Thursday, May 28, 2009

Gendered Consumers - Girls and Boys and Sports

My fictitious child is a 17 year old girl who is living in Poland. Her name is Helga and I am her mother. On the top of her toy wish list, she listed a soccer ball. Underneath her soccer ball, she has also listed a football, a basketball, roller-skates, and a bicycle. To shop for these toys, I visited a Toys R Us website. I typed in ‘soccer ball’ in the search box. On the left-hand side of the webpage, I noticed I had the choice to narrow my search further. At the top of the list ‘gender’ was listed. I noticed there were more different types of soccer balls for boys than there were for girls. Not only that, many of the ‘girl’ soccer balls has animated characters, whereas the ‘boy’ soccer balls looked normal.
It is clear to see how the soccer balls of Toys R Us resemble young boys more than young girls. Out of all the balls listed, 42 were for boys and only 30 for girls. In addition, the ‘girl’ soccer balls also did not resemble Helga’s age. The animated characters on the soccer balls would most likely appeal to very young girls. For example, the character, Dora the Explorer, was featured on one of the balls. The average age for children who watch the show, “Dora the Explorer, are between the ages of 4 and 7. Clearly, my daughter does not fall in that age group. There was also a Disney princess soccer ball. Unfortunately, only a small fraction of the soccer balls resemble 17 year old Helga.

After browsing for Helga’s soccer ball, I began to search for her other toys on the wish list. First, I looked at the selection for footballs. Again on the left side, I was able to narrow my search so I decided to look through gender again. Immediately I saw that there were 266 types of ‘boy’ footballs I could have purchased and only 80 ‘girl’ footballs. I found this to be pretty shocking. Messner stated in his article,
“Thus sex-segregated activities such as organized sports as structured by adults, provide the context in which gendered identities and separate “gendered cultures” develop and come to appear natural” (128).
Toys R Us has more footballs for boys than girls. It can be assumed that the manufacturers of these footballs do not believe that girls may play football. Instead, however, girls can play soccer; as soccer is sometimes seen as a less dangerous sport than football. After seeing this, I decided to search for basketballs. To my surprise, I found that there were 293 types of basketballs or basketball related toys for boys and 161 types of basketballs or basketball related toys for girls. Although, the number of toys for girls in this search was still lower than boys, the difference is not as big like the football related toys.
For roller-skates, I found more ‘girl’ skates than ‘boy’ skates; 32 for girls and 20 for boys. Although there are finally more items for girls than boys in any sport, it should still not be unequal. Even the colors for the skates were different. There were lighter colors, like pink and yellow, for the ‘girl’ skates and darker colors, like blue and black, for the ‘boy’ skates. The same was true as for as colors for the bicycles. ‘Girl’ bicycles were usually pink with pom-poms on the sides of the handles and ‘boy’ bicycles were red, black, or green without pom-poms and sometimes a bell on the handlebar.

As far as socioeconomic class, Helga would encounter some issues with this factor. First of all, Helga is in Poland and much of the land in Poland is dedicated to agriculture. Although Helga would probably have more than enough space to play soccer or any other sport, she might not be permitted to play just anywhere. Luckily, however, the main sport in Poland is soccer so she would have a chance to play eventually. Playing soccer in Poland is very competitive, as this is a sport they the Polish take seriously, hopefully Helga will get a chance to play with her peers, even though she is a girl and society today does not believe that girls should be competitive.
As far as price, my budget is $168. The most expensive soccer ball I found was only $16.99. Because I would have money left over, I would buy Helga soccer cleats. The most expensive cleats I found on the Toys R Us website were for $79.99. After buying the soccer ball and the cleats, I would have $71.02 remaining. To help Helga practice, I would also buy soccer training goals that costs $59.99. After all these purchases, I would still be within my budget of $168 which is good. Unfortunately, however, Toys R Us does not ship toys anywhere outside the United States.
I strongly believe the toys I found definitely promote gender roles. Through my findings, I realized these toys have the potential to teach children about gendered social norms. Like Newman stated,
“Toys and games that parents provide for their children are another influential source of gender information…Decades of research indicate that “girls’ toys” still revolve around themes of domesticity, fashion, and motherhood and “boys’ toys” emphasize action and adventure” (112).
If a young girl wants to play a sport, there would not be much support from the toy store nor will there be much support from the external influences around her. There will be a limited amount of toys she would be able to get for any sport. And as seen on the Toys R Us website, even if there are toys for a sport or related to a sport, the toys are still gender separated by featuring a female or male character on the toy. So although there is a soccer ball a young girl can play with, there is still a reminder that she needs to be a “nice, cute little girl” by placing a picture of a princess on the ball.
Works Cited:
Messner, Michael. "Boyhood, Organized Sports, and the Construction of Masculinities." Journal of Contemporary Ethnography (1990): 120-137. Print.
Newman, David M.. Identities and Equalities: Exploring the Intersections of Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2007. Print.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The R&B Music Genre and Conflciting Messages


In the hip hop culture, especially in the R&B genre, there are conflicting messages sent to the listeners. Some songs send positive messages and other send negative messages. Regardless of the message, there is someone listening and is applying it to their own life. What I find to be very ironic is the messages that are sent to women. Many songs discuss how to keep a boyfriend or husband faithful, yet others discuss how to be independent of a man. Learning how to keep your significant other along with being submissive to him and learning how to be independent are on two different sides of the spectrum, and this can only cause confusion.
An R&B singer, Ashanti, wrote a song titled, ‘Good Good.’ The lyrical content in this song is referring to women and telling them how to keep their boyfriends or husbands; e.g, keeping the men sexually satisfied. Some of the lyrics are “I put it on him right, I do it every night/I leave him sittin' mouth open like whew/So I don't worry bout nobody takin' mine/Cause I know just the right thing to do.” These lyrics are clearly implying sex and being totally submissive to the man. Another song by the group, Destiny’s Child, also discusses being submissive. Some lyrical content of this song, ‘Cater to You,’ are as follows: Let Me Help You/Take Off Your Shoes/Untie Your Shoestrings /Take Off Your Cufflinks…I Got Your Slippers, Your Dinner, Your Dessert, And So Much More/Anything You Want Just Let Me Cater To You.” These lyrics would be clear to any female listener. Both of the above mentioned songs can be related back to what Laura Ouellette stated in her article.
“…transforming the class position of the…girl through a combination of self-management strategies, performative tactics, sexuality, and upwardly mobile romance…Brown’s advice to women offers a case study in the cultural construction of class…as a fragmented and sexualized identity.”
Ashanti and Destiny’s Child’s songs do not offer anything about how to be a woman outside of pleasing or being submissive to men.
On the contrary, there are other R&B songs that do not discuss women totally pleasing men. Ne-yo, an R&B singer, wrote a song titled ‘Miss Independent.’ In this song, he praises the woman who has a career and pays for everything she owns. This is the type of woman he wants to be with, some of his lyrics states “Cause she work like a boss play like a boss/Car and a crib she bout to pay em both off/And the bills are paid on time yeah/She made for a boss only a boss.” This song can inspire female listeners to go out and get a career and not depend on a man. In another song by Alicia Keys titled ‘Superwoman,’ she is also empowering women. The chorus to her song is “Cause I am a Superwoman/Yes I am/Yes she is/Even when I'm a mess/I still put on a vest/With an S on my chest/Oh yes/I'm a Superwoman.” This song can inspire women to be whatever they want to be and lets them know that they can overcome any challenge as long as they try. As Jean Kilbourne stated in her article,
“Girls are put into a terrible double bind. They are supposed to repress their power, their anger, their exuberance and be simply “nice,” although they also eventually must compete with men in the business world and be successful.”
The different messages in these songs can be very confusing especially to younger women. Although there are R&B songs that may lead women to want to depend on men, hopefully other songs like Ne-Yo’s and Alicia Keys’ can inspire them to be independent. The pictures in the collage show the different types of women that these songs address. It is very clear to see how much these pictures vary.

Works Cited
Kilbourne, Jean . The More You Subtract, the More You Add. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications,
2003. Print.
Ouellette, Laurie. Reinventing the Cosmo Girl: Class Identity and Girl-Style American Dreams.
Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2003. Print.
http://media.photobucket.com/image/ashanti%20-%20good%20good/chosen1234/Screenshots/AshantiGoodGoodVideo.jpg
http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_w9XobcHM20g/SLjUF0Zp0eI/AAAAAAAAAaY/g-6oO57e8go/s400/ashanti.PNG
http://www.lyricsforall.com/images/artists/3227/10220533.jpg
http://www.upscaleswagger.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/gabrielle-union-ne8b2aea.jpg
http://www.upscaleswagger.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/gabrielle-union-ne8b2aea.jpg
http://www.crestock.com/images/270000-279999/279627-xs.jpg
http://wwwdelivery.superstock.com/WI/223/1491/PreviewComp/SuperStock_1491R-1015591.jpg
http://vip-files.net/pohv1009/30.jpg
http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/ashanti/goodgood.html
http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/destinyschild/cater2u.html
http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/neyo/missindependent.html
http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/aliciakeys/superwoman.html




Monday, May 18, 2009

Blog #1: TV Shows and Hegemonic Masculinity and Femininity

In much of today’s popular culture, it is easy to find many examples of masculine and feminine ideals whether it is depicted as true or false. For example, many television shows portray how life should be instead of how it really is. This can give people ideas about gender roles and how males and females should act. Sometimes it reinforces the dominance of masculinity and femininity; other time it disrupts is.

One show that can be seen as an example is ‘Girlfriends.’ This show features four different women who all have different issues. One woman, character name Joan, has a law degree and has potential to go up for junior partner at her law firm. Although she may seem very much accomplished, she feels like she is lacking because she is not married. When she was approaching 30 years of age, she was ashamed and felt like she needed to lie about her age.
“They reinforce insecurities bred into women by decades of inaccurate media reports of “man shortages” and brokendown biological clocks. …’You always hear those horror stories: 40 and single! I don’t want that!’ “

As a result, every man Joan dated was assessed for marriage. Sometimes this scared her men and they often broke up shortly. Afterwards, Joan would feel like something was wrong with her. She felt like she did everything right so she should have been married. Other women watching this show may feel the same way. They may see Joan’s struggle and attempt to do the opposite of what Joan did. For example, Joan had a law degree; some women might feel that the law degree was intimidating to other men. Hence, these women would stay away from law degrees. They may place appearance or other ‘feminine” qualities above education and may begin to believe that those qualities are what is most important when seeking a husband. In ‘Girlfriends,’ the predominance of femininity was reinforced.

In another show called ‘Family Matters,’ one can find examples of how masculinity is supposed to look like. First of all, there are certain WAYS that men should look like.

“That means behaving in ways that are gender appropriate. …For boys and men, it usually means things like being assertive, not overtly displaying certain emotions, and not nurturing others, especially other adults.”

The above quote shows how men are supposed to conduct themselves; totally opposite from how women behave. Missing from the quote is the notion that men do not clean either. In an episode of ‘Family Matters,’ the husband, Carl, was shown cleaning and doing chores around the house while wearing an apron and a feather duster in hand. Not only that, Carl looked happy while he was cleaning. His lieutenant walked into the house and immediately started to ridicule Carl for what he was doing. Offended, Carl felt like he had to prove himself by telling his lieutenant that he wears the pants in the house and he is the breadwinner. Men seeing this show may feel the same way and so they do not get ridiculed, these men watching the show may feel like they have to let everyone know that they are not feminine and are breadwinners. In this episode of ‘Family Matters,’ the predominance of masculinity was reinforced by Carl’s reactions however; his masculinity was also disrupted because he was found cleaning and doing household chores.

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