M2A2: Ethics Paper: Gender Awareness

M2A2: Ethics Paper: Gender Awareness

There are four ethics papers in the course, each requiring you to review information on a particular ethical issue. You are expected to seek additional information on the topic and integrate the course material.

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This paper is due at the end of Module 2 and addresses issues concerning gender awareness and identity in children.

In September 2010, Robert Gottlieb and Associates and Women in Toys co-hosted the “Building Our Future: Girls and Toys Conference” (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. in New York City. Attended by representatives from the toy manufacturing and marketing industries, media, parenting experts, gender researchers, celebrities, and experts in children’s television programming, the conference discussed how, despite awareness of gender issues, there is still much gender-skewing of the types of toys being made for boys and girls and how those toys are marketed.

Participants of the conference focused on the lack of toys for boys that teach nurturance and the dearth of toys for girls that teach skills in math and science. The overall conclusion of the participants was a need to further neutralize the toy market in creating and effectively marketing toys that teach math, science, and nurturance to all children.

For example, a toy made and marketed to boys is the Beyblade Metal Fusion Super Vortex Battle set. The toy is based on Japanese manga (comic book series) and its related anime (animation series), which tells the story of a group of young warriors who use powerful spinning tops as weapons in their quest to win a championship. The tops have creatures embedded in them that come out to do battle when the blades are used. The toy mentioned above appears to be marketed to boys, given the focus on its battle and weapon-based imagery and description, even though there are female characters in the manga and anime that could appeal to girls.

A toy made and marketed to girls is the ever-popular Barbie Doll from Mattel. First introduced in 1959, Barbie has evolved into a cultural toy icon, bought and sold all over the world. Mattel has risen to the challenge of addressing issues of race and gender-stereotypes by manufacturing Barbie collections that depict Barbie from different countries, cultures, and races. The gender stereotype issues are addressed through Barbie donning the outfits of various occupations, both traditional and non-traditional (for example, Barbie as astronaut, paleontologist, Army medic, etc.). However, the doll is still criticized for its voluptuous shape that exaggerates female physical features.

The ethics involved in these toys centers around the message sent to boys and girls about their gender identity as well as, in the case of Barbie, their body image. Boys do battle and girls dress up. Boys master skills of physical strength, and girls focus on their physical appearance. (Even Barbie Surgeon, Barbie Computer Engineer, and Barbie Pilot have to look sexy and fashionable.) The underlying message for both genders can be misleading—boys’ toys, such as Beyblade, involve violence while dolls like Barbie emphasize physical beauty.

A 2011 research paper by McCabe, Fairchild, Grauerholz, Pescosolido and Tope examined gender disparity in the representation of males and females in titles and central characters within a sample of 5,618 children’s books published in the U.S. throughout the 20th century. Since books have a significant impact on helping children understand gender roles and their own gender identity, the findings demonstrate patterns of inequality that differ with respect to time period, the type of children’s book, and type of character (human versus animal).

Given this information, along with Powell’s (2011) discussion in Chapter 3 of the textbook (section on children’s interests and activities), do the following:

Consider toy stores you have visited or a toy section of a department store.
What types of toys….
Or, consider book stores you’ve visited or viewed online.
Select either toys or books or one of each, and discuss the ethical issues involved in what these products communicate about gender stereotypes and gender roles.

Write a summary and analysis of the ethical issues involved. Organize your paper into the following sections:

Title page
Table of Contents
Introduction (1–2 paragraphs, briefly identifying the products you have selected)
Background (brief description of the products and the way they are marketed to be gender-specific)
Analysis (brief analysis of the ethical issues you uncovered and how they relate specifically to the course material with regard to gender awareness and identity development)
Conclusion (1–2 paragraph review of your findings)

List of suggested children’s books

Below is a suggested list of classic and present-day children’s books that may be used as the basis for this assignment. You may find more suggestions by searching the Caldecott Medal Winners (lists titles from 1938–2010) as well as popular series, such as the Little Golden Books (1942–2010). In addition, perusing any bookstore will provide a wide variety of newer titles.

Abraham Lincoln (1940)
Are You My Mother? (1960)
Big Snow, The (1949)
Biggest Bear, The (1953)
Doctor Dan, the Bandage Man (1951)
Frog Went A-Courtin’ (1956)
Girl Who Loved Wild Horses, The (1979)
Hop on Pop (1963)
Invention of Hugo Cabret, The (2008)
Just Like Daddy/Just Like Mommy (1952)
Lion & the Mouse, The (2010)
Little House, The (1943)
Little Island, The (1947)
Little Red Hen, The (1942)
Man Who Walked Between the Towers, The (2004)
Many Moons (1944)
Mei Li (1939)
Mirette on the High Wire (1993)
Oh, the Places You’ll Go (1990)
One Fine Day (1972)
Pokey Little Puppy, The (1942)
Polar Express, The (1986)
Rainbow Fish, The (1992)
Rapunzel (1998)
Rooster Crows, The (1946)
Saint George and the Dragon (1985)
Sam, Bangs & Moonshine (1967)
They Were Strong and Good (1941)
Where the Sidewalk Ends (1974)
Where the Wild Things Are (1964)

List of suggested toys

Below is a suggested list of classic and current children’s toys that may be used as the basis for this assignment. You may find more suggestions by searching the internet for top toys by a particular year or searching for all-time top-selling toys for girls or boys or both.

My Little Pony
Care Bears
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Action Figures
Power Rangers
Bob the Builder
Bratz Dolls
Thomas the Train
Hot Wheels
G.I. Joe
Mr. Potato Head
Chatty Cathy
Easy-Bake Oven
Cabbage Patch Kids
Zhu Zhu Pets

Your work should be submitted in a Word document, 2–3 pages in length (excluding the title, the table of contents and the references pages), typed double-space in 10- or 12-point Arial or Times New Roman font. The page margins on the top, bottom, left side, and right side should be 1 inch each. Use APA guidelines for citing and reference sources.

See the Course Calendar for due dates.

Keep the following points in mind:

The toy products or books are described as to their apparent market target (male or female child).

Answers are well developed and supported by proper reasons, research information, and examples.

Compose your work in a .doc or .docx file type using a word processor (such as Microsoft Word, etc.) and save it frequently to your computer. For those assignments that are not written essays and require uploading images or PowerPoint slides, please follow uploading guidelines provided by your instructor.

Check your work and correct any spelling or grammatical errors. When you are ready to submit your work, click “Upload Submission.” Enter the submission title and then click on “Select a file to upload.” Browse your computer, and select your file. Click “Open” and verify the correct file name has appeared next to Submission File. Click on “Continue.” Confirm submission is correct and then click on “Accept Submission & Save.”


This course has Turnitin® fully integrated into the course dropbox. This means that you should only submit your assignments to the dropbox below. Please do not submit your assignment directly to Turnitin.com.

Once submitted, your assignment will be evaluated by Turnitin® automatically. You will be able to view an Originality Report within minutes of your first submission that will show how much of your work has been identified as similar to other sources such as websites, textbooks, or other student papers. Use your Originality Report as a learning tool to identify areas of your assignment that you may not have cited appropriately. You may resubmit your assignment through this dropbox as many times as you need to check to see if you have made improvements, until the due date of the assignment. However, once you have made your first submission, you will need to wait 24 hours after each subsequent submission to receive a new Originality Report. Plan accordingly as you draft your assignment. Once the due date has passed, your assignment submission will be considered final.


This assignment will be graded using the SBT Ethics Discussion Grading Rubric located on the Course Rubrics page within the Start Here section of the course. Please review the rubric prior to beginning your work so that you ensure your submission meets the criteria in place for this assignment. Collectively, these assignments are worth 10% of your final course grade.


Expert Answer


Every child is born into a world of blue or pink, depending on their gender. If one takes a walk along a department store toy aisle, they would most likely observe a clear gender divide: toy cars or vehicles and superheroes for boys, and dolls and princesses for the girls (Klass, 2018). Many people believe that the significant gender divide in children’s toys simply reflects the different interests that girls and boys have. Others, however, perceive the observable gender divide to be toy manufacturers way of imposing gender stereotypes on children. Manufacturers method of marketing toys as either “toys for boys” or “toys for girls” has over the years attracted criticism from various people, organizations, and other critics. Toy cars are marketed to, and generally seen as toys for boys while Barbie dolls are regarded as toys for girls. There have been several initiatives started by organizations to advocate for gender-neutral toys, such as the “No Gender December”. However, there are people who oppose such initiatives, with statements such as “Let boys be boys, let girls be girls” (Kane, 2006) being used to oppose the initiatives.

Gender Stereotypes Observable in Toys

Even though there are people who believe that the gender divide in toys only reflects the difference in interests between boys and girls, evidence of gender stereotypes can be found in toy advertising and marketing. Gender stereotypes are imposed on children through the design of toys (Fine et al., 2019). The Barbie doll is marketed to girls, while superhero toys are marketed to boys. Even parents buy toys for their children based on their gender. A mother is most likely to buy a doll for their baby girl and a superhero toy for their male child (Kane, 2006). The Barbie doll is perhaps the most popular toy in the world. The Barbie doll is marketed in colors that are considered favorites of female children: red, pink, or purple (Karniol, 2011). Many people have campaigned against the Barbie doll, with claims that it encourages female children to look at themselves as housekeepers, mannequins for dressing up, or objects for sex. Others claim that barbie paints a picture of a woman who is only concerned with looking pretty and cleaning the house.

The character of Barbie reflects a materialistic tradition; being surrounded by a constant supply of beauty aids and personal belongings. The marketing of the doll by Mattel not only involves selling the doll but also ensuring that the buyer keeps coming back for more barbie supplies and goods. The body of the doll has also been criticized by many people. There have been studies that showed that children are greatly influenced by the toys that they play with. The Barbie doll affects girls, making them desire to have blonde hair and thinner bodies that have defined curves. Superhero toys, marketed as toys for boys, portray an image of strength. Gender identity is imposed through the message communicated by the toys, in this case, the body image (Karniol, 2011). While the Barbie doll portrays an image of a curvy body and dressing up, superhero toys portray physical strength. The message is that boys go for battle and are strong, while girls play dress up and look good (Klass, 2018). Even in cases where the Barbie doll is made as a pilot, the doll still must appear fashionable and elegant. Boys grow up desiring to be strong and powerful while girls desire to look good.


Mattel, in response to the criticism, had to address the gender stereotypes issues. The company has started manufacturing Barbie dolls that wear different outfits from various occupations, including Barbie as an army woman and Barbie as an astronaut. Several female superhero toys have also been introduced and are marketed as toys for girls, include Supergirl and Catwoman. Even though toy manufacturers are trying their best to avoid gender stereotypes when marketing and producing their toys, it is important that parents understand the effect that toys have on their children. It is only through understanding this effect that parents will shop toys randomly for their children. There should be no “toys for girls” or “toys for boys” in toy aisles of departmental stores.


Fine, C., Melbourne Business School, & University of Melbourne. (2019, January 24). Toys for girls and boys show gender stereotypes at play. Retrieved January 25, 2019, from https://pursuit.unimelb.edu.au/articles/toys-for-girls-and-boys-show-gender-stereotypes-at-play

Karniol, R. (2011). The color of children’s gender stereotypes. Sex Roles, 65(1-2), 119-132.

Kane, E. W. (2006). “No way my boys are going to be like that!” Parents’ responses to children’s gender nonconformity. Gender & Society, 20(2), 149-176.

Klass, P. (2018, February 5). Breaking Gender Stereotypes in the Toy Box. Retrieved January 25, 2019, from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/05/well/family/gender-stereotypes-children-toys.html

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