Thursday, July 31, 2008

Sex Sells

The 21st Century marked drastic changes for matters in which companies advertise their products. No longer can advertisements focus on the product itself; instead attention is drawn to creating a popular brand image. Advertising agencies will do whatever it takes to make their product seem as appealing as possible. Such drastic measures include the use of the female body, where half-naked beautiful women promote the brand in a sexual manner. Through the use of advertisements like half-clothed women, the media dictates what your ideal body should look like. Young men and women look up to these advertisements and strive to look like the models they idolize. These provocative advertisements are becoming so common in today’s society for products like alcohol, cologne and clothing, that it’s becoming the normal strategy for advertising agencies.

“Sexuality provides a resource that can be used to get attention and communicate instantly” (Jhally 253). What better way to draw a man’s attention, by displaying the image of half-naked beautiful women advertising a product. When flipping through a magazine a man might overlook a dull ad, but when coming across a sexy advertisement like the “wash me” axe ad shown above, it undoubtedly draws their attention and could impact their buying decisions. “Fundamentally, advertising talks to us as individuals and addresses us about how we can become happy” (Jhally 251). When consumers see beautiful models having a fun time in an ad, it makes them want to achieve the same level of happiness, which they feel can be achieved by buying the product being advertisements. A provocative advertisement, like the Tom Ford cologne ad, wouldn’t deliver the same powerful message without the use of the female body. In this advertisement, Tom Ford cologne is telling men that if you buy our cologne you will get laid. Sex is what sells in this day and age and it’s no wonder why advertising agencies will keep using this to their advantage.

In magazines, billboards, and television commercials, women are being objectified as sex-objects in order to sell a product. This might seem quite controversial to many people, but it’s becoming a normative part of our culture. “Advertisers are aware of their role and do not hesitate to take advantage of the insecurities and anxieties of young people, usually in the guise of offering solutions” (Kilbourne 258). Women are constantly being brainwashed by the media. Advertisements portray what is sexy and how a perfect female body should look. “Primarily girls are told by advertisers that what is most important about them is their perfume, their clothing, their bodies, and their beauty” (Kilbourne 260).

Works Cited

Jhally, Sut. “Image-Based Culture.” Gender, Race, and Class in the Media. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2003. (249-257).

Kilbourne, Jean. “The More You Subtract, The More You Add.” Gender, Race, and Class in Media. 2nd ed. Ed. Gail Dines and Jean M. Humez. Sage Publications, Inc, California, 2003. (258-265).

Thursday, July 24, 2008

How Toys Relate to a Boy's Gender Role in Society

“Dad can you get me a new video game, all my old games are boring. My best friend Nick just got the new Batman game and it is so cool!” Many parents all over America might find there beloved children frequently making such demands. In today’s world the media plays such a tremendous impact on children’s lives. For instance, toy companies use television commercials to brainwash children to buy their product and nearly every product on the market is advertised towards a specific gender. “Toys and games that parents provide for their children are an influential source of gender information” (Newman 112). When shopping for toys for your son, it is rather easy to determine which toys are marketed for boys and which are marketed for girls. Generally speaking, girls’ toys accentuate clothing and fashion while boys’ toys revolve more around action and competition. Thus, various types of toys that children are exposed to during their adolescence, helps shape what these kids perceive to be their gender role in society.

To help get a better understanding of the role that toys play in the gendered socialization of children, here is a list of four toys that a stereotypical 10 year old boy would beg their parents to buy. This wish list goes as follows: Hasbro Transformers Ultimate Bumblebee Figure, Nerf Vortex Mega Howler, Nerf N-Strike Recon Cs-6 Dart Blaster, and Mario Kart Wii. The remainder of this blog post will analyze these four toys in greater detail in relation to a boys’ gender role.

The Hasbro Transformers Ultimate Bumblebee Figure is a stereotypical action figure. Action figures have been a common toy for boys to play with ever since the GI Joe was introduced in the 1960s. At the toy store, these action figures are placed in their own isle where various other toys for boys are placed on the shelves. Online on a site such as, these types of toys can be found under the category, “Boy’s Toys.” A Transformers action figure teaches young boys to be aggressive, imaginative, and competitive, all of which are dominant traits for a successful male in today’s society. It is not normal to find a 10 year old boy playing with dolls, the female version of action figures. “Unfortunately, children whose behavior doesn’t conform to generally accepted standards of gender are subject to ridicule or worse” (Newman 115).

Similarly, the Nerf Vortex Mega Howler (a kid’s version of a football) is a popular toy amongst young boys because it encourages them to be active and partake in sports. This toy is directly marketed at boys ages 5-10 and is often shown on TV commercials and magazines, where a father is having a catch with his son. Sports teach kids to be competitive, physically active and work together as a team, all of which are dominant gender traits for males. “Thus sex-segregated activities such as organized sports….provide the context in which gendered identities and separate ‘gendered cultures’ develop and come to appear natural. It became ‘natural’ to equate masculinity with competition, physical strength, and skills” (Messner 128). The Nerf Vortex is a great way to introduce your son into sports at a young age, and encourage him to join an organized sports team with the other boys in the community. When shopping for this product it can be located in the sporting goods section of a toy store, where tons of other boy’s toys of similarity can be found.

The Nerf N- Strike Recon Cs-6 Dart Blast is another excellent example of how many boys’ toys encourage aggression and violence. This product promotes action and violence, which are normative gender characteristic for a toy marketed for 10 year old boys. This toy is recommended for kids ages 6-12 and is a highly masculine product. A young girl would rather play “mommy” with her dolls then be frightened with the power of the Recon Cs-6 Dart Blaster. However, boys get an adrenaline rush from shooting Nerf guns at each other and it’s what they consider to be fun. Though controversial in some parents’ eyes, a violent toy like a Nerf gun does have positive effects on their sons; it teaches them to be adventures and have fun. Boys are highly encouraged to explore the world and it through toys like a Nerf Gun, where these children develop what they perceive as their gender role in today’s society.

Even such seemingly gender neutral games as the Mario Kart Wii, are primarily marketed towards young males. Video games are both popular among boys and girls because they are strategic and put your mind to work. However, the majority of video games promote masculine identities such as sports, violence, aggression and competition and it’s these types of games that boys indulge in.

It is evident that the toys your children are exposed to, even at young ages, play an important role in there livelihoods. Boys thrive on competition and adventure, so the media markets their products directly at these and various other gender traits for different age groups. If a 10 year old boy was playing with dolls instead of action figures, it would not be considered normal. It is important for young males to learn about masculinity and their gendered role in society. Males are typically supposed to be dominant, competitive, adventurous and aggressive and it is through toys like the ones mentioned above, that young boys are exposed to these traits.

Works Cited

Messner, Michael. Boyhood, Organized Sports, and the Construction of Masculinities. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography: Sage Publications, 1990.

Newman, David. Identities and Inequalities: Exploring the Intersections of Race, Class,
Gender, and Sexuality.
New York: McGraw Hill, 2007.


Friday, July 18, 2008

Hegemonic Ideologies Represented in Family Guy

Fox’s Family Guy is a comical cartoon that often exposes identity categories that illustrate conflicting hegemonic/counter-hegemonic representations of ideologies related to those identities. For this blog post, I will be analyzing episode #54, “Don’t Make Me Over,” by evaluating five scenes in the episode, in which these identity categories are represented through characters and their actions in the show.

The first example I encountered in the very beginning of the episode involves Meg (the ugly daughter in the Griffin Family), her friends at school, and Craig (a popular, attractive male at school). In this scene, the show expresses hegemonic ideals regarding race, sexuality and femininity. Meg and the other girls at school are all fighting over the stereotypical popular kid at school named Craig. After gaining the courage to ask Craig out on a date, Meg gets rejected because of her looks. To quote Craig in the episode his response to Meg was, “Sorry, I don’t go out with dudes.” With help from friends and her mother Lois, Meg realizes that she is considered Tom-boyish with her peers at school. She doesn’t show off her body like the other more attractive girls at her school and her only solution to fix this problem was to get a makeover.

Another example of identity category depicted by the Media in this episode of Family Guy is the scene when Lois takes Meg shopping for clothes. This scene depicts hegemonic ideals about sexuality, gender, and femininity. Lois encourages Meg to try on provocative, slutty clothing that shows off her body. Some of the shirts even had slogans like “Little Slut” and “Porn Star.” By illustrating these ideologies in this manner, Family is delivering a message that in order to be considered attractive and popular in the eyes of men, females must look like sex-objects. This scene reinforces how women are portrayed in a patriarchal society.

A third example of an identity category represented by this show, is the scene in which Brian (the dumb overweight son in the Griffin Family), tells his mother Lois how the prisoner sitting behind him at the jail braided his hair. Ideals such as gender, sexuality, race, class and incarceration are all represented within this short and witty scene. The media depicts the stereotypical homosexual realities of a prison in a degrading comedic manner. Also in the jail scenes, the inmates are predominantly African American and Hispanic and they are often violent and out of control

Another example of an identity category in which the media represents counter- hegemonic ideology is how race is illustrated throughout the whole show. In Family Guy, almost every character is of the white race. The only African-American character in the show is Cleveland, the token black guy in a white community. Cleveland is negatively portrayed in the show through his slow communication skills.

A fifth example of an identity category represented by hegemonic ideals is Peter Griffin’s role as father. He doesn’t want to get involved with Meg’s emotional problems, much like a stereotypical father. Also in the scene where Meg sleeps with Jimmy Fallon, he takes on the role of being a protective father with his aggression. By beating up Fallon, Peter performed his fatherly duty of protecting his daughter and being a good father.

Family Guy. “Don’t Make Me Over.”

Season 4, Volume Three, Disc One, DVD. 6/5/05

Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation: Beverly Hills, CA. 2005.