Toys for boys and girls are marketed differently, according to a recent "word cloud" given to me by one of my colleagues.
Science teacher Mark Pelham, handed me this collection of words in graphic form, representing the words used in toy ads for boys and girls.
"This is the world I live in," he says as he points to words such as "fashion, glamour, and magic."
Pelham has two girls ages 20 months and almost 5 who love Disney princesses.
I, on the other hand, identified with the verbs thrown all over the page that reflect the personalities and play of my boys ... "crash, jump, and quick."
Crystal Smith, author of "The Achilles Effect," has created a lot of attention with her "Wordie," showing differences in words used in toy ads aimed at 6-to-8 year olds.
Smith analyzed dozens of commercials and wrote a list of 658 words used to describe boys' toys like Hot Wheels and Bakugan and 432 words for girls' toys such as FURREAL pets and Barbie. Her headline "How Toy Ad Vocabulary Reinforces Gender Stereotypes" says it all.
Smith said on her blog: "On the boys' list the word battle appears 28 times, compared to two occurrences for words like create and experience. Side-by-side comparisons of the alphabetical lists are also interesting. Scrolling down to the "b" words, we see terms like bash, battle, beat, big, blaster and brawl on one list and words like ballet, beach, beautiful, bling, and butterfly on the other."
When looking at the wordle, the first three words for ads for toys for boys that jump out at me are "battle, power, and stealth."
In contrast, the words my eyes were attracted to on the graphic display for toy ads for girls were "Love, magic, and fun."
I suppose little men are from Mars and little girls are from Venus, too.
Toy companies can afford hefty price tags for advertisements targeted at six to eight year olds.
As parents, we are bombarded at birthdays and other special holidays for those "must have" toys our kids desire. As consumers we get sucked into these wishes and desires. I'm guilty, too, which explains why my sons Jonathan and Blake have fully loaded Nerf guns to duke it out in their makeshift wars in our backyard. (Actually, the man in the big red suit that slides down our chimney in December can be blamed for that.)
Gender bias is marketed from a young age. When my oldest son was about three, he wanted (and grandma gave him) a Cabbage Patch Kid dressed in pink—but he quickly learned that it was not "acceptable" for a little boy to have such desires.
I am certain his cartoon watching—or the commercials in between—helped convince him that Pokemon was what little boys were supposed to play with.
Toy companies are trying to appeal to what will be the most effective sale.
We, as parents, help perpetuate gender roles with toy purchases too.
I've heard stories about dads who wouldn't buy their daughters sports equipment or their sons a doll. I had no problem with the Cabbage Patch Doll, as I was a big believer in allowing children to discover what suits them best.
And even though I refused (at first) to buy guns and army gear, in fear of turning innocent little boys (ha), into violent youngsters, both boys went through phases of turning anything from Legos to pancakes into makeshift weaponry.
But these ads no doubt also influence what our children think about their gender roles, and in turn their consumer tastes.
See Crystal Smith's blog to read more about her study.