In any given day, your mind is being controlled. I know, I know; I sound like one of those radical conspiracy theorists who wear tin foil hats. But I’m not here to tell you that aliens or the government have you in some sort of trance, but rather that the media has legitimate control over you. More specifically, popular culture is gendering you. It isn’t just you, and it isn’t rare. It’s all of us, and they’re using gender scripts every single day to keep things the way they’ve always been, the way they designed it to be.
The theory of gender scripts was popularized by Ellen van Oost, and it is defined as “the discourses of gender that designers encode into consumer goods based on their assumptions about those products’ primary users” (Kearney 6). In layman’s terms, people who create and advertise products, services, etc. gear and guide them towards a specific gender, whichever they think is more fitting. When I first read this definition, I thought that it may be true in select circumstances. However, when I examined a day in my own life, I quickly realized that gender scripts exist everywhere, even in places where you believe they surely wouldn’t.
The first time I noticed that I was being gendered was in a television advertisement. I was watching the Cubs play the Indians in the World Series with a few of my friends, both male and female. To my surprise, with this being one of the biggest events in all of sports and widely watched by both genders, nearly all of the commercials were geared towards men. Some of them were expected, like the liquor ads. Like Messner said, “Liquor industry advertisements heavily influence the images of masculinity promoted in sports broadcasts” (Messner 1). This was something I already knew and expected, but that doesn’t make it an exception to gender scripts, as the beer ads specifically were marketed for men. Beyond the commercials that were expected to be targeting males, there were many products that are certainly for any gender that were marketed in a way that is specific to men. For example, an iPhone 7 commercial ran that was produced to showcase the speakers on the phone was geared clearly towards men. It showed an older man who wasn’t in particularly good shape lying by the pool next to an attractive woman, who was shown to be an object of male desire. The older man climbs up the high dive and jumps off, impressing the young woman, conveying the message that an older man can achieve being with a girl like that, provided he has the iPhone 7. In all, while watching one of the most viewed television events of the entire year with friends both male and female, gender scripts played a major role in the products that we’re advertised, with nearly all of them targeting men in ways involving typical gender constructs in our society.
Earlier in this day, I went to meet one of my friends for some coffee. As I told her about how I was spending my day observing gender scripts, she began to discuss some that she has noticed. She named some of the obvious, such as certain alcohols and children’s toys. She even went on to question whether a restaurant gears certain foods to different genders, bringing up Pumpkin Spice Latte’s at Starbucks being for girls and discussing how this may not be the fault of Starbucks, but instead the fault of consumers via social media. While this may be originally true, Starbucks has certainly embraced it, and now markets the drink in ways that are generally seen as cute, quirky, and girly. As the conversation went on, she posed the question of whether or not even our education is gendered. Not so much in the sense that men and women are essentially taught differently or separately, but it is undeniable that certain majors seem to be geared towards certain genders. We always hear the jokes about how there’s so few women in the engineering school, and much of the time it’s the engineering majors who make these claims. On the other end of the spectrum seems to be elementary education, where a current junior in the major claims that less than ten males are currently set to graduate in the same major as her. It certainly raises the question of whether our education is our own decision or if it is just another product sold to us that is gendered like much of the rest.
Like I said at the start, your mind is being controlled whether you are aware of it or not. Every day, you are subject to gender scripts, making products more or less appealing to you based on your gender. These gender scripts go well beyond the typical clothing or children’s toys, all the way to the foods you eat and the education you choose to receive. Your way out isn’t a tin foil hat, but rather making sure that you take a step back from a product and asking yourself if you’re partaking in this product because it’s what you want or because it’s gender scripts say you should do. Glory be to the free thinkers!
Kearney, Mary C. Pink Technology: Media Making Gear For Girls.
Messner, Michael. The Male Consumer as Loser: Beer and Liquor Ads in Mega Sports Media Events.