Essay Writing Samples

Television Ads for Children and Problems with Gender Inequality

Gender equality is an important topic for social justice activists in modern society. This sample essay explores how when it comes to the display of gender towards children, the debate changes to how men and women are portrayed in society.

Television commercials and gender inequality

Gender equality is a social issue that has been discussed for several years. The children’s media industry is not an exception in contributing to the inequality issue. Most of the children’s networks use advertisements that present various concepts and ideas that are gender insensitive. These advertisements seem to focus their attention on bringing out the differences in gender and representing one gender more than the other.

Advertisements within children’s programs display distinct traits that are specific to gender. The symbolic perspective best describes how this can influence children’s future actions. Television offers children a vision of what it means being a boy or girl, or a woman or man (Gotz, 2008). Most ads present more male characters than female characters. The traits between male and female characters show a high imbalance and gender inequality. Children’s television ads portray traits, behaviors, and social problems associated with gender inequality.

Television ads defining gender roles?

Children’s television ads often bring out a concept that defines a man and a woman in current society. Although these ads should promote gender equality in the society through portraying equality in access of power, resources, respect and status between men and women, they do the opposite. A culture of gender equality is one which has no limitations placed on people based on their gender identity.

Gender stereotyping can diminish the status and stand of women, and it can sustain the inequalities experienced by women with access to power, services, respect and resources (Valiulis, O’Driscoll & Redmond, 2007). Children should see and learn from media through a representation of gender equality in the programs aired to them. A culture of gender equality, can only start with advertisements aired to children that show what gender equality means in the 21st century.

After watching two hours of children’s television programming, I realized the networks gear their advertisements towards which gender is dominant in the program. On the 30th of October between 2:30pm-3:30pm and 3:30pm-4:30pm I watched four shows between The Disney Channel and Cartoon Network. These shows were A.N.T. Farm at 2:30pm, Jesse at 3:00pm, Johnny Test at 3:30pm, and Billy and Mandy Wrath Spider at 4:00pm.

There were various advertisements in between the shows. During the first hour of watching The Disney Channel, there were very few advertisements. However, after switching to Cartoon Network there were many commercials that aired. The total number of commercials was 37. These were mostly games, toys, and food. Boys were by far the most targeted audience on both channels with a total of 51%. Girls had a total of only 19%. Neutral commercials involving both boys and girls counted for a total of 30%. The food commercials, mostly for snacks were the most gender neutral.

Television ads for boys equal action and adventure

The highest numbers of total advertisements were gendered towards the male audience. The ads within the program Johnny Test mostly consisted of male games and toys. This is due to Johnny Test being a show aimed at the male children. With that being said, the advertisements within the show showed characteristics of the heroic character Johnny Test. The advertisements consisted mostly of toys that needed to be built, and were ultimately used to destroy a specific enemy. When there were female advertisements they were geared towards either baking ovens, or sewing machines.

The perception is that women are to stay home while men can go out have fun and do adventurous things (Wong & Chan, 2008). Most speaking and decision-making roles are given to men. These advertisements impact the child’s mind and give them a perception of how a woman or a man should be in society. Studies show that over 70% of speaking characters are male while 29% are female. Moreover, over 80% of male characters are working while only 19.5% female characters are working (McSweeney, 2012).

The main thing lacking in any study presented here, is a test study presenting toys to groups of both boys and girls, and tracking which toy appealed to which gender.

Gender inequality has been presented in child television ads in different ways. There is an imbalance in gender differences in the ads and television programs targeted for children. It should be noted that advertising to a certain demographic is an advertising technique that has been proven to be successful over time. Out of all the television ads targeted for children, 85% of them can be considered gender biased. A high percentage 55% is gendered towards the male audience while 30% are gendered towards the female. The other 15% is neutral because it targets both girls and boys and it is not gender specific (Johnson & Young, 2002).

However, most researchers say that neutral ads are male dominated because of the voices and the male characters that have more roles compared to the female characters. These ads are well differentiated using various directives and concepts that will attract the targeted audience. The ads are mainly for toys, games and books. The marketers do all they can to ensure that they capture a large audience. Girls feel that male gendered ads are sometimes better because they show heroic characters, have good music and seem to be more fun filled. Various differences between the ads are emphasized trough voice-overs, colors, traits and environment of the ad.

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