Gender Socialization


This exercise will aid students in analyzing the way in which gender is socially constructed. By analyzing children’s products (toys, clothes or other items) students will be able to highlight the ways in which messages are conveyed to children about what it means to be a boy or a girl in sometimes subtle or hard to see ways.

Visit a department store, children’s clothing store or toy store. Because of the global pandemic and necessary physical isolation, this should be done by looking online. Observe the items offered for sale and answer the following questions:

  1. What store (website) did you visit? How would you describe the store and the arrangement of the items for sale?
  2. Make a list of items intended for boys, girls or both. How do you know if they are intended for boys, girls or both? Did you notice anything or unusual or unexpected?
  3. What sort of messages do the items directed at boys, girls or both convey about what it means to be a boy or a girl? What sociological concepts are useful in helping to understand the arrangement of items in the store and the messages they are sending about gender?

You may have some suspicions before you do this exercise about what you will find, but try to let your argument be guided as much as possible by what you actually see in the store that you visit.


Please be sure that your essay tells us what store you visited and when, what you did in the store,

and what your overall impression of the store in relation to gender socialization was. Your main argument should be your answer to the question posed above. Make sure that you include lots of specific examples of toys and images that you actually observed. If you want, you can include screen shots of the images and include them in your essay.


Other questions that you may want to think about in figuring out what to say include patterns that

you observe in toys for girls, toys for boys, and more gender-neutral toys; how the toy

manufacturers make sure that you know that they are for girls or for boys or gender-neutral; things that seem positive to you and things that seem negative; anything that surprised you or caught your attention. Also keep in mind the concepts and ideas about socialization, norms, deviance, and the social construction of gender that we have/will cover in class as ways to develop your argument and talk about what you are observing.

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