Friday, May 29, 2009

Class, Gender, Age: Shopping for a Kid

Today, children are constantly exposed to so many different types of toys; everything from the most basic dolls and action figures, all the way to the most complex computers, IPODs, and video games. However you might ask: How is it decided which toys each of these kids play with? There are a number of factors that go into this decision. In the case of Alexandria and many other kids, factors such as socioeconomic class, age, and gender play major roles in what children want in toys.

Alexandria Bellamy is an 8-year old girl from Manchester, England. Growing up in a lower-middle class area just outside Manchester, Alexandria is a gymnast and has been doing gymnastics since she was 4 years old. Her parents own a small store in the city of Manchester that has been struggling with a weakening economy. Therefore it is difficult sometimes for her family to afford some higher price luxury items. Alexandria has said that her main wish this year for her birthday is a new Barbie doll. So I decided to give her what she wanted and get her the “Barbie Collector Generations of Dreams Barbie Doll” from Toys R Us for $59.99.

There are many factors that can determine what toys children play with. One of these factors is the socioeconomic class of the family that the child is a part of. In Chapter 4 of his book Identities and Inequalities, David Newman explains how social class effects the way in which children grow up. He states, “Some families have greater access than others to the economic resources that are associated with a comfortable childhood: lots of toys, a nice house, and access to a good school,” (Newman 128). Along those lines, some children that grow up in wealthier families will have more access to luxury items and more expensive toys that some other children may not have. Some of these include video games, IPODs, and other electronic items that tend to cost more. On the other hand, children growing up in lower-class families will tend to play with more basic, less-expensive toys. Some of these include dolls, action-figures, and board games.

Alexandria’s situation agrees with these ideas on the effect of social class. Since Alexandria is part of a lower, middle-class family, she has grown up playing with Barbies and other dolls. Her parents cannot afford to be purchasing electronics for Alexandria at such a young age. Newman also explains how children like Alexandria see extra opportunities and things given to them. He says, “middle-class children take for granted the right to be involved in activities such as organized sports and music and go on class trips,” (Newman 129). Alexandria has a similar outlook on life as these middle-class children that Newman talks about. She takes everything she gets for granted and doesn’t complain when she cannot have something. On the other hand, if Alexandria was an upper-class child, she would more likely be asking for bigger and more expensive toys and would take nothing for granted. This shows how socioeconomic class can factor into the types of toys children, including Alexandria, play with and ask for as gifts.

Another major factor that determines what toys children such as Alexandria have is gender. Toy companies tend to target each of their toys to either boys or girls and rarely both. For example as I was shopping online at Toys R Us for Alexandria’s gift and I noticed that they have separate links to “Boys’ Toys” and “Girls’ Toys”. This shows that toy companies use hegemonic thinking when looking at masculinity and femininity. For example, according to this hegemonic thinking, girls tend to like dolls, playing dress-up, and toys like that. On the other hand, boys tend to like “manly” toys like action figures. Toys R Us, by separating their toys into these two categories, associates themselves with the hegemonic representations of gender.

Alexandria, with her toys, goes along with this hegemonic representation of femininity. Her favorite toys to play with are Barbie dolls. She likes to dress Barbie in a number of different outfits and play “pretend” with her dolls. In her article “Hetero Barbie”, Mary Rogers tells us how young women think as they grow older and how Barbie relates to that. She states, “As they get heterosexualized, (girls) pay increasing attention to the size and shape of their bodies, the range and contents of their wardrobes, the styling of their hair, and the making up of their faces. Barbie epitomizes, even exaggerates, these families mandates,” (Rogers 94). Barbie gives these girls a chance at a very early age to do these things that Rogers talks about without having to actually do it on themselves. Young girls like Alexandria enjoy playing with toys like this, which is the main reason toy stores like Toys R Us can get away with separating their toys into “Boys” and “Girls”.

Another smaller factor that affects what toys children play with is the age of the child. We usually see younger children using their imagination more, playing “pretend” with their toys. Then as they get older, it takes more to stimulate a child’s mind. Therefore later on, they usually play with toys that are more sophisticated and more complex such as video games and computers. Alexandria, as a young girl, goes along with these beliefs by playing with Barbies and other dolls that are very easy to play with. At the same time in order to get the most out of them, these toys require the user to use their imagination.

Children in the modern era are constantly exposed to so many different toys, games, and other forms of entertainment. They are exposed through many different outlets such as advertising, school, friends, and mainly their family. All of these outlets factor into the child’s decision on what toys the want to play with. However the main factors that go into this decision are those of the child’s socioeconomic class, age, and gender. Alexandria has gone along with the hegemonic representation of all three of these factors and therefore is seen as the “typical young girl” in the toys she plays with.

Works Cited
Newman, David. “Portraying Difference: Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality in Language and the Media. Identities and Inequalities. New York: McGraw Hill, 2005 (106-145)

Rogers, Mary. “Hetero Barbie”. Gender, Race, and Class in the Media. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2003

Image Taken from:
Toys R Us. Barbie Collector Generations of Dreams Barbie Doll. 29 May 2009.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Advertising and the Use of Female Sexuality

Advertisers are constantly looking for new ways to sell and market new products in an ever-changing marketplace. They need ways to attract their target market by any means possible. Some advertisers targeting men have turned to sexuality as a way to attract their audience and sell their products. The use of female sexuality is constantly used to sell products and services to men; especially with female athletes and women the Howard Stern show.

Female sexuality has been used to attract men to buying products or services through many different types of media. In the last few years, Howard Stern has become a typical “man’s show”, using everything from toilet humor to “whacky and ridiculous” personalities. However the main portion of the show that attracts men and “sells” their show is the exploitation of women and female sexuality. In his essay, “Esquire Magazine and the Construction of the Male Consumer”, Kenon Breazeale explains how Howard Stern’s show appeals to the male market. He states, “Testosterone-saturated personas like Howard Stern cater to the eighteen- to thirty-four-year-old male market. But the mode of catering to that demographic: women, nothing but women, fantasized sexually and trashed socially,” (Breazeale 240). Stern will have these women take their clothes off, kiss each other, and act in other ways men would otherwise fantasize about. Therefore, a lot of men will listen to the show to resolve some of their sexual fantasies. This portion of the show (as seen in the collage above) explains how sex, especially female sexuality attracts men and therefore sells the show.

The other area where female sexuality is used to sell products is the advertising industry. Advertisers like to use attractive females, especially those in other areas of men’s interest such as sports, in their commercials and print ads in order to attract men to buying their product or service. In the essay, “Image Based Culture: Advertising and Popular Culture”, Sut Jhally explains how women are usually portrayed in advertising. Jhally states, “In advertising, gender (especially for women) is defined almost exclusively along the lines of sexuality,” (Jhally 253). Many times, as shown in the collage, advertisers will use attractive female sports celebrities to promote their products. For example, Danica Patrick (a race car driver) is shown in advertisements for products like while tennis star Maria Sharapova is seen in many Canon commercials. Also, some sports leagues such as the LPGA, IndyCar Racing, and women’s tennis will get most of its publicity from their best-looking athletes rather than their best performers. This shows how female sexuality can be used both directly and indirectly to promote and sell products and services.


All Howard Stern pictures: Howard Stern Picture Galleries.

Natalie Gulbis: Farther Off the Wall with Tom Hoffarth.

Danica Patrick Photos:

Go Daddy Danica Patrick Superbowl Ad shows off guns. Galleries.

Danica Patrick Formula 1 Driver?

Amanda Beard PETA Ad: Paris Hilton for President? Plus: Ben Harper Takes a Ride, Maggie Gyllenhall Protects the Climate, Amanda Beard Bares All, and More.

Bree Olson Taking Top Off: Porn Star Bree Olson.

Maria Sharapova Powershot: Maria’s New Canon Powershot Will Expose Next Wednesday.

SI Swimsuit Cover: 2006 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.


Jhally, Sut. “Image-Based Culture.” Gender, Race, and Class in the Media. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2003

Breazeale, Kenon. “In Spite of Women: Esquire Magazine and the Construction of the Male Consumer.” Gender, Race, and Class in the Media. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2003

Thursday, May 14, 2009

"24" and Hegemonic Representation of Masculinity and Femininity

In today’s society, men and women are constantly stereotyped and held to certain social standards. Men are typically the dominant gender in society while women are the caretakers of the household. These characteristics are just some of the qualities that make up the hegemonic representations of masculinity and femininity. Season 7 of “24” enforces the hegemonic understanding of masculinity in the character Jack Bauer while disrupting the hegemonic representation of femininity with the character Allison Taylor.

Since its inception in 2001, Fox’s “24” has become one of the most popular TV series in the US, among both men and women. The main character in the show is Jack Bauer, your typical super-human good guy out to save the country. Bauer is known for his clever thinking, intelligence, and most notably his ability to pull of daring stunts and amazing maneuvers to defeat enemies and protect his country. This ability is what makes Jack Bauer the quintessential American man.

Men in modern American society are seen as the more daring, adventurous people that are willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish a goal. They are more likely to be the ones to pull off an amazing stunt, out-smart their opposition, and make that great escape. Jack Bauer has shown throughout the series that he is well capable and more than likely the best at this. Practically every episode, Bauer will somehow either kill or capture an enemy in a way that no one else can or will escape from a situation that would leave almost anyone else dead. Therefore, Jack Bauer supports the hegemonic representation of masculinity in that he is the dominant force over the people he associates with and is more daring, more adventurous than anyone else on the show.

However different viewers see and enjoy Jack Bauer in different ways. Male viewers of the show watch Bauer and see him almost as the “coolest guy in the world” because of what he brings to the show. In the TV shows they watch, men like to see action. They like it when things blow up, people are killed, and not knowing what could happen next. This element is what brings men to watch “24” and to idolize Jack Bauer. On the other hand, women see men like Bauer as “the daring man” and the “man of their dreams”. Many women like men that take risks and would do anything to protect them. They see Bauer as this type of man. Women also see a side of characters like Jack Bauer that men do not: the emotional side. Bauer has this charisma and caring side that attracts female viewers and add to this “dream husband” attitude that some women possess towards him.

In the end, male viewers enjoy Bauer for the entertainment and action he brings. Female viewers look at him as “the ultimate husband” and enjoy the caring and understanding side of him. This supports the hegemonic representation of masculinity in that men should like action and be the dominant gender. It also enforces the hegemonic understandings of femininity in that women typically enjoy daring men and find men like Bauer to be attractive. All in all, Jack Bauer and the way his fans appreciate him support our society’s hegemonic representation of masculinity and femininity.

On the other hand, “24” does have a couple of characters that disrupt and shoot down the hegemonic representations of masculinity and femininity. The most important of these are President Allison Taylor. In Chapter 3 of his book, Identities and Inequalities, David Newman explains how women are portrayed on TV. He says, “The portrayal of women on prime-time television remains rather traditional and stereotypical. Despite the fact that women make up a majority of the population, most characters on prime-time television are male,” (Newman 92). However in Season 7 of “24”, we have seen a different outlook on women, especially with President Taylor.

At the beginning of Season 7, Taylor becomes the first female president in US history. This is very different from many TV shows and in society in general. In his book, Allan Johnson describes how society believes men feel about being in power and dominating women. He states, “There is gender oppression because men want and like to dominate women,” (91). This idea is the reason this country has been led mostly by men. However in “24”, we see President Allison Taylor move past these hegemonic ideas and take over the most important position in the country. This idea disrupts the hegemonic understanding of femininity in that women aren’t usually featured high-end, very important positions such as the President of the United States.

Fox’s hit-series “24” both creates and disrupts current hegemonic representations of masculinity and femininity. Jack Bauer is the perfect example of the hegemonic understanding of masculinity by being the adventurous and daring type that men are portrayed as in society. However at the same time, Allison Taylor is the complete opposite of the hegemonic representation of femininity. Just by holding the most powerful position in the country, Taylor has disrupted the messages that society sends regarding femininity. Overall, “24” provides a well-rounded viewing experience and is a great way to see how men and women are portrayed, especially in the top government positions.

Works Cited

Newman, David. “Portraying Difference: Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality in Language and the Media. Identities and Inequalities. New York: McGraw Hill, 2005 (71-105)

Johnson, Allan G. “Patriarchy, the System: An It, Not a He, a Them, or an Us.” The Gender Knot: Unraveling Out Patriarchal Legacy. Temple University Press, 1997 (91-98).

Monday, May 11, 2009

Sexist/Racist Issues in Areas of My Life

Bokeen: Entertainment
"Is '24' Sexist?"

Doesn't Stacy Dales Deserve 1st Class Treatment Like Erin Andrews? (ESPN Sexism)

Another Pilot Down
An Observation: "Spics", "Faggots", "Niggers" (Green Day Lyrical Controversy)
Jorge Gonzalez
South Park Turning Feminist?

Assvertising: The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue Edition
Melissa McEwan

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