Gender Socialization Of Children Through Toys: Between Stereotypes From a Globalized Market In Expansion and Daily Interactions With Family and Peers

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 8:30 AM
Room: Booth 64
Oral Presentation
Mona ZEGAI , Laboratoire CRESPPA, équipe CSU, CNRS, Fontenay-le-Fleury, France
The globalization and expansion of toy market in the 1980s and 1990s caused development of gender stereotypes. In order to be exported to many countries and to address to children increasingly prescribing purchases within the family, the commercial communication of toys’ manufacturers and distributors is indeed highly segmented and leads to the hegemony of explicitly gendered categories "boys toys" and "girls toys". This categorization, both written (name of sections, sales pitches) and iconic (colors, photographs of children), is normative because it shows to children the "gender" of objects, activities and values depicted (like household toys that are in sections and departments called "girls" in catalogs and stores). The toy’s industry and trade appear more and more as an instance of children’s gender socialization, teaching them since their earliest childhood to distinguish masculinity and femininity. But children do not learn passively these gender categories: this initiation comes through interactions with other children (peer group, siblings) and adults (especially parents) that may strengthen as well as challenge stereotypes. In particular, families with a strong cultural capital used to develop strategies to thwart stereotypes and open their children’s field of possibilities. From an investigation which combines interviews with children, parents and sales teams, international catalogs’ sales pitches (with lexicometry for the French ones) and participant observation in a toy store as a salesperson, we will analyze two successive phenomena. On the one hand, I will clear up the process by which the globalization of toy market and the development of marketing led to the circulation of gender stereotypes in the late twentieth century. On the other hand, I will show that interactions between children and with adults produce contrasting effects depending on families’ possession of cultural capital, because standardization of commercial communication does not result in a uniform reception of gender stereotypes.