types of fantasy play than girls
Girls prefer smaller, more detailed props when playing
Girls will fantacize nurturing and domestic roles when playing

(Johnson & Ershler, 1981)
Sex Differences in Fantasy Play
Two studies by Taylor and Carlson
Extremely beneficial
Imaginary Companions, Impersonation, and Fantasy...Oh, My!
These studies highlighted a few key points...

"Boys might be less encouraged by adults to engage in pretend play and thus more reluctant to reveal their fantasies..." (Carlson & Taylor, 2005, p.95)
Children who had an imaginary friend or interactive toy, tended to be less shy and have more friends
Girls are tending to drift towards more adventure and superhero themes as well as domestic play, but boys do not share that crossover
Girls tend to create imaginary friends, whereas boys will pretend to be a certain character
Boys and girls both enjoy fantasy play at the same level
How boys and girls express fantasy differs, but is linked to sex-typed toy preferences related to culture
Sex-typed toy preferences link back to parents' views on what boys and girls should each "like"
I Thought I'd Give it a Try...
Carlson and Taylor highlight Singer's Imaginative Play Predisposition Interview as a measurement tool for boys and girls' inclination for fantasy play. I decided to interview some of my students...
My Findings...
I asked my students about their favorite game to play as well as if they had any imaginary friends...
"I like to play in the block area!"
J, age 3, female

"My pretend friend is Bear King. He's my little bear. Well, I go to bed with him. We talk, but not a lot."
C, age 3 female

"George. He is a stuffed monkey. I tell him a lot of stuff. We read a lot of books and he finds a lot of stuff in it, like tic tac toe. It's his birthday this weekend. I'm talking him on a trip to the ocean. He gets salt in his mouth. He doesn't like it, but I do. He plays in the dirt. He wears mud boots cause he has to. He likes to play with trucks with me."
S, age 4, male

"I like bad guys, superheroes, oh, and wrestling! Cowboys are great, too - yeehaw!!
Jack is my friend. He has a baby sister named Chocolate. He lives in a hotel in California. He is in a snowstorm, now, cause his kids broke his shovel and the workers can't help him. He broke both his arms. I help him pick up things like scissors to make paper airplanes. We both have capes, but I need to go help my kids now. They are trapped in the jungle."
D, age 3, female
Now What...
Fantasy play is just as important for boys as it is for girls
Play themes and preferences reflect our culture
How do you break the gendered fantasy play?
Potential Effects of Genderized Toy use:
-Restricts play! (We all know how important spontaneus play is!)
-Changes classroom dynamics.
-Limits social inclusion and peer relations.
-Could limit occupational aspirations.
-Affects perceptions of others potentially negatively.
In a 1981 (Rubel) study a direct link was shown between a short viewing of a gender specific toy advertisement showcasing a gender neutral toy and the child's interactions with the toy. Children changed their behaviors with an item after less than 6 minutes of a video clip. This may have been simple mimicing behavior but it was repeated with several age groups.
Caldera, Y., Huston, A. & O’Brien, M. (1989). Social interactions and play patterns of parents and toddlers with feminine, masculine and neutral toys. Child Development. 60(1), 70-76.
Eisenburg, N., Tryon, K. & Cameron, E. (1984). The relation of preschoolers’ peer interaction to their sex-typed toy choices. Child Development. 55(2), 1044-1050.
Freeman, N. (2007). Preschoolers’ perceptions of gender appropriate toys and their parents beliefs about Genderized Behaviors: Miscommunication, Mixed Messages, or Hidden Truths? Early Childhood Education.
Frost, J. L., Wortham, S.C., & Reifel, S. (2012). Play and child development (4th edition). Boston, MA:Pearson.
Karniol, R., Amir, A. (1997). Judging Toy Breakers: Gender stereotypes have devious effects on children. Sex Roles, 36(3), 195-205
Martin, C., Eisenbud, L. & Rose, H. (1995). Children’s gender based reasoning about toys. Child Development. 66, 1453-1471.
Ruble, D. Balaban, T., & Cooper, J. (1981). Gender constancy and the effects of sex-typed televised toy commercials. Child Development. 52, 667-673.

What is Fantasy Play...?
Full transcript