Eve P. and Will LeS. suggested that we write about the window decals that have popped up on the back windows of cars in the last couple years.  The decals supposedly list the members of the car owner’s immediate family, sometimes including pets.  They also, though, tend to reproduce some interesting ideas about families.  Here’s what Eve had to say:

  • The figures are almost always placed on the left side of the car, so that the figures (usually placed from tallest to shortest) strongly give the impression of a visual hierarchy or ranking.
  • A “dad” figure is first in line, before a “mom” figure, and the adult figures come before the child figures (boy children before girl children, unless the boy is younger child), and the child figures come before any animal figures…
  • This ranking seems to suggest that men take precedence over women, adults take precedence over children, and all humans take precedence over animals.
  • I don’t think I’ve ever seen a two woman or two man setup (or any other set of adults besides one man and one woman)…
  • The “dad” figure is taller than the “mom” figure…

So the stickers tend to reproduce the normalness of (1) being paired up with (2) someone of the other sex, (3) having children, (4) a gender hierarchy, and (5) the imperative that men be taller than women.

 

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.