Battle vs. Love

Want to see, at a glance, a summary of the messages boys and girls get every day about our expectations for them? Crystal Smith at The Achilles Effect analyzed the words used in television ads marketing toys to boys vs. the words used to market toys to girls. It won’t take more than one look to figure out which is which.

Battle vs. love. Competition and violence for boys vs. cooperation for girls. Competence for boys vs. style for girls.

Marketers are not just selling toys; they are selling a world where boys are strong and forceful, and girlhood is much more about how you look than what you do. Whether toy manufacturers create these gendered expectations or simply reflect the values of the broader culture, the messages are powerful. The average kid watches hundreds of television ads every week, from toddlerhood through teen years.

So, how many dating violence prevention campaigns do you think we have to run to balance this out? How many posters in high schools about equality in relationships will it take? Is there any way we can prevent domestic violence when this is the landscape we’re working with?

4 thoughts on “Battle vs. Love”

  1. Thanks so much for this post. Such an important message to help us all be more alert to what is being communicated to us and our children.

    I would like to point out thought that these are thoughts that are being communicated and I think it is high time that we realize that we do have power over thoughts. We need to make sure we do not assume that thoughts broadcasted to us have an automatic effect. Thought has to be accepted before it turns into action.

    So in terms of prevention, we might want to wage our war on the side of helping people learn how to defend themselves from evil or unhealthy thoughts even when they are subtly embedded in advertisements and other media.

    Thanks again for this awesome post.

  2. Indeed, Ian. Everything we need to combat these messages are within us already. That’s something lovely that you can do right now to combat whack gender roles, and create awesome gender expressions in their place.

    Of course, lots of data points to marketing and its influence on perception. That’s the whole point about branding: trust and a perception of normalcy and acceptability.

    We know violent video games and media do not have a direct cause and effect causative relationship between a person who plays them and their action to shoot up a school or beat their wife. That’s just silly.

    But, as a reflection to our culture, it sure is indicative of an obsession with violence that say, Black Ops or Halo is orders of magnitude bigger than non-violent games. And that horror movies have fairly consistent lady-sexy-death themes. Certainly these things influence our expectations of our own lives to an extent, especially if we haven’t had examples in our life who have told us that we don’t have to be in charge. Or be in a crappy relationship. Or be in control of everything. Or be a superhero. Or a tough guy. Or whatever. That being vulnerable is okay and sometimes just what we need, and that it’s also okay to be tough sometimes too, and that one isn’t earned at the exclusion of another.

    That being human is being interesting, and creative, and having some sense of autonomy over your life doesn’t mean you are controlling someone else’s.

    Anyway, back to my video games. Now I can justify opening Steam and getting Portal 2– I’m voting with my dollars on non-violent video games!

  3. I think you’re right. But thankfully I have the power not to be a reflection of this culture. Thankfully, I can sift out this garbage. Thankfully, I have control of my thoughts.

    I just don’t like thinking in any degree that we are victims…empowerment is what we need…empowerment to reverse the thoughts that we pick up from the media, video games, and advertisements.

    Something tells me these messages in varying forms will only go away when there is no more interest. It is up to us not to listen and not purchase so the media etc changes its tactic.

    To me the media, ads, video games are a reflection of the general thought not the other way around. People created this stuff. So when people stop viewing it, subscribing to it, etc…then people will stop producing it.

    I am just saying that the thought goes deeper than the media. The media is the reflection of the thought. The thought is what needs to change.

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