Advertisements inculcate stereotyped gender roles in children

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Can these stereotyped advertisements change? or should just shut off the so called ‘Idiot Box.’

“Mom I am not going to play with baby doll. I am a boy. Girls play with baby doll. I play with cars,” my three-and-a-half-year-old son said. He was watching a baby doll advertisement preceded by Mammy Poko Pants advertisement. Although being gender sensitive while raising my son, I was quite surprised to hear this from him.

While watching the baby doll advertisement on Nick Jr channel, I asked my son if he wants a small baby doll. That is when he made the above statement. When probed about his thought process he pointed at television. Little did I realise that advertisements can have such an impact on children. Started to wonder if this is the beginning of segregating gender roles unconsciously?

It is not new how advertisements stereotypes role of men and women. And it is not new how advertisements influence people’s choice and also how people evaluate the information provided. But never thought advertisements can influence children thought process. They are also capable of evaluating information provided in the advertisements.

In the present world men and women play multiple roles in the society. Men and women are parents, corporate heads, entrepreneurs, siblings, volunteers, friends etc., unlike earlier days. Earlier, the gender roles was very specific – men are breadwinners and women are home makers. Although women are playing roles much more than just a homemaker, the old values still seem to linger around. This is very evident with advertisements we see on the television.

There are few gender sensitive advertisements. But, in most of the ads, women are portrayed in all the cooking products, baby products, house cleaning products, etc. Beyond stereotyping gender roles among adults, advertisements are stereotyping gender roles for children too. The toy advertisements for children are also made gender specific. Like I mentioned earlier, a baby doll is taken care by a girl and a boy is shown playing with the toy car. Is this a soft way of inculcating the patriarchal societal values in children?

It is well known that especially in advertisements, one person’s thought process influences the industry as a whole. Why isn’t it a man shown cooking with less cholesterol cooking oil and taking care of the wife and children health? It is known fact that men are good cooks. Why isn’t it a man who opens the door to Akshay Kumar in toilet cleaner Harpic ad? Why isn’t it a father who holds the baby for the diaper ads? Father also feels equally special when a baby is born. Fathers also change baby’s diapers. Why isn’t it a boy is shown playing with a baby doll?  Why are men left out?.

With children exposed to television more than ever, their learning is definitely influenced by the television content. With my son declaring baby dolls are for girls and cars are for boys, indicates that advertisements influences their developing mind to align their understanding of gender roles with the stereotypes. Raising a child who learns to accept the other gender for what he or she is, rather than filling their minds with these stereotypical gender roles, is quite a challenge. Can these stereotyped advertisements change? or should just shut off the so called ‘Idiot Box.’

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