Advertisements often have problematic gender messaging; however, advertisements can also be used to combat negative messaging, drawing attention to problematic norms.
Building on the negative messaging from The Past is Present – Part 1 students should have a strong notion of the problematic messages that are inherenant in media pieces, and gendered advertisements. This lesson will focus on how things have, and can continue to be, improved.
This lesson is part of a large mini-unit on Teaching Gender Representation in the Media. It can be used as a stand alone piece, or part of a larger conversation.
The minds on for this project will take a look at the Demand Better Media in 2015 video by The Representation Project. This video demonstrates how things improved in the media during the year 2014, but also how it failed to change fast enough.
After watching this video, students will record their thoughts about how “Some things are improving…” / “But others things didn’t change fast enough…” Students can use their own paper, or you are use the Representation in Media Handout.
The Representation Project
After watching the above video, students should be able to reflect on the current state of gendered messaging in the media. On a sheet of paper, they should Think-Pair-Share about some of the positive changes they’ve seen over the past year, as well as some of the more problematic things that still need to change.
Just like the above video, students can discuss:
- Television shows
- Video Games
- News Events
Once this discussion has ended, students should see that there is hope for positive change, although it is happening slower than many of us would want. The focus of this lesson will be on how the media can help create change for the better.
Just like the previous lesson, this will be very teacher driven. You will guide students through a number of videos, leading them to come to their own conclusions. The first step in this lesson will be to revisit Goldieblox.
Goldieblox: From Then to Now
This will take students on a journey from the Goldieblox Kickstarter launch in 2012 all the way to 2018.
Having discussed gender normative toys in the Gender Lesson: The Toy Box students should now be ready to Compare those pieces to Goldieblox. After watching the above video, allow students a moment to discuss how Goldieblox is both similar, and different from other – more traditional – toys.
Next, have them discuss why this toy is important, and the positive impact it can have.
Three Years Later
Lead into this video by asking students if they think the toy succeeded, or not. Despite its success, the toy is still relatively unknown outside of those with young children. As such, students are probably unaware of the answer, and will be able to have rich discussion about this.
After viewing the video, the success of the product is obvious. Students should think about how toys can have a large impact on those that play with them, as well as the parents that purchase them.
Optional Activity: Four Corner Toys
Assign students into four groups:
- Barbie Dolls
- Thomas the Tank Engine
Students should separate into four different corners of your room. Once there, they should talk to each other about the toys. Their discussion should be focused around these three guiding questions:
- What makes this toy fun to play with?
- What are five different ways children could play with this toy?
- What positive impacts can playing with this toy as a child have on the individual when they become an adults?
For the third question, students should consider life skills, possible careers, personal development, or – if you’re feeling up to it – have them consider how these toys can connect to the Global Competencies.
After debriefing this, you are free to move on to the modern incarnation of Goldieblox.
Goldieblox has expanded beyond being a simple toy. Their YouTube Channel has more than 200 000 subscribers, and has programming aimed towards girls, with a focus on construction and creativity.
Where toys like Lego once provided an outlet to build, and create, Goldieblox has taken up the mantle, by becoming more than a simple toy. Their how-to videos, and creative content provides a space that turns girls from consumers into creators.
In the next part of this lesson, students will look at how Lego – once the king in the creator space – has been failing girls since the launch of their Lego Friends line.
In 2012 (the same year Goldieblox was created) Lego introduced a new line, specifically for girls. This meant more Pink and Purple, which fed into a number of Gender Normative tropes.
Saving the Dolphins
Students should consider both the positive and negative messaging in this short Lego Friends clip to introduce them to the line, before they watch a longer breakdown of the toy by Feminist Frequency host Antia Sarkeesian.
Lego and Gender
A number of students may groan at the mention on Antia Sarkeesian. You can remind them that she was addressed in the first video you watched, about how some things aren’t changing fast enough. She has been a target of online hate since she began her feminist YouTube series.
Students may point out one or two reasons why they disagree with her. You should honour their disagreement, but instruct them to criticize the idea, not the person. You should also point out that disagreeing with one or two points does not invalidate all of her points.
Having watched the Lego Friends video, students should be able to see how toys can have both a positive and negative impact on young children. They should also now realize that even when toy companies try to make change for the better, they can often end up creating a more problematic landscape that children need to navigate.
At this point you can choose to conclude the lesson, or assign students the: Lego vs. Goldieblox Comparison RAFT Assignment which will be the focus of a future lesson.
Now it’s time to see if other companies are looking to make positive change through their products, and advertisements. The answer is a resounding YES! A number of companies are using Feminism in their marketing.
Students will look at two strong examples of this, before discussing why they feel companies are moving along these lines. While the answers is almost definitely, “because it makes them more money.” the fact that Feminism, and creating a positive space for women, is now profitable is a worthwhile thing to consider.
Pantene – Labels Against Women
Finally, students should look back on the representation of women from 2014 in the first video, and consider how things have changed from then until now. They should then be asked to consider what they think the media-landscape, in regards to gender normativity, will look like five years from now. They can write their assumptions about positive changes, and things that they feel won’t change fast enough on the back of their minds on notes.
Students should hand this in before they leave. You can use these comments as a way to host a discussion at the start of your next class.
Now that we have explored media representation, giving students a strong foundation to do their own research and explore the world around them, you can move on to the lesson where they will analyze a variety of advertisements.
If you have not already done so, students should be introduced to The Media Triangle which is the lens through which they will analyze works of media, moving forward.