Gender Construction & Cartoon Commercials

We begin to learn culture from the moment of birth, including the cultural behaviors associated with our gender identity. This exercise requires you to explore the role of advertising in the development of gender identity among children in American society. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children watch an average of 40,000 commercials a year on television*. Saturday morning cartoons, or children’s programing that contains commercials. For this exercise:

Watch the Saturday morning cartoons, with particular focus on the commercials. As you watch them, think about the messages that children are seeing regarding gender. In American society, what does it mean to be male or female? Feminine or masculine? Is there the possibility for an alternative gender identity? You may wish to keep a record of the following questions:

Can the commercial be classified as male, female, or gender neutral? If so, keep track of the classification as you move on to the remaining questions.

What products are being advertised?

What colors are emphasized?

What are the children in the commercials doing?

What are the adults doing?

What is the location/setting of the commercial?

What does the narration sound like?

Other observations of interest?

Based on your observations, what does it mean to be male or female in our society?

Post your findings in an essay of 500-600 words in the M10 Discussion forum.

Reply to two of your peer’s threads with comments of substance. Consider the other ways, besides commercial advertising, in which children learn about gender identity. Consider the implications of our cultural constructions of gender with regard to gender equality in our society. The implications for situations of incompatibility with the male/female binary?

*American Academy of Pediatrics. 2006. “Children, Adolescents, and Advertising.” Pediatrics 118(6)2563-69.

Adapted from: Guest, K.J. 2015. Cultural Anthropology Fieldwork Journal. Pgs. 29-32. New York, NY: W.W.

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