The society in which people live operates per certain rules. Traditions, invented, passed one, and honored by the time get spread and adapted for modern history, perpetuating the existence of human culture and various regulations. Some customs persist, either staying in the public consciousness or being codified in law, while others lose the need and meaning with newer generations. Gender roles are one of such traditions, differing from society to society but nevertheless remaining an important part of how people organize their living. The term refers to the set of expectations and behaviors attributed to a particular gender. Gender roles are similar to a set of informal rules that males and females are supposed to follow. From a conservative standpoint, the role of a female is to be obedient and compliant, striving to start a family and raise children. The men, from a similar view, are to be strong reliable providers for their family, a wall to lean on. Females and males are often expected to enjoy different clothes, the toys boys and girls receive in their childhood made to condition them into their perceived role from a young age. Advertising companies often take advantage of the ability to earn more money by dividing their markets and appealing to gendered differences in their marketing (Powers). The work of advertisers perpetuates stereotypes that ill-fit an increasingly large number of people for the sake of monetary gain (Powers). This trend is especially evident in the marketing of toys and hygiene products for both genders. This essay will explore the topic of gender roles in advertising and explain why the current approaches are ineffective in modern society.
Advertiser’s Influence on Gender Roles
The divide between genders is evident most clearly in what toys marketers try to promote to children. The market is clearly divided, with toys that are color-coded and advertised as for a specific gender (Levinson-King). Females are primarily expected to play with dolls and toy babies, as well as various household utilities that imitate real-life housework or feminine activities. These can include fake kitchenware, washing machines, ovens, tea sets, and other types of toys that can simulate real activities. For boys, on the other hand, the toys are mainly centered on action and violence. Action figures depicting various characters, soldiers, monsters, and other varied designs are all used. Toy versions of different weapons, such as guns, bows, swords, and shields are often advertised as well. When the toys are advertised, commercials depict each type of toy with the demographic it was made for.
Another avenue where the discrepancy in advertisements is felt is shower and hygiene products. Women in such commercials are mostly depicted among natural imagery and flowers, symbols of both seduction and purity (Gendered Products – Another way to Enforce Labels). The male-oriented commercials are more to-the-point, promoting the product’s durability and benefits in a more matter-of-fact. The discrepancy can even be found on the packaging, where products for males are devoid of decorations and mostly presented in darker colors, with “for men” written boldly. The clear distinction between male and female products further empathizes the role of a male as an unsympathizing, unfeeling robot, with females being regarded as sensitive and placing great importance on feelings (Gendered Products – Another way to Enforce Labels). Such a stark difference between presentations is largely unnecessary and makes it harder for people to choose products in fear of ridicule. The two strictly-defined categories also restrict people’s means of identification and expression, which is detrimental to the overall wellbeing of the population.
Overall, the strict gender differences present in media advertisements during the course of people’s lives have a significant effect on how they view gender roles in society. Children and young adults are led to believe that being male or female inherently determines the kinds of tasks they will perform in adulthood. Young girls are taught that they should be able to cook, clean, and take care of the children, all of which are essential duties more than children’s games. Boys, on the other hand, are discouraged from picking up such skills through marketing, and their toys focus on action much more. In shower products, a similar distinction occurs, with men being depicted as rational and uncaring, while women are portrayed as overly sensitive and focused on their appearance. Such a stark difference makes people understand men and women as completely different, and further drives ideas of strict gender roles. Human qualities are understood as inherently masculine or feminine, with no room for variation or protest. The advertisements that seek to divide male and female audiences perpetuate myths that are harmful not only to the larger society but any person in general. Expectations that force people into a particular pattern of behavior allow misguided or malicious individuals to inflict harm on those that do not fit the mold. With the growing and constantly expanding culture, there are more and more people that do not want to embrace traditional notions of being male or female presented in the media. The existence of such people and the need to meet their desires must be recognized by the marketing industry.
Powers, Katie. Shattering Gendered Marketing. 2019. Web.
Levinson-King, Robin. “Children’s Toys: The Backlash against Pink and Blue Branding.” BBC News, BBC, 2018. Web.
“Gendered Products – Another Way to Enforce Labels.” Shades of Noir, 2020. Web.