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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Blog Post 4 - Written Options: Gendered Consumers/Engendering Consumerism—Toy Shopping Field Work

Choose one approach from the following two approaches for this assignment:

1. Gendered Consumers
o Shop for a child of a particular age/gender (we can define the age/gender & come up with a 4-5 item wish list before doing the assignment) by going to a physical (“brick & mortar”) toy store or by shopping online. Neither of the options would require you to actually buy anything, just conduct the assignment as if you were shopping for the child.
o Analyze the role that toys (and products marketed for children) play in the gendered socialization of children using the products marketed to them.
o Examples of analyses to pursue:
• Do the toys resemble (i.e. skin color, age, (dis)ability) the child you’re shopping for? Do only a small fraction of toys resemble your fictitious child?
• How does socioeconomic class factor into the desired toys for a particular child; are these toys accessible to the child you’re shopping for, or would price, location, and/or other issues prohibit access for this particular child?
• Examine issues of sexuality (ads using sexual objectification or toys promoting a heightened/sensationalized sexuality & heteronormativity are both considerations under this category of analysis)?
• What values do the toys you found promote? Are they gendered values? How do gendered values teach children about propriety and social norms based on association with a particular gender?

2. Engendering Consumerism
o Examine the confluence of corporations and public educational institutions that has exploded over the past several years, resulting from the “No Child Left Behind Act.” The goal was to ‘reap the benefits of capitalism’ and the ‘innovation’ and competition leading to lower prices to ‘better’ schools in the US. However, the ideal capitalist outcomes are not always the result of privatization efforts, particularly as they’ve unfolded in US education. The piece you read by Henry Giroux highlights many of the examples of heightened corporate influence on education.
o For this option, you’ll be looking at:
• How corporate influence has affected the curriculum, teaching methods, testing, data collection, sponsorship, and capital investment projects at a school of your choice.
• You may use your local public high school or elementary school as a case study (or return to your own if you can) to examine the influence of advertising and corporate involvement on US public education in a particular school.
• Look at the ways in which socioeconomic class, gendered norms, and issues of race factor into your examination of the privatization of education.
• For this option, you will also need to conduct a bit of cursory research on demographics of area of the school you’re using. Try to find out what companies and their products are likely targeted at this location, and how the products that you find are part of the material construction of gender in childhood. In other words, you’re looking at how economics and corporate involvement engenders both consumption and gender simultaneously (as opposed to a more discursive construct of gender socialization).

If you find that you’re stuck, here are a few questions to consider:

• What messages are sent to children about “boys” and “girls” through their toys?
• How do toys facilitate the understanding of normative gender roles and stereotypes in childhood?
• If toys are cultural products that are considered benign and ‘innocent’ by virtue of their target demographic group, how do toys represent powerful methods of information dissemination (think of the arguments we read in the pieces by Lull, Johnson, and Hall)?
• Look at the age-ranges for the toys you’ve found, what messages are being sent? How can toys relate to an issue/value/aspect of adulthood? Try to find a gender-neutral toy that would appeal to the child you’ve been shopping for…how did it work out?
• How are children socialized into 21st century consumption (Lipsitz argued TV was the catalyst for the role of “consumer” as an ideal in US culture…how are children being “trained” as consumers)?

Don’t try to answer all the questions above, or tackle all the categories for possible analysis. These are just ideas to get you started on the assignment. Your thesis will be quite specific in relation to the specific analysis you pursue, the specific child/school, all in relation to the option chosen for this assignment.


Your analysis will be approximately 8-12 paragraphs in length, supported by at least 2 different course readings, and the source(s) of your toys used for analysis. Photos from websites or pictures you’ve taken will be particularly beneficial (make sure you don’t infringe on copyright laws, so cite where the pictures were taken from (if you didn’t take them yourself). Please use MLA format for in text citations and for the list of references that needs to be included at the end of your blog post (i.e. “References” after the conclusion).

Although this assignment will be in the form of a blog post, my expectations are similar to any other writing assignment. Specifically, this assignment is an analytical writing assignment; while I’m not hunting for grammar issues, writing clearly, staying focused and citing precise quotes are key factors in a good analysis. My primary focus, when reading your piece to grade it, will be on the quality of your analysis. Use the rubric you received for the first blog post’s grade as your guide for this post.

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