Advertisements And Gender Stereotypes

Most of the topics I write about here are arrived at courtesy a heated discussion on my blog. Recently, something caught my attention and I started thinking and researching about it. Television is flooded with advertisement, whatever channel/program you watch you have to sit through loads of ads.

Advertisements And Gender Stereotypes - Ads Featuring Kids - Stereotyping

Kids sure get influenced by these, for instance my 2.5 year old eats Oreo the way they eat in the Oreo advt… Twist – lick – dunk. That’s when her TV viewing is limited to 1 hour (which includes YouTube and DVDs).  So you see, soon my Little Ms. Z will start asking for things she sees in advertisements. I have a lot of problems with these advertisements, especially ones featuring (targeting) kids.

I was recently at a Fast Food Joint with my nephew; I overheard a little girl of around 5-6 years telling her mom… “Ma, why did they give me a pink car in the kiddie surprise? I like blue… Oh they gave it to me because I’m a girl…” These gender stereotypes are engraved in the mindset of not only our society but world over. Advertisements ensure these gender stereotypes are engraved in the minds of little children from the time they start thinking & reacting.

Take Jr. Horlicks ads; they only feature little boys… why? Because boys are the only ones who need to grow taller … stronger and sharper? Except for one campaign of theirs, they only feature ‘naughty’ young boys. Are the nutritional requirements any different or do little boys deserve to grow faster??? The Daag Acche Hain advt. by Surf Excel shows only boys getting dirty, barring one ad where they show a brother and a sister. The sister falls in the puddle and starts crying, then the brother acts as if he is fighting with the puddle and says “Sorry bol raha hai” (Puddle is saying sorry).

Ads featuring children these days emphasise on roles that kids of different gender play. Girls are mostly shown having a tea party (eg. The Oreo ad), studying, and playing with their dolls. They are shown as cooperative, less aggressive and less competitive compared to boys. Boys are portrayed as brats who like getting dirty, who want to get taller and stronger. Girls are mostly shown indoors (happy at home) and boys are generally shown roughing it up outdoors. There are ads which do come as a welcome break and try to keep stereotypes away.

A study published by Browne further proves my point, “Boys appeared in greater numbers, assumed more dominant roles, and were more active and aggressive than girls. In commercials containing both boys and girls, boys were significantly more likely to demonstrate and/or explain the product even when the product used was not sex-typed.

Girls were never shown using products designed for boys (e.g., guns or trucks), and no commercials showed boys using products targeted for girls.  Gender role reinforcement was observed at the level of body language and facial expression; girls were portrayed as shyer, giggly, unlikely to assert control, and less instrumental.”  This study was published in 1998, and now thankfully things have become better…. But we still have a LONG way to go.

There are many people out there who think, this isn’t completely true. Well, I guess they just don’t want to see what is happening around them. You might think I’m over-reacting, just have a look at these ads on YouTube one after the other you’d know what I’m talking about. And you should definitely check this video out.

A story-teller, a Communication Trainer, a Parenting Blogger, a wife to her best friend and mum to the most adorable 2-year-old – Zoe. Falak Randerian, plays many roles, her favorite Being Zoe’s Mom. She runs story telling & communication workshop for kids My Little Chatterbox. You can read her personal blog Being Zoe’s Mom and her parenting website which she runs along with her elder sister . 

  • Very well-illustrated and well-written piece. And I agree with you, whole-heartedly. I especially admire your observation to do with the Horlicks Jr. advert. That is something that had missed me.

    • Thanks Sakshi, one of the reason I didn’t give Jr. Horlicks to my daughter were the advts 😛

  • Falak, I agree with what you are saying. Stereotyping infuriates me as well. But I think rather than propagating the idea, they are targeting people who understand these stereotypes. They just want to create an imagery of familiarity. Nevertheless, I hate all these milk additive ads equally.

  • Reema it does to a great extent has an effect on the kids watching it. Kids watch cartoon channels which are loaded with these ads. Girls playing with Barbie and boys with hotwheels. It sure has an effect on young minds

    • Of course. That I 100% agree. I have also written about it in my posts. I was just wondering aloud why they do so. Kids are influenced by what they see, and that is why it is always unsettling for me to let him watch while others are watching TV.

  • The reason is most parents believe in these stereotypes and they think there is no harm that kids are introduced to them at an early age. I read your post and I was tempted to share the post on my blog with a few instances I’ve come across

  • My girl has never played with dolls and barbies .. Playing with dolls is just not her thing. But once she reached nursery, she now has peer-pressure to own and play with dolls. She even tried to push herself to play with dolls !! hoeever, she realized soon that dolls are not her thing!!

    When the girls in her class play pirate game with boys, they call themselves “Princess Pirates” !! Now have you heard of such a thing? The word “princess” has to precede everything that the girls do!! What’s with this world!!