Gendered toy marketing, word cloud edition.

Hot damn, I love word clouds. This blogger create these based on two lists of products marketed as “girls” and “boys” toys, and the words used in television commercials advertising them.

I’ll quote my homegirl Eliza (age 10) as an appropriate response from this letter (which is amazing, by the way):

Hey I’m a Girl, and I HATE dolls! I also hate Barbies, pink, my little ponies, and glitter is okay I guess. But I don’t love it like boys think all girls do. But that’s just my opinion. [...] I HATE pink. I despise it. HACK See I spat on it. That’s how much I hate pink.


h/t to T-Square.

Join the Conversation

  • nazza

    Heh. My partner also despises pink. She is fond of calling it a “half-assed red”.

  • Karen

    Doesn’t get much clearer than that. The other day I was looking for some scrap book stuff to decorate a page for my International Women’s Day party. I was thinking some Wonder Woman or “Girl Power” type stickers would do. Instead, all I found was pink princesses with words like “precious” and “gentle.” The words for boys pages were all about adventure and curiosity.

    It’s one thing if we’re given a wide range of words with which to define ourselves and we choose “love” and “magic.” But if we’re only given the passive, appearance-centered words, how will we learn about our “power” or to have “heroes?”

  • Adrienne

    I think what’s just as disturbing are the words for boys that represent destruction, war, and violence.

    • Mike T

      Absolutely. The most common word used to market “girls’ toys” is ‘love’ and for “boys’ toys” is ‘battle’. I just find that so despairingly fucked up.

  • blueeyes90

    First off, I hate pink, second, I hate dresses, and third, I hate style. Yet, my mom thinks there’s something wrong with me because I hate pink and don’t like to wear anything frilly or lace covered.

  • Dan C

    Definitely shows how much violence is drilled into young boys.

  • Cate

    I guess I’ll go against the grain here and say that I love pink, and fashion, and other typically girly things, but whether an individual woman likes or doesn’t like that sort of thing is not really the point.

    Sure, the girls get a lot of dumb stuff thrown at them, like “Style” and “glam” and “totally” and “nails” and “ever-after”, but they also get “love” and “friendship” and “fun” and “change” and other words that are good!

    The total lack of overlap concerns me, because it shows that we have such a strong gender binary that we enforce from such a young age. It’s not that it’s wrong for an advertiser to use “love” or even “style” in an ad for a toy marketed at a girl, it’s that there isn’t even a consideration that boys might find them same things appealing. It’s also a shame that girls don’t get some of the more positive boy words, like “power” or “hero”.

    The violent words given to the boys also concern me, maybe most of all. Why do we train little boys to be little soldiers, getting ready to “beat” and “attack” “stealthily”? When we look at the incidences of violence committed by boys and men as compared to by girls and women, I don’t see how we can’t make a connection.

    • Dan C

      The lack of overlap is very interesting. However, I’m not sure if it really represents the reality of what kids are presented with. The blogger, Crystal, included brands that are clearly gendered (Hot Wheels vs Barbie)… There are a brave few brands that are more gender neutral (Play-Doh, maybe Legos), but for obvious reasons, weren’t included.

    • Matt

      Indeed. We’re so caught up in boy v/ girl that we aren’t in the business of figuring out what is “good” and “bad” (and which words are not intrinsically either, at least particularly so). Granted, people don’t have the best track record sorting out good/bad/neutral characteristics even when they stand alone, but ignoring morality altogether and putting people into arbitrary roles is even more silly.

  • Flor

    “glitter is okay I guess” haha, that’s awesome.

  • Akbar

    So I am curious, how did they determine toys to be targeted toward boys or girls? Is there a sticker on the side that says only boys can buy “battle action G.I. Joe Extreme” and only girls can buy “Pretty Glitter Princess Barbie”? I imagine that the researcher saw a toy that they knew boys would like and deemed them a boy’s toy and then saw a toy they thought a girl would like and deemed it a girl’s toy. So is it the company or the researcher that is creating these constructs. People in our country are free to play with any toy they want.

    I am pretty sure toy companies design toys they think will sell well and some of them are ones that will appeal to boys and others will appeal to girls. Any normal person knows which will be successful with either gender but there is no rules preventing girls from playing with G.I. Joes, it is just that most but not all girls have little interest in them.

    If all of a sudden “Peace Corps Ken” dolls start selling well with young boys then the companies will start putting more effort into them but until then the companies will make toys that appeal to kids.

  • E

    I used to reject pink too when I was a kid. I realize now that it was just for the same reasons that my brother or most boys would reject pink. Pink was associated with femininity, and I wanted to reject anything that shoved me into that little “girl” box. Pink was thrust upon me by culture, and I had to dodge and run to escape it, lest anyone think less of me.

    Now that I’m almost thirty, I love pink. Not pale or pastel pink, but bright magenta/fuchsia types of pink. It started when I was submerged into a culture where men will proudly wear pink or carry a pink DS or cell phone or whatever, and nothing is thought of it. (Little boys would sooner die, but grown men do it all the time. Go figure.) Pink felt more genderless and I felt more free to enjoy it. And then I realized I really liked it.

    I grew up playing with action figures and video games, but also with Barbies and My Little Pony. Sometimes I would work My Little Pony into the action figure play my brother and I did, and after my Prince Eric doll went kaput (his crotch broke and his legs fell out), his head and one of his legs featured heavily into our stories. I’ve always been fairly tomboyish, but even when I rejected pink I didn’t reject all things feminine. Now I just feel like … I am what I am, and that isn’t strictly masculine or feminine. I can wear black, I can wear pink, I can play House of the Dead and I can go shopping for Hello Kitty goods, and if anyone wants to judge me … they can go screw themselves. Basically.

    Yeah, it would be nice if there were more … er … neutral toys. Or if toys in general were just neutral. Or if colors were neutral. But I don’t think, “EW OMG PINK!” is the best way to go about it. It just reinforces pink = feminine = bad. There has to be a better way to get the message across.

  • Marian

    though i think i’m being reiterative, i just want to add a few thoughts.

    first, i don’t even see the word “pink” in the cloud surrounding girls. obviously, there is a lot there to do with the marketization of beauty – “fashion” and “nails” and “hair” and “dress” and “style” — but this need to vilify the color pink, to hate it – seems unnecessary and misplaced. as a femme lesbian, pink has become a defining part of my adult life – something i’ve claimed with a wink. girls’ toys are sold in all pink packaging in all pink aisles and that is a problem, but it is not THE problem. and someday, girls can become women who understand both the manipulation and the power that is associated with the color – whether they like to wear it or not. that is what we should encourage. sometime to me, it feels like hating pink is just another way to hate women who don’t defy beauty norms – and to me, that is just another impediment to solidarity.

    second, i’m with those who are more disturbed by the boy cloud. every word seems threatening, violent. in a community where we constantly question a culture that disregards consent, the number of words meant to encourage a form of play that are clearly violent and done onto others (beat, hit, attack, fire). is this the imagination we want to encourage? where is their magic? their friendship? their fun?