Sociology 204 Writing Assignment Option 1: Gender Socialization and Toys
For this writing assignment you will be visiting a retail establishment to analyze one of the ways that gender socialization occurs in children. Specifically, you will visit a shop that sells children’s toys to better understand how toys reflect and communicate ideas about what it means to be a girl or a boy. Good options include Elephant Trunk in the 5th Street Market (there is also one in the Valley River Center) or Toys R Us near the Valley River Center.
Your visit should last at least 20 minutes, and you will need to take notes on what you are seeing, including specific details about toys and images that you observe, as well as notes about the layout of the store or other details that you find to be relevant. 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 in bold above. Make sure that you include lots of specific examples of toys and images that you actually observed. (Most stores won’t let you take photographs but if you want to include illustrations you can probably find the same packaging online). 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. This assignment is based on “Gender Socialization” in Sociology Through Active Learning, edited by Kathleen McKinney and Barbara S. Heyl. Los Angeles: Pine Forge Press. 2009.