Guest Blog — Wordclouds for Toys Marketed to Boys v. Girls

Posted on March 31, 2011 by

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These two images speak for themselves.

Check out the wordcloud for toys marketed to boys, compared to the wordcloud for toys marketed to girls:

and:

Can you guess which one is which?

Find the explanation for how the wordclouds were conceived here.

These wordclouds don’t necessarily speak to latent gender preferences, but they do speak to gendered expectations on parents’ parts. In her explanatory post, the author includes a list of caveats about the way she chose which words to include.

It doesn’t take much of a stretch of the imagination to conclude, for instance, that it was the wordcloud creator who deemed certain toys girl-centric and others boy-centric.

More than anything, this exercise simply helps visualize how we perceive gender at all. Free marketers might support gendered toys, because so much of raising kids is helping them find peace with their biological selves.

In this high-speed time when so much of “women’s rights” is concerned with tamping biological selves — not to mention clocks — it’s telling that the “girls’ toys” wordcloud includes so many nurturing words.

Boys’ toys teach values like “power” and “battle” that are ambitious or at least competitive. Marketing to girls deals with emotion, “friendship,” babies, and sharing.

The illustration is simple: We tend to teach gender identity at an early age. The lesson is more complicated, and much more important: Feminism is not about denying gender; it’s about being a full human being, gender included, who is fully cognizant of choice.

The lesson, then, from these wordclouds is that a great deal of what little girls learn from an early age has to do with skills that tend traditionally towards the “supporting role” of the free market spectrum.

Little girls will hear the words “fashion,” “cute,” and “style” repeated like a din in the marketplace; if “boy” words like “heroes,” “action,” and “rapid” are important, girls will have to take an extra cognizant step to hear them.

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Posted in: Sexism