Friday, October 24, 2014

When Objects That You Use to Wipe Your Snot Have Genders

Powerful Yogurt for Men
Products that are as unisex as it gets are beginning to have genders. Tablets, yogurt, pens, you name it, marketing teams are gendering these products in order to cater to either men or women. While in many ways gendered advertising can be a great way to get people to buy things, gendered advertising is taking a toll on our society and how boys and girls of all age groups view themselves by promoting limiting and sometimes harmful gender stereotypes.

Products are being marketed as strictly for men or women. These products are reinforcing gender stereotypes. When things like tablets are marketed towards women, they come with a pink background, and included apps for yoga and weight loss. When products like yogurt were “gendered” they come with red and black packaging, and renamed “powerful yogurt.” These products create a notion of obligatory masculinity for men and obligatory femininity for women, and doesn’t even allow any space for the people in between. When men and boys feel compelled to be masculine to please society and others around them, they may feel the need to drink, be strong, attractive, heterosexual, competitive, gruff, and domineering. When girls and women feel they need to be feminine they may feel the requirement to be skinny, pretty, obedient, empathetic, and sensitive. Granted these strict ideals did evolve from biological instincts of both sexes, wrong signals and ideas are beginning to be implanted in peoples’ heads because of these generalizations. These social limits our society sets for masculinity and femininity are beginning to show in advertising.

Gender stereotypes can be harmful to our overall health in numerous ways. They can be harmful to mental health by creating ideas in people’s minds that they must fit into a certain outline to be loved and accepted. This can create self-destructive habits that can take years to get rid of. The gendered products augment gender stereotypes and act as a measuring stick for health, beauty, and behavior. On top of the psychological impact of the gendered products and stereotypes, they charge a physical toll on our health as well. Gender stereotypes can cause eating disorders in both boys and girls. Sixty-nine percent of 5th-12th grade girls’ idea of a what their body should look like has changed according to what they see in magazines. Eighty-one percent of 10 year old girls fear being fat according to the National Eating Disorders Association. The physical effects of an eating disorder can be devastating. They can include anemia, amenorrhea, and can cause severe issues concerning internal organs along with potential miscarriages. If you ask me, that’s an awful lot of trouble to go through just to fit into a cookie cutter image of what femininity should look like. When one is bombarded with so many idealistic images of perfection, it can cause health serious health problems. In a study done in Peru over the course of a few months of adolescent behavior by gender, all of the girls were depriving themselves of food in some way. All of the boys felt the need to drink large amounts to feel masculine. At a young age, copious alcohol consumption will damage one’s brain development severely. The boys also felt the need to fight each other when they felt threatened, and this could lead to momentous injuries. Gender stereotypes can cause serious trouble if they risk proper brain development and physical injury.

In a study that was done of a couple who decided to raise their child as gender neutral to free them of stereotypes, the family got a lot of backlash. The backlash is understandable because the majority of the people involved in the study thought the couple was doing it to make a political statement. The people strongly opposed this because they argued that there is no such thing as socially defined factors that go into gender, it is all biologically created. Some of their arguments involved the school of thought that gender identity and sexual identity are the same thing. Other arguments against the gender neutral child included that gender was “God-given” or “assigned by God.” One should not bring religion into sociological arguments because it perpetuates endless bias. In the case of a girl in Virginia, she cut off her hair to donate it to Locks of Love. After showing up the next day to her Christian school, her parents received an e-mail from the principle saying that their daughter’s haircut was inappropriate for their school because it did not represent her gender that was assigned by God, and she was not allowed to attend the school anymore because they had a policy against “ungodly conduct.”

In response to this, I would say that sex is separate from gender. One is biologically determined and one is not. One’s sex is determined based on whether a person has male or female genitalia. Gender is a spectrum, and a social standpoint inside a person’s mind. If someone is biologically male or female, it does not mean that they are automatically male or female inside their head. A person’s gender can be male, female, and anywhere in between. A person can be genderless. It is difficult for society to wrap their heads around this today partly because we have been using sex and gender interchangeably for so long and because we have been conditioned to think that sex, gender, and sexuality are corresponding.

People who believe this idea, that gender, sex, and sexuality are all the same thing are the majority of the people who are in charge of advertising, marketing, and merchandising. Given this, it is no surprise that gender and sexuality stereotypes are starting to come through in their marketing strategies. Some may say things like “Well it is just a marketing technique, and not something to get worked up about,” and yes, it would not be worried about so much if it did not cause psychological and physical damage to children and adults. The marketing teams are doing wrong to society because they are reinforcing gender stereotypes and in the case of younger people, they are cashing in on low self-esteem and puberty. What they are doing is not “just a marketing technique.” They are planting ideas in peoples heads that being gruff and domineering are qualities of a man when they are qualities of high testosterone, and that being empathetic, sensitive, and emotional are qualities of a woman when they are qualities of high estrogen. When people are not aware of this, they believe the companies and that is how physical and psychological damage caused by gendered advertising occurs.


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Conclusion:

Over the course of time that I have been in digital citizenship and written this blog, I have realized more and more about how gender stereotypes show through in the media. I have developed more complex opinions than the ones I already had, and have learned many things myself throughout this process. Before our discussions on men and women in the media and before writing this blog I didn't realize how many conventional and idealistic images of perfection are thrown at us day by day when we use the media and view advertisements. Then again I also never realized how that the world is changing, and positively adapting to a more gender-neutral society. I would never have considered blogging as a medium to get people around the world to hear opinions and to get people to know about important information, but it is a fun way to get people's attention over the internet safely, and I am glad I had the opportunity to do this. I liked that we got the chance to respond to commenters, and I liked seeing feedback from my classmates on a blog that I got to see form and take shape. In the end there was a long strand of comments consisting of nothing but non-hateful opinions, uplifting messages to bloggers and commenters, and constructive criticism. Commenters always had polite and thought-provoking things to say. Every comment and response on every post was a good example of civilized interaction through a digital platform, and that was refreshing to see.

10 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. It's a pleasure to read your blog, Viola. You're pretty right about the impact of sex and gender. The rapid and extreme division of them has caused a huge disadvantages to sexual stuff outside male or female, like they are not allowed to exist in the world. The gender products might have more amount of selling because they clearly point to a certain kind of sex. However, like what you say, they bring a lot of problems to our young generation. We could see those products as a example of the modern media, which format us to divide ourselves into male or female without realizing. With no doubt, the society should have the responsibility to leave space for neutral gender and other things associated with it. On the other hand, we should show respect to others' definition of their sex ourselves.
      MegaZ

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    2. Hi Mega Z, thank you for your comment. I agree with your idea of a division happening without anyone even noticing. I also think that respect is due to the people who enjoy expressing their gender identity through common symbols of masculinity and femininity, as is displayed through the gender specific products. There is no problem with this. The problem arises when companies force the stereotypes upon everyone. It is funny that you linked that article; it was one of the ones I researched and used to write my blog.
      Thanks again,
      Viola

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  2. Hi, Viola Rambo! I really enjoyed reading your blog post. It was very unbiased, straightforward, and brought to light an important, but often overlooked, issue in our society. I agree with you that gender stereotypes in our society can be mentally and emotionally harmful. I see myself as a female, but I do not have the stereotypical qualities of a woman that the media has perpetuated such as submission, shyness, a like for the color pink, or an obsession with my appearance. The vast majority of girls and women that I know do not fit these stereotypes, either. So why do you think our society has created these stereotypes if they are untrue in most cases? I think that some aspects of character and personality are based upon biological indicators and innate behaviors, but most traits are based upon who one is and who one choses to become. I do not think that gender should have such a prominent role in our society as it does now, and I do not think that it should matter compared to the quality of a person's character or to the achievements that they have made in life. Thank you for writing this article; you have really made me more aware of gender stereotypes and have showed me that the idea of "gender neutral" or a "gender spectrum" should be more accepted in our society.

    Great job!
    lenoregray

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    1. Hi lenoregray! Thank you for the well thought out comment, I enjoyed reading your personal commentary on the topic. I also wonder why the heck the stereotypes and defaults for males and females are traits that are not often expressed in most cases. I agree with your idea of character traits being a result of biological indicators; hormones dictate a large percentage of ones' personality. But aspects like gender and such can be influenced by environment and how someone was raised.
      Thanks again,
      Viola

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  3. Viola, I'm so glad you decided to tackle this issue, as I really do believe that harmful stereotypes and misunderstandings are at the root of most bad behavior online. I thought you, and others who are interested in this topic, might like to read about The Three Letter Word Driving a Gender Revolution. Sweden has, as a country, tried to neutralize the gender by using the word "hen" to describe all children. Much like the experiment you mentioned where one family tried to raise their child in a gender-neutral environment, Sweden is the country to watch and see what happens when an entire culture makes the same effort. As it stands now, it is the "4th most gender-equal country" in the world. Do you think something like this could take hold in a country as diverse (and sometimes divided) as the United States?

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    1. Thank you for your comment Ms. Gerla! I had never heard of Sweden using the term "hen" for all children before, and I think it must be like the Swedish equivalent of "they" or "them." Sweden's effort towards a gender-neutral environment especially for the youth as their brains and social standpoints are developing. However, I don't think something like this could happen soon in a country as bigoted as the United States, and even if it does happen, there will still be people who reject the idea.
      Thanks again,
      Viola

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  4. This must have been a tough issue to write about, Viola, because there are so many opinions out there about it. So the fact that you did write about it, and wrote very well, is great. This made me think of the commercial that Ms. Gerla showed us a couple years ago that has the genders switched with a boy playing with "girly" toys and the girls playing with "boyish" toys. As I read, I did find some grammatical errors that could be fixed, but other than that your blog was strongly written. Do you think there's a way that companies can try to neutralize gender marketing? If so, how do you think they should do it?

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    1. Thank you for your comment Adam. I appreciate the constructive criticism and I will edit the grammatical errors. I concur with your idea of this topic of gendered advertising being reminiscent of the commercial. I think there is indeed a way for companies to make advertising for their products neutral and gender spectrum-friendly, however we may not see it happen anytime soon if ever for this is a multi-million dollar industry we are concerned with, and everything is about money. Even if the people marketing products towards a specific gender feel remorse about the stereotypes they are redefining, they won't stop because they want to make as much money as possible.

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