gender: children/youth

Time for another round-up of gendered kids’ items!

Will L. noticed something interesting recently at Old Navy. The boys’ section offered two styles of jeans, Skinny and Regular:

But when he looked at the corresponding section in the girls’ clothing, he found not Skinny and Regular, but Skinny and…Super Skinny:

Caro Reusch sent us an example of kids;’ t-shirts with messages about what we value for men and women. She saw the following at a mall in Berlin:

The blue one says “My daddy is stronger than yours,” while the pink announces, “My mommy is prettier than yours.”

Similarly, Lindsey B. saw two themed bibs for sale at Target. The blue bib is a doctor and the pink one is a ballerina:

Shantal Marshall, a postdoc student at UCLA with a Ph.D. in social psych and blogger at Smartie Pops, noticed that Crayola has a new product out, the Crayola Story Studio.  It lets you upload a photo of yourself, have it turned into a cartoon, and then it’s inserted into one of 3 themed templates: Disney Princess, Spiderman, or Cars. You can then print off various versions of coloring books based on those templates. The commercial for the Spiderman version shows a boy excitedly becoming a superhero:

For the Disney Princess version, we see a girl excited to become a princess, then dancing in the background with her very own Prince Charming:

As Shantal said, it’s a bit dispiriting that Crayola’s slogan for these items is “give everything imaginable,” but the pre-existing templates, and their marketing, don’t seem to include an imaginable alternative to the “boys = superheroes” and “girls = princesses” division we see so often in kids’ toys.

Madelyn C. saw a store in Warsaw, Poland, that just goes ahead and makes the gendered division of the toy industry explicit:

Finally, Jessica M. sent in a link to a GOOD post by Christopher Mims about the Toy Industry Association’s 2011 Toy of the Year Awards. There are general categories of toys, such as educational, innovative, and action, but of course also girl and boy categories (also, I personally can’t think of “boy toy of the year” without thinking of Madonna’s outfit in her “Like a Virgin” performance at the first MTV Video Music Awards, but maybe the ’80s are sufficiently behind us that the phrase resonates differently for most people). Anyway, Mims discusses the gendered messages in the commercials for the nominees in the two categories. Among other things, the categorization is rather confusing. Hexbugs are nominated in the boy category, even though commercials for them show girls as well:

Also, Mims points out that the boys’ category “includes a strong undercurrent of Beyond Thunderdome via WWE.” Exhibit A: The commercial for Beyblade Metal Masters, “performance tops” to be used in “strategic battles”:

Playing with tops has gotten super hardcore, I guess. Probably they should look into a sponsorship from an energy drink.

Late Night TV host Jimmy Kimmel encouraged his viewers to film their children getting early Christmas presents that they would surely hate.  The result is a collection of children acting badly: bursting into tears, saying they hate their parents, lecturing them on proper gift giving protocol, etc.  It’s funny and also a great illustration of the gift-giving rules that Theodore Caplow meticulously lists in his article, Rule Enforcement Without Visible Means: Christmas Gift Giving in Middletown (pdf) (btw: this is the very first article I assign in Soc101).

(UPDATE: I was quoted briefly on this phenomenon in a New York Times story on the prank.)

In a number of cases, the gift is considered bad because the recipient is a boy and the gift is for a girl.  One boy, for example, gets a Hello Kitty gift, another gets a pop star-themed coloring book.  The boys’ reaction at being presented with a girls’ gift reveals their internalization of androcentrism, the idea that masculinity is superior to femininity.   They express both disgust and, in some cases I think, fear at being poisoned by contact — especially such personal contact as “I got this for you” — with girlness.

More posts on androcentrism: “woman” as an insult, being a girl is degradingmaking it manly: how to sell a car, good god don’t let men have long hairdon’t forget to hug like a dudesaving men from their (feminine) selvesmen must eschew femininitynot impressed with Buzz Lightyear commercialdinosaurs can’t be for girls, and sissy men are so uncool.

Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Two additional cases of a boy being subject to schools rules that don’t apply to girls prompts a re-post. I’ve added the new instances to the end.

Tara C. sent us a link to a story about a 4-year-old boy who has been given in-school suspension (and was threatened with expulsion) for having hair that breaks the dress code for the Dallas, TX, school system:

Dmitriy T.M. sent in another story, this one featuring a 6-year-old named Gareth who was being placed into in-school suspension (i.e., spending all day each day in the principal’s office) because of his long hair and earring.

So, this still you see of him below… that’s what counts as long hair. And, can you spot the earring in his left ear? It’s there.

In another case, 16-year-old Kasey Landrum was suspended for wearing eye-liner on school grounds (after classes were out):

Of course, these aren’t just about enforcing a dress code. It’s a gendered code; girls aren’t required to have short hair cuts, because on girls, longer hair isn’t “distracting,” it’s “normal.”  As is make-up and earrings.  Implicit in the idea of what counts as an appropriate appearance, then, is the gender of the person wearing it.  These cases reveal, further, that girls are allowed more choices than boys because we are more accepting of girls acting boyish than boys acting girlish (in what sociologists call “androcentrism“).

The final case also reveals the importance of intersectionality, or the way that different identities come together in complicated ways. Landrum claims that an ostensibly heterosexual boy was allowed to wear punk-style make-up to school on the same day.  So breaking gender rules is apparently okay if you affirm that you’re heterosexual, and maybe being gay is okay if you don’t break any gender rules, but doing both is going too far.

With all the emphasis on Halloween, you may or may not have heard that this year, October 31st was noteworthy for another reason: according to the United Nations, that’s the day the global population hit 7 billion. The UN has set up a website to provide information about population trends and estimates for the future. Here’s the current world population, by region:

The map is interactive, so you can click on a region to find out its population, as well as its percentage of the total world population.

You can also estimate the population through 2100 based on various fertility scenarios. In the default medium scenario, fertility is expected to follow past trends, leveling out at a little over 10 billion by 2100:

On the other hand, if we saw no further reductions in global fertility, the 2100 population would be over 26.8 billion:

There’s an enormous amount of data available at the site. For instance, if you select the Births tab, you can click on either a region or a specific country and find out what percent of births are to women in different age groups. Here’s the % of all births to women aged 15-19, by country:

And the chart showing the total age breakdown for Finland (at the site you can hover over the graph to get the actual %):

A chart of deaths by age and sex, illustrating the continued high mortality in infancy and early childhood:

There’s also a section of the site where you can enter information about your own date and place of birth and then get a snapshot of what the global population was when you were born. Since I entered the world:

Overall, it’s a pretty great resource, and another one of those websites that can easily eat up a significant amount of your time without you realizing it.

Would you like to buy your little girl a costume that suggests that she has gone through puberty and is attempting to attract the sexual attention of adult men?  Who wouldn’t!?  Not an ounce of subtlety here:

At Fail Blog, sent in by Laura.

Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

“Just another example of how children are placed into gender roles,” writes Belinda, who sent in this page from an Australian Kmart catalog:

The girls are, of course, dressed in “pretty” costumes, such as a fairy, a ballerina, or a ladybug. Or they placed in a “domestic” role, such as the cook. The boys however get to be a pirate, a police officer, a doctor or a firefighter. Unsurprisingly, the boys are mainly dressed in costumes that are actually plausible career options, the girls however are placed in the domestic sphere or the realm of fantasy.

Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

A while back, Lisa posted a video of clips of Bob Barker harassing women — sorry, “girls,” as he invariably referred to them — on The Price Is Right. Sadly, that video has been yanked from YouTube. But reader Melissa sent in another example of harassment and general creepiness on game shows, this time from the 1980s Canadian show Just Like Mom. Host Fergie Olver seemed to have a running gag of trying to get the young female contestants on the show to kiss him, even trying to sneak kisses after girls had very clearly said no (Note: A couple of readers suggested a warning that the video might be particularly uncomfortable or upsetting for some viewers because of the content):

Aside from the harassment, it’s a great example of changing social norms. Presumably many people may have found the behavior disturbing at the time the show (and others with similar behavior) was on the air, but it was sufficiently acceptable for an adult man to try to force young girls to kiss him that he was allowed to do it repeatedly on air. While harassment and infantilization of adult women is still widespread on reality TV, the increased stigma surrounding pedophilia and moral outrage about sex offenders makes me suspect that a male host forcing kisses on girls week after week today would meet with a significantly more negative response.

Yesterday Hasbro announced a new model of the Easy Bake Oven designed in response to the growing efficiency of light bulbs.  This sounded to me like a perfect opportunity to bring back our post on the evolution of the toy.  You’ll see the new model at the end.


My niece got an Easy Bake Oven for Christmas this year and I was shocked.  Shocked!

No, not because of gendered gift giving, socialization, blah blah blah… (I don’t know where you would get that idea).  Instead, I was shocked by what cooking apparently looks like in 2009.  But let me start at the beginning…

The first Easy Bake Oven was released by Hasbro in 1963 (history here).  It looked like a range with a stove top and an oven:


It looked like this, with minor changes in color and amenities, for a while.





Then, 1978.  It turns out, in 1975, for the first time, sales of microwave ovens exceeded those of gas ranges.  And, what do you know, the Easy Bake Oven was suddenly a microwave with a digital clock:




Presumably, between 1963 and 1978, what cooking looked like changed dramatically and the evolution of the Easy Bake Oven reflected that.  This is what surprised me when I saw my niece’s oven.

Ironically, this year’s Oven is painted in the original turquoise, as a nod to 1963, but it is still clearly a microwave:


2011: Commercially available light bulbs are no longer inefficient enough to bake goodies.  This year’s model, then, is actually a real oven, reaching temperatures up to 375 degrees:


So that’s technological and socioeconomic change as signified by the Easy Bake Oven.

Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.