by Laura Denomy

Gender socialization starts the second a child is born. Our culture has social definitions for what is acceptable for a baby girl or baby boy, for instance when you have a baby girl it is dressed in pink, as where a boy is dressed in blue. Children’s television advertisements are intensely controlling and relentlessly constricting with the development of boys and girls in different ways. Commercials are indicating that young boys and girls have different social roles and skills; boys are adventurous, and girls are delicate.
The commercials directed at boys are showing boys that they value being in control or have control over situations, competitive, aggressive, and have the power to command others through force and violence. These commercials show young boys that they aren’t allowed to be nurturing or gentle, and they aren’t allowed to show any weaknesses, or emotion. They are encouraging young boys to constantly build and construct, and these are the stepping stones to help shape young men into the working world. When young boys are being shown that this type of behaviour is normal, they are going to fall into these predetermined gender roles, which leads to violence against women at a very young and innocent age.
The commercials targeted at young girls heavily focuses on teaching child nurturing, homemaking skills and domestic work, popularity, self-image and beauty. The commercials aimed towards young girls are limiting their imagination of what they are capable of accomplishing, teaching girls to dumb down their intelligence, and focus on what they are ‘naturally’ destined to become. It shows these young girls how important your body image and how you are nothing without being popular and individual growth isn’t even a thought for these young girls.
There is so much gendered violence in today’s society and these commercials are contributing to it enormously, because they are extremely gender stereotyped, show girls what their roles are within society and reinforce the gender stereotypes that women are always fighting against. There are many factors that influence our gender socialization, but media is one of the most influential, and plays an extremely vital role in our development. These advertisements are invasive and are extremely dangerous with children, because it is mentally hard for children to differentiate between TV programming, commercials, or real-life situations. It’s quite evident that these invasive advertisements aren’t going to stop being produced, so instead we need to educate children and youth through media literacy programs to help them develop the necessary critical skills to deconstruct and identify what these advertisements are portraying, and how to avoid falling into these gendered stereotypes, and roles.

Laura Denomy is participating in Violence, Media Representations and Families a media literacy program joint initiative between Kwantlen Polytechnic University Sociology Department, First Voices and Battered Women’s Support Services.