Gender stereotyping in toys; the boy always drives

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486842 Check out pages 66 and 67 of the Toys R Us “Great Big Christmas Book.”  These two pages contain pictures of ride on vehicles.  Of the four pictures showing a girl and boy riding in a car together, all four show the boy driving and the girl sitting passively. 

I decided to start Googling around the Internet to see if this was exceptional or common.  Well, it’s so common that I was not able to find a single picture for a motorized ride on vehicle ad from any company in which the girl is driving the boy.  Take for example the Mighty Wheelz 12V Ride-on Vehicle Item # 486842 found on a Costco ad. 

PTRU1-2872901reg I don’t know who created these pictures and I also certainly don’t know their intent.  Did the creators of these ads just miss the fact that girls were always passengers or did they factor in the fact that fathers (who probably are more interested in buying vehicles for kids than moms) might be put off by the depiction of a girl driving a boy?  Whatever the reason, it seems like an odd carry over from the days when women were suspect behind the wheel (remember the tag; "Woman Driver?").

If you have a minute, do some research and let me know if you find ads in which the girl is driving a boy.  Also, it would be great to hear from those who make the ads so that we can get their perspective. 

8 thoughts

  1. Having worked at TRU among others, I can tell you that research shows that girls will play with boys’ toys but boys will not play with what they deem to be “girls’ toys” i.e. any that depict a girl in an ad or on packaging as the principle user. It’s a sad fact of marketing but one that many still hew to especially in the vehicle category.
    Oddly, women buy 52% of all (real) cars in the U.S. and influence more than 85% of all car purchases, according to a 2010 GM study. When more automobile makers apply this research to their ads, there may be a trickle-down effect, and boys who view those ads would then find nothing out of the ordinary should a girl be depicted driving the very same vehicle that he likes.

  2. I’ve been talking about this for awhile now and it is why I created Princess Free Zone. So much of what kids see drive their perception. And so much of advertising, tv, movies, etc. stereotype girls and boys into prescribed roles. I’ve often said that advertising needs to change. That there need to be girls in Bakugan commercials, for instance. Likewise, boys with easy bake ovens (most chefs are men for gosh sake!). Having a daughter who rebelled against images of girls dressed like princesses and “girl” toys opened my eyes to these gender holes. Ultimately, the way options are presented needs to change so that both girls and boys realize they have a choice.

  3. I found a photo in a Business Week article of a girl driving a boy in a yellow Hummer. I could not post the link, but found it under google images.
    Although you are so right, the majority (vast) of photos are boys driving girls. It could be the type of car they are driving which are more rugged, typically boy-like vehicles (Jeep Wranglers, Hummers, Mercedes, off-road, racing sports).
    Now if it little pink and sporty, then you usually see a single girl riding it. It appears the Little Tikes and Peg Perego have a few girls in the driver’s seat in some of their photography! I found another link on that shows a girl driving a boy in the Peg Perego Polaris.
    But look at this copy to get a see the stereotype in action! Boys rule! Your little man will feel like “the boss” with the Peg Perego Polaris Trail Boss Ride On! This all new ATV with attitude is the hottest ride in town for gutsy boys who love to have fun! This powerful looking and performing vehicle has room for two, high performance steering, four-wheel suspension and automatic brakes.
    What about all the gutsy girls who like to have fun? Oh wait, they are home baking cookies in their Easy Bake Oven! LOL! Great article!

  4. Really interesting observation – and very true as I tried in vain to find an exception. The best I could find was a jeep with 2 girls…. a Barbie Jeep to be more specific 🙂

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