That's My Opinion: Marketing or Misogyny?
Video games are for boys, makeup is for girls. Now, if you haven’t flown into a ballistic, hormone induced rage, I think you MIGHT be a rational enough person to follow this discussion on the current social issue. Waking up Monday, I quickly skimmed a variety of news postings, and within minutes saw an article about a 7 year old girl “schooling Tesco over a sexist sign” (if you want to read an article about it, there’s likely one from your preferred news source out there). In my mind it brought up the avalanche of recent internet shenanigans involving misogyny in “nerd culture”, from movies to games, to toys (apparently) too. After reading it, I knew I had something to write on. Because this is getting absurd.
Now, as always, I’m here to encourage critical thinking and broadening horizons. Albeit, I am slightly biased because I’m a white male, who has a penchant for most things nerdy. Additionally, I am a recent Marketing graduate whose sole purpose for the past many years has been to understand what people need in a product and how to get them to buy it. With that said, I’m not a feminist or whatever term you want to use to prove your support for a certain cause. I prescribe to the philosophy that ALL human beings deserve equal treatment in ALL aspects of their life, until they have proven to society to be undeserving of those rights. Call that egalitarianism, equalism, skiddly-boo-bopism. I don’t care. Now, let’s continue. *dismounts soapbox*
Barbie vs. G.I. Joe. My Little Pony vs. Dragonball Z. Eat. Pray. Love. vs. The Expendables. For many decades, we have been told that girls play with these toys and boys play with those. And for millenia before that, we have been told that women do these things and men do those. But, over the past several years, society has come together to blur the lines and do away with gender stereotypes, which honestly weren’t really helping anyone. Thankfully, its doing a good job of sticking. Each year we see more and more open communication to, and from, companies and society leading towards a future where the toys you can play with, or the jobs you get, aren’t dictated by what your gender is.
With the past few years has come yet another tool to hold companies accountable for campaigns promoting bigotry, close-mindedness, and all around idiocy: the Internet, and along with it, social media. As an ever increasing number of people are able to communicate and interact, be it with fellow consumers or corporations, it should be used as a platform for sparking real change. Promoting genuine, insightful discussions as to how to grant equality and comfort to not only our children, but each adult, should be at the forefront.
But, that’s my JOB!
On the flip-side of this argument, lies a position that I have rarely seen defended, that of the people putting it out there. A lot of those toys, movies, and games are made with the explicit intent of being sold to boys. But why not try to include girls? MARKETING. Just let me say that one more time. MARKETING. It is quite literally people’s jobs to sit around and figure out the next item for a company to create, who its going to be sold to, and what needs it will fill. This process typically is done using extensive data, collected from companies whose SOLE function is to figure out what specific groups of people want, like, or need. After the boss-man says “we need to sell item ‘x’ to group ‘green’”, it becomes their job to figure out what will appeal to that group, or those buying for that group, the most.
Now that I’ve given you the gist of my college education (for free, might I add), we can begin to understand exactly why these products are marketed to us the way they are. Simply? It works. They know that little boys would be more likely to play with a Batman action figure than a My First Baby doll, and vice versa. So that is exactly who they will target, because that is the purpose and function of a business. To make items that fulfill the needs of people, then sell those items.
Now, some might still be stuck on “why?”. Well, in the article I mentioned earlier, the toy in question is a clock with a sign on it that said “A great gift for boys”. And you know why this should be OK? Follow me down this hypothetical road: An elderly grandparent is in search of something for little Timmy this Christmas. For one reason or another, this grandparent hasn’t been involved in his life or been able to give him many gifts, so they really couldn’t know what to get him. Walking amidst the holiday madness, hoping to find something that he might like, they see a sign that states “A great gift for boys”. Well, at least they now have some mild assurance that they are looking in the right area, or the characters involved are what he might like. This, THIS, my dear friends, is why that sign exists. Not to try to tell someone they can’t have something, but to HELP.
I, for one, cannot be more happy that society has been progressing to a more accepting and open state, where your gender identity shouldn’t be the sole factor in enjoying something. Otherwise I might get made fun of more for liking things like Phantom of the Opera, or The Notebook. But really people, not every single statement about gender is attacking you. I promise. Also, if you think that just because it says “for [insert sex]”, a fan wouldn’t participate or buy it, they clearly aren’t THAT big a fan of it.