Gender, sport, and TV ads

Fair warning: rant ahead. See, I have this hot button about gendering stuff, and in particular about how we build up images of what genders are and what a person of a given gender do. I always did, but let me just say that having a daughter has done nothing to lessen my sensibility in the area.

There’s so so many ways we tell our kids what girls are and do, and what boys are and do. And then when they come back and tell us what we’ve taught them, we say “see, boys and girls just have different aspirations right from the start”. Again and again we forget (or ignore, or whatever) that gender is a social construct.

This is so, so prevalent (all-pink girls section in the clothes store, anyone). What triggered me today was this little gem I found on YouTube (via Sociological Images):

Innocent, you say? Sure – except it tells little boys watching this they should strive to be heros and do stuff that will be admired, and it tells little girls that their role in spots is to admire the boys as they do their heroics. Which is not a good role model for girls who want to play ball themselves (did I mention that my daughter is really good at sports? No? Well, she is). In fact, it’s a model that tell girls that sports is not really for them, that their role is a passive one. With enough messages like this, active girls will go elsewhere – or learn to not be active. ’cause, you see, the message of “boys do, girls admire” is one of these patters that we (possibly unconsciously) teach our kids over and over, with TV adds being just one channel.

Messages that push women into a passive role (in sport or in society at large) are not good for our girls; as a father to a girl I’m annoyed by stuff like this. And frankly, messages that teach boys they should expect that a woman’s role is to admire them is not good for the boys either. These little boys in the ad may do good in basketball. But they will also grow up in a world where young women do better than young men in college, get better university degrees, and will get good jobs. These young women will not be looking for a boyfriend who expect them to sit passive and admire him (while he plays NBA2021 on his game console).

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