ArticlePDF Available

The Gender Marketing of Toys: An Analysis of Color and Type of Toy on the Disney Store Website

Authors:

Abstract and Figures

The purpose of this study was to examine 1) the extent to which the gender marketing of toys on the Internet replicates findings of previous studies of the gendering of toys, and 2) the extent to which toys for “both boys and girls”, a previously overlooked category of toys, share characteristics, such as color and type of toy, with toys marketed for “boys only” or for “girls only”. The sample consisted of the 410 toys listed for boys and the 208 toys listed for girls, including 91 toys that appeared on both lists, on the English language U.S. Disney Store website. The marketing of toys on the Disney Store website is important not only because of the growth in e-commerce, but also because of this company’s global domination of the children’s entertainment industry. Tabular analysis and chi-square revealed that bold colored toys, predominantly red, black, brown, or gray toys, and those that were action figures, building toys, weapons, or small vehicles typified toys for “boys only” on this U.S. website. Pastel colored toys, predominantly pink or purple toys, and those that were dolls, beauty, cosmetics, jewelry, or domestic-oriented typified toys for “girls only”. A majority of toys for “both boys and girls” were mostly “gender-neutral” in type, but they resembled toys for “boys only” in terms of their color palette, presumably to appeal to boys, who are less likely to cross gender lines than girls. The potential impact of the gendering of toys on individuals as well as limitations of this research and suggestions for future research are discussed.
Content may be subject to copyright.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE
The Gender Marketing of Toys: An Analysis of Color and Type
of Toy on the Disney Store Website
Carol J. Auster & Claire S. Mansbach
Published online: 26 June 2012
#
Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012
Abstract The purpose of this study was to examine 1) the
extent to which the gender marketing of toys on the Internet
replicates findings of previous studies of the gendering of
toys, and 2) the extent to which toys for both boys and
girls, a previously overlooked category of toys, share char-
acteristics, such as color and type of toy, with toys marketed
for boys only or for girls only. The sample consisted of
the 410 toys listed for boys and the 208 toys listed for girls,
including 91 toys that appeared on both lists, on the English
language U.S. Disney Store website. The marketing of toys
on the Disney Store website is important not only because of
the growth in e-commerce, but also because of this com-
panys global domination of the child rens entertainment
industry. Tabular analysis and chi-square revealed that bold
colored toys, predominantly red, black, brown, or gray toys,
and those that were action figures, building toys, weapons,
or small vehicles typified toys for boys only on this U.S.
website. Pastel colored toys, predominantly pink or purpl e
toys, and those that were dolls, beauty, cosmetics, jewelry,
or domestic-oriented typified toys for girl s only. A major-
ity of toys for both boys and girls were mostly gender-
neutral in type, but they resembled toys for boys only in
terms of their color palette, presumably to appeal to boys,
who are less likely to cross gender lines than girls. The
potential impact of the gendering of toys on individuals as
well as limitations of this research and suggestions for future
research are discussed.
Keywords Gender
.
Toys
.
Socialization
.
Children
.
Disney
Introduction
Toys play an important role in childrens lives and socializa-
tion, particularly since children spend time playing with toys
by themselves as well as with their peers, parents, and other
family members (Corsaro 1997; Seiter 1993). All of the stud-
ies described in this paper were conducted in the U.S. unless
otherwise noted, and many of these revealed the ways in
which many aspects of adults expectations for children are
gendered, including adults perceptions of the toys that are
appropriate for boys and appropriate for girls (Blakemore and
Centers 2005; Caldera et al. 1989;Fisher-Thompson1990;
Fisher-Thompson et al. 1995; Kane 2006). Children learn
about the toys seen as appropriate for their gender not only
from adults and children but also through the media, which
serves as an important source of socialization (Gerbner et al.
1994). While television and film have been the focus of many
past studies of the impact of media on gender socialization and
gendered choices, our study adds to that research with a study
of another form of media, namely the Internet, a vehicle of
consumer marketing and purchasing that is skyrocketing in
popularity (Pew Research Center 2010). Our research allowed
us to exam ine how adults, namely marketing executives,
market toys to adults and children, but it cannot reveal adults
and childrens actual perceptions of toys. The sample for our
content analysis consisted of images of all of the toys on the
English language U.S. Disney Store website, which allowed
us the opportunity to analyze the images of boys toys and
girls toys as labeled and marketed by a multinational corpo-
ration that has global domination in the childrensentertain-
ment industry (Davis 2006; England et al. 2011;Giroux1997;
Orenstein 2011; Wasko 2001).
Our study potentially makes a number of contributions to
the literature. First, since the Internet is a relatively new form
of the consumer marketing of toys, it is important to examine
the extent to which specific characteristics of toys serve as
C. J. Auster (*)
:
C. S. Mansbach
Department of Sociology, Franklin and Marshall College,
Lancaster, PA 17604-3003, USA
e-mail: causter@fandm.edu
Sex Roles (2012) 67:375388
DOI 10.1007/s11199-012-0177-8
gender markers when toys are marketed on the Internet as well
as the extent to which findings about the e-commerce market-
ing of toys replicate the findings of past studies of adults and
childrens choices of toys. The characteristics studied here
were color palette (i.e. bold or pastel), predominant color
(e.g. pink, yellow, black), and type of toy (e.g. action figure,
doll). Second, on the Disney Store website, gender was trum-
peted above all other categories, letting customers click on a
Girls tab that provided a list of toys marketed as appropriate
for girls and a Boys tab that provided a list of toys marketed
as appropriate for boys. There was no tab on the website that
indicated Toys for Children or Toys for Both Boys and
Girls though some toys appeared on both the list for boys and
the list for girls. We were especially interested in the extent to
which toys simultaneously marketed to both boys and girls
have characteristics similar to or different from toys marketed
to only boys or only girls. The characteristics of such toys may
reveal the extent to which gender expectations for girls and
boys overlap and the degree of flexibility of gender expect-
ations for girls and boys. Third, the wide-reaching impact of
The Walt Disney Company, a company described as an ar-
chitect of consumer culture (Schor 2004, p. 9), is also of
importance. While scholars have studied the portrayal of
gender, particularly the role of women, in Disney films (Bell
et al. 1995; Davis 2006; England et al. 2011;Giroux1997;
Wiersma 2000), they have not examined the marketing of toys
by The Walt Disney Company.
Literature Review
In the lead article of a special issue of Sex Roles, Rudy et al.
(2010) described a number of motivations for conducting
research using content analysis. These included studying
gender-based inequities as well as the effects that message
producers have on message content and that messages
have on audiences (p. 307). Our examination of the gen-
dered marketing of toys on the Internet reflects the impact
that message producers have on message content, though
our study cannot evaluate the actual effect on audiences,
namely those purchasing the toys. Nevertheless, Bandura
(1986) describes many ways that gender socialization is
influenced by dire ct interactions with o thers, but he and
others also acknowledge that the media, which presumably
would now include the Inter net, can have a notable impact
on what individuals learn during the process of socialization
(Bandura 2002; Goldstein et al. 2004), including gender
socialization. Gerbner et al. (1994), in their discussion of
cultivation theory, emphasize the impact of the exposure
to television, as a form of media, on gender expectations,
but one could easily extend their ideas to the Internet as a
form of media. Thus, individuals
own experiences and their
observations of others both in their immediate environment
and in the media contribute to their socialization and self-
socialization, including their gender socialization (Martin et
al. 2002; Tobin et al. 2010).
The Marketing and Gendering of Toys
Customers visit websites to garner ideas for toys or decide on
the appropriateness of their ideas or the ideas of the children
requesting the toys. Throughout the childhood years, parents
and other adults largely control what is purchased which, of
course, reflects what those adults perceive as appropriate or
inappropriate toys for the children in their lives, though chil-
dren are also important active agents in expressing their toy
choices and how they play with toys; in this respect, children
also engage in gender self-socialization (see Tobin et al. 2010).
Individuals toy choices are shaped by societal expectations,
including how those toys are marketed to both the adults and
children making the choices (Clark 2007). Admittedly, the
gendered marketing of toys reveals choices by marketing
executives that could represent the preferences of marketing
executiv es, the ir ass umpti o ns about what their customers
want to see on the website, or some combination of the two.
Color Palette and Predominant Color
Color palette as bold or pastel and predominant color are
often an important aspect of gendered learning that allows
children to begin to associate objects, including toys, with
one gender or the other (Karniol 2011). Another indication
of the importance of color is that toy designers say, Colors
are used for identifying as well as differentiating its like
eye candy (Fishel 2001, p. 17), and toy marketers carefully
research details such as color in their development and
marketing of toys (Clark 2007). Consequently, it is impor-
tant to look at these characteristics in thi s study of the
gendered marketing of toys as well as at the findings of
previous studies of these characteristics.
Kahlenberg and Hein (2010) found that when commercials
on Nickelodeon were mostly pastel, they had only girls in
them and pastel colored toys tended to be shown with girls. In
contrast, boys tended to be dressed wearing bright or neon
colors in these advertisements (Kahlenberg and Hein 2010).
Similarly, in her study of Halloween costumes and sewing
patterns for Halloween costumes in Canadian stores, Nelson
(2000) found that male clowns were shown wearing bold
colors, while female clowns were shown wearing pastel colors
and princess costumes tended to be predominantly pink. The
symbolic significance of colors is undoubtedly socially con-
structed. For example, a Ladies Home Journal article in June
1918 said, The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys,
and blue for the girls’”, and in Time magazine in 1927, leading
American department stores promoted dressing onessonin
pink (Maglaty 2011). Today, however, pink is an important
gender marker for girls, and Ruble et al. (2007) described
376 Sex Roles (2012) 67:375388
some young American girls near obsession with pink frilly
dresses (PFD). Stern and Schoenhaus (1990)further
reported, “…when a girls toy is failing, they [toy marketers]
try pinking it up to make it more popular (p. 201). A sample
of birth congratulations cards and the accompanying enve-
lopes for girls were more likely to be pink, while blue was the
predominant color for boys (Bridges 1993). Karniols(2011)
study of Israeli childrens crayon preferences for use in color-
ing books revealed that boys avoided using pink, offering
further support for pink as a girl color in the American,
Canadian, and Israeli cultures. Moreover, in toy stores, the
aisles for girls are flooded with pink and purple (Fishel 2001;
Seiter 1993), and Turgeon (2008) found that 2nd and 3rd
grade girls showed a stronger preference than boys for pink
and purple in their free drawings. Pennells(1994) qualitative
findings of a study of toy advertisements from catalogues and
newspapers indicated that toys for girls were more likely to be
pastel, particularly pink and lavender. Moreover, toy market-
ers believe girls are more likely to prefer pastel colors, while
boys go for stronger colors (Clark 2007). These findings were
further supported by a study of attitudes about color among
British subjects that revealed that red and darker colors are
associated with dominance (Little and Hill 2007). In short,
darker and bold colors have been associated with boys, and
pastel colors, particularly pink followed by lavender or purple,
have been associated with girls.
Type of Toy
Fishel (2001)says,Toyland really is boy and girl land (p.
13) and Steinberg and Kincheloe (1997) argue that a gendered
childrens consumer culture persists, including little change in
toy advertisements since the 1950s. Even in the 1990s,
Seiters(1993)andKlines(1993)researchinCanadashowed
that the themes of television advertisements for toys supported
traditional gender expectations in terms of types of toys with a
focus on battles, action, and domination for boys, and nurtur-
ing, glamour, and domesticity for girls. Nearly two decades
later, Kahlenberg and Hein (2010) examined toy commercials
appearing on Nickelodeon, an American television channel
aimed at children, and found little had changed; toys related to
action figures, sports, and transportation were predominantly
featured in boys only commercials, and dolls, animals, and
toys related to grooming, childcare, and domesticity were
featured in girls only commercials.
Williams (2006) suggested that adults choose gender-typed
toys in hopes that this “…
will allow the child to experience the
pleasures of gender and pick up some lessons on proper
stereotypical behavior (p. 171). Adults choice of sex-
typed toys was evident in the types of toys found in toddlers
rooms among French-speaking Canadians (Pomerleau et al.
1990) as well as in the objects pictured on birth congratulatory
cards (Bridges 1993). Moreover, studies of adults attitudes
about childrens toys have shown that many adults, including
college students, continue to tend to rate and evaluate toys in
very gender stereotyped ways (Blakemore and Centers 2005;
Fisher-Thompson 1990; Fisher-Thompson et al. 1995). In
such studies, adults seemed to use clues related to the category
into which the toy fit as well as color or even the logo on the
object (Fisher-Thompson et al. 1995)asgendermarkers.
Regardless of adults attitudes about the gendering of toys,
children are also active agents in the process of socialization,
including their gender socialization (Thorne 1993; Tobin et al.
2010). Children have preferences that can be shaped by the
many people in their lives as well as by the media (Bandura
2002; Gerbner et al. 1994). A study of letters to Santa written
by elementary school age children showed that toy selections
traditional for each gender were common (Downs 1983). The
findings of a more recent study of 5- to 13-year olds indicated
that childrens toy choices were still quite gendered; girls were
more likely to prefer dolls, stuffed animals, and educational
toys as favorites, while boys preferred manipulative toys,
vehicles, and action figures (Cherney and London 2006). In
a study of coloring book choice among Israeli children, the
importance of a gender-linked character, such as Batman, on
the cover affected childrens choice of coloring book, and
boys tended to avoid coloring a fairy (Karniol 2011), thus
further su pporting the gende ring of types of t oys. Seiter
(1993) succinctly describes the difference between American
boys and girls choices as follows: Boys become their toys
in play; girls take care of their toys (p. 131).
Gender Crossing and Gender-Neutral Toys
The findings of the studie s discussed above showed that
adults and childrens perceptions and choices of toys are quite
gendered and that particular types of toys and colors are
strongly associated with gender. Nevertheless, there is greater
variation in the choice of colors for or by girls (Fishel 2001;
Kahlenberg and Hein 2010; Karniol 2011; Pomerleau et al.
1990), and girls are more likely than boys to find gender-
neutral toys appealing or to cross gender lines (Caldera et al.
1989;Downs1983; Marcon and Freeman 1996). This tenden-
cy of girls more so than boys to engage in this gender crossing
may be due to the fact that boys parents tend to discourage
their sons from engaging in most feminine activities and
encourage them to engage in the more narrow range of activ-
ities associated with traditional masculinity (Kane 2006).
In Toy R Us stores, the gender crossing is locational;
“…boys toys are encountered before girls toys so that girls
must pass the boys toys before reaching their own sections,
but boys can completely avoid the girls aisles…” (Seiter
1993,p.208).Schor(2004)suggeststhattomaketoysap-
pealing to boys, boy characters and masculine behavior must
be pervasive in toy ads that are aimed at boys or both genders
since boys tend to avoid that which appears feminine and are
Sex Roles (2012) 67:375388 377
more reluctant than girls to cross gender lines. Although the
primary colors, namely blue, red, and yellow, associated with
the packaging for infant and preschool toys are supposedly
gender-neutral, Seiter believes that they are packaged in these
colors so that they are inoffensive to boys (p. 210). Further-
more, toy marketers are more likely to choose a boy for a toy
commercial since girls will listen to boys, but boys wont
necessarily listen to girls (Clark 2007, p. 185). In short, girls
are more likely than boys to engage in gender crossing and
this affects how toy marketers promote their products.
If marketers have correctly assessed what appeals to boys
and girls, then marketers strategies also reflect girls seeking
and having available to them a wider range of acceptable
choices. With regard to color, although pastel toys in the
Nickelodeon commercials were promoted for girls and not for
boys, many girls toys were also bright or neon colors (Kahlen-
berg and Hein 2010). Pomerleau et al. (1990) also found that
when Canadian parents decorated toddlers rooms, parents
chose more variation in wall color in girls rooms than in boys
rooms. Karniol (2011) found that Israeli girls showed more
flexibility and variation than boys in their choice of crayon
color for use in coloring books. In recent years, Parham San-
tana, a major advertising and branding firm for Mattel, updated
Barbies traditional pink with a selection of bright colors (Fishel
2001, p. 15) and the GetRealGirl line of athletic dolls were
dressed in bold colored athletic clothes and packaged in bright
blue and orange (Fishel 2001,p.33),nottypicalgirlcolors.
In addition to the greater variation in color marketed to
girls, girls have been more likely than boys seek out or find
gender-neutral toys appealing (Caldera et al. 1989; Downs
1983). Furthermore, on birth congratulations cards, quite a
number had pictures of gender-neutral items, such as rattles
and mobiles, but these appeared more often on cards for the
parents of newborn girls than for those of newborn boys
(Bridges 1993).
Despite this emphasis on the gendered marketing of toys,
both boys and girls asked Santa for sports equipment, male
dolls, and educational, musical, and art toys (Marcon and
Freeman 1996), and it was games and building toys that
appeared in gender-neutral commercials (Kahlenberg and Hein
2010). Nelson (2000) also found a few Halloween costumes
and sewing patterns that were gender-neutral, but they tended
to be for infants. In sum, although there were gender-neutral
toys that were equally appealing to boys and girls, girls were
more likely than boys to have available to them a wider variety
of acceptable activities and colors and engage in gender cross-
ing reminiscent of gender expectations for adults.
Research Questions and Hypotheses
Since the 1970s, social scientists have been studying adults
and childrens gendered perceptions and choices of toys and
found that a gendered childrens consumer culture persists
(Steinberg and Kincheloe 1997). These studies as well as
studies of Disney films show the continued production of
and the impact of the gendering of toys and play, but there is
also some evidence of interest in gender-neutral toys and
gender crossing, though more so by girls than by boys. Thus,
three significant gaps remain. First, with the g rowth in
e-commerce, it is important to examine the extent to which
the gendering of toys is reflected in Internet marketing. Sec-
ond, it is important to understand the extent to which toys
marketed as appropriate for both boys and girls share char-
acteristics, such as color palette, predominant color, and types
of toys, with toys marketed as for boys only or for girls
only. And finally, if Disney has the broad-reaching influence
suggested by scholars, then it would seem important to look at
the extent of the gender marketing of toys by this company.
Based on previous research, we developed the research
questions and hypotheses that follow. Our first research ques-
tion focused on the extent to which the Internet marketing of
toys on the Disney Store website would replicate the findings
of previous studies about adults and childrens toy choices
and preferences. Prior research showed a strong association
between gender and color palette with bold colors more likely
to be associated with boys and pastel colors more likely to be
associated with girls (Clark 2007; Kahlenberg and Hein 2010;
Nelson 2000;Pennell1994) and a strong association between
gender and specific colors, including pink (Bridges 1993;
Fishel 2001;Karniol2011;Nelson2000; Ruble et al. 2007;
Seiter 1993; Turgeon 2008); lavender or purple (Fishel 2001;
Pennell 1994; Seiter 1993; Turgeon 2008); red (Little and Hill
2007); and blue (Bridges 1993). Several authors also pointed
tothegenderedaspectofstrongordarkcolors(Clark2007;
Fisher-Thompson et al. 1995; Kahlenberg and Hein 2010;
Little and Hill 2007). In addition, previous research showed
that traditional gender expectations were reflected in adults
assessment of toys and the types of toys that boys and girls
chose (Blakemore and Centers 2005; Cherney and London
2006; Downs 1983; Fisher-Thompson 1990;Fisher-
Thompson et al. 1995; Kahlenberg and Hein 2010; Kline
1993; Marcon and Freeman 1996; Pomerleau et al.
1990;
Seiter 1993). As a result of this past research, we developed
the following hypotheses for the first stage of analysis.
H1a. The color palette of toys will refl ect gender stereo-
types, such tha t pas tel co lored t oys w ill b e mor e
likely to be for girls only than for boys only,
and bold colored toys will be more likely to be for
boys only than for girls only.
H1b. Toys that have as their predominant color red or blue or
colors that are both dark and more neutral, such as
black, gray, or brown, will be more likely to be for
boys only, while toys that have pink or purple as their
predominant color will be more likely to be for girls
only. The remaining colors will not be gendered.
378 Sex Roles (2012) 67:375388
H1c. The types of toys wi ll reflect traditional gender
activities, such that toys associated with domestic
activities, including personal beauty, will be more
likely to be for girls only, while toys associated
with action figures, small vehicles, building, and
weapons will be more likely to be for boys only.
The remaining types of toys will not be gendered.
Our second research question focused on discovering the
extent to which the characteristics of toys listed as appropriate
for boys and appropriate for girls would be similar to or
different from toys for boys only or for girls only.The
tendency of girls to be more likely than boys to cross gender
lines (Caldera et al. 1989; Downs 1983;Kane2006;Marcon
and Freeman 1996; Schor 2004;Seiter1993)aswellasfind-
ings that showed greater variation in the choice of colors for or
by girls (Fishel 2001; Kahlenberg and Hein 2010; Karniol
2011; Pomerleau et al. 1990) informed our predictions.
H2a In terms of color palette, toys for both boys and
girls will be more likely to resemble toys for boys
only than for girls only.
H2b In terms of predominant color, toys for both boys
and girls will be more likely to resemble toys for
boys only than for girls only.
H2c In terms of the type of toy, toys for both boys and
girls will be more likely to resemble toys for boys
only than for girls only.
H2c1 Toys for both boys and girls
that are gender-
neutral in type based on the analysis associated
with H2c will still resemble toys for boys only in
terms of color palette (i.e. bold).
Method
Sample
In order to examine the relationship between a variety of
characteristics of toys, such as color palette, predominant
color, and the type of toy, we used images of all of the toys
on the official Disney Store (2010) website. Our focus was
on toys on the Disney Store website, not on other items such
as Disney clothes, costumes, home décor, or movies. After
selecting Shop by Category and Toys, one could select
tabs for types of toys such as Dolls or Action Figures,
but it was not possible to select toys for either boys or
girls or for both boys and girls. Instead, one could only
select Boys [sic] Toys or Girls [sic] Toys. Consequently,
our sample consisted of all of the toys displayed on the
website, of which 410 were listed for boys and 208 were
listed for girls, though 91 of these appeared on both the list
for boys and the list for girls. Since Di sney adds and deletes
toys on the website with some regularity, we saved images
of each toy in order to have a permanent record of the toys
on the website that were used in this analysis.
Coding
Each toy was then coded on the basis of three character-
istics. First, each toy was assigned one of two codes based
on whether the overall color palette was bold or pastel. If the
toy appeared to reflect both bold and pastel, the toy was
assigned the code that reflected the most overwhelming
color palette. Second, toys were coded for the predominant
color based on the color that covered the most surface area
of the toy. Twelve different colors, including red, b lack,
pink, and yellow, made up the coding scheme. The third
characteristic, type of toy, was coded using 15 categories, such
as action figures, dolls, and stuffed animals and plushes (see
Appendix). The name of the toy as it appeared on the website
as well as how the toy was supposed to be used was taken into
account in coding this variable. For example, the toy with the
name Deep Dive Armor Iron Man 2 Action Figure was
coded as an action figure, while Pook-a-Looz Minnie
Mouse Plush Toy was coded as stuffed animals and
plushes. Both the Vinylmation The Muppets 1 Series
Figures
and the Disney Fairies Figurine Play Set were
coded as figures and figurines.Thecategorysmall
vehicles included the Disney Cars Friction Powered Sheriff
Car and Handy Mannys Fix-It Motorcycle Toy Vehicle,
toys associated with transportation that were small enough for
imaginary hand play. In contrast, the Buzz Lightyear Toy
Story 3 Bike and the Disney Princess Scooter were coded
as sports, bicycles, scooters since these wheeled vehicles
were intended to be ridden by children.
Reliability
We assessed inter-rater reliability by having one of the
researchers serve as the first coder and an individual not
familiar with the project serve as a blind second coder for
100 % of the sample. Cohens kappa (Neuendorf 2002;
Wimmer and Dominick 2011) appropriate for nominal
data was used as the measure of reliability . Reliability between
the coders fo r all three variables was high: color palette
(kappa0 .86); color (kappa0 .90); and type of toy (kappa0 .84).
Since these variables all involved coding manifest rather than
latent content, this may have contributed to the high kappa
values. Nevertheless, the author who had not yet coded the
toys then compared the coding of the first and second coders to
identify the nature of the existing discrepancies. Nearly all of
the discrepancies were of the sort for which there was some sort
of understandable ambiguity. For example, for color, the actual
color covering the most surface area was occasionally ambig-
uous, such as orange-yellow, a color that was coded as orange
Sex Roles (2012) 67:375388 379
by the first coder and yellow by the second coder. In addition,
some toys consisted of multiple parts, such as two blocks,
each of which was a different color; one coder chose green and
the other coder chose blue. To resolve these types of coding
discrepancies, t he choices of the coders were used in an
alternating pattern. For example, for first toy for which there
was a discrepancy for color between coders, the color chosen
by the first coder was assigned to the toy. For the next toy for
which there was a discrepancy for color between coders, the
color chosen by the second coder was assigned to that toy. For
the third toy with a discrepancy between coders, the code
category chosen by the first coder was assigned to the toy,
and so on. In this way, such discrepancies were resolved in an
unbiased manner by using this alternating system.
Procedure
For the first stage of the analysis and three hypotheses
related to the possible replication o f findi ngs in the existing
literature, we looked the relationship of the two-category
classification of toys, toys for boys only (n0 319) and toys
for girls only (n0 117) as identified on the Disney website
with each of the three characteristics, namely color palette,
predominant color, and type of toy. For each of these three
relationships, the characteristic was used as the independent
variable and the two-category classification of toys was used
as the dependent variable in the tabular analyses. Chi-square
was used as a test of statistical significance. In this way, we
would be able to see the distribution of these potential
gender markers across the two categories of toys; that is,
for example, of toys that were pink, we would know what
percent of toys were for boys only and what percent were
for girls only .
For the second stage of the analysis, a toy that appeared
both on the list of toys Disney deemed as appropriate for
boys and the list of toys for girls would be categorized only
as a toy for both boys and girls. When we added the toys
for both boys and girls to the previous two-category
classification, the result was that toys were in three mutually
exclusive categories. This three-category classific ation of
toys was comprised of toys for boys only, girls only,
and both boys and girls.Thisthree-categoryclassification
of toys was then was used as the independent variable and the
three characteristics of toys were used as dependent variables
for this second stage of the analysis.
Results
Descriptives
The sample was comprised of 527 toys; 60.5 % (n0 319)
were for boys only, 22.2 % (n0 117) were for girls only,
and 17.3 % (n0 91) were for both boys and girls. Of these
toys, 81.6 % (n0 430) were bold colored and 18.4 % (n0 97)
were pastel colored. In terms of predominant color, the most
common colors were blue (16.5 %, n0 87) and red (16.1 %,
n0 85) followed by green (11.8 %, n0 62), yellow (9.9 %,
n0 52), black (9.7 %, n0 51), white (9.1 %, n0 48), and pink
(7.0 %, n0 37). In descending order, the remaining colors
each comprised less than 5 %: gray (4.9 %, n0 26), brown
(4.7 %, n0 25), purple (4.0 %, n0 21), orange (3.4 %, n0 18),
and tan (2.8 %, n0 15). With regard to type of toy, stuffed
animals and plushes (28.7 %, n 0 151), action figures
(16.9 %, n0 89), figures and figurines (15.2 %, n0 80), and
small vehicles (13.7 %, n0 72) together comprised nearly
75 % of the toys. Dolls made up 6.3 % (n0 33) of the toys
and the remaining categories were each 3 % or less: board
and card games (3.0 %, n0 16), learning toys (2.8 %, n0 15),
musical instruments (2.7 %, n0 14), electronic games and
accessories (2.1 %, n0 11), sports, bicycles, and scooters
(1.7 %, n0 9), weapons (1.5 %, n0 8), domestic-oriented
toys (1.3 %, n0 7), building toys (1.1 %, n0 6), bath toys
(.9 %, n0 5), beauty, cosmetics, and jewelry (.9 %, n
0 5),
and creative toys (.6 %, n0 3).
Gender Markers
First, we used color palette as the independent variable and
the two-category classification of toys based on Disneys
categorization, namely toys for boys only and for girls
only, as the dependent variable to identify bold and pastel
as possible gender markers. We hypothesized that the color
palette of toys would reflect gender stereotypes, such that
pastel colored toys would be more likely to be for girls
only than for boys only, and bold colored toys would be
more likely to be for boys only than for girls only.
Table 1 shows that this hypothesis was supported and that
the relationship between color palette and the two-category
classification of toys was significant χ
2
(1, n0 436)0 96.0,
p<.001. Although 83.6 % of toys that were bold colored
were toys for boys only, only 16.4 % of bold colored toys
were for girls only. A bold color is reflected by the Club
Penguin Limited Edition Penguin Plush Gra duate,a
vibrant red penguin dressed in a black suit, which Disney
categorized as for boys. In contrast, 68.2 % of pastel toys
were for girls only and only 31.8 % of pastel toys were for
boys only. The Prince ss and the Frog Tianas Serving
Set is categorized by Disney as a girls toy and consisted of
a variety of pastel cups, plates, and utensils, each of which was
pink, lavender, light green, pink, or light yellow. Thus, a bold
color was more likely to be a gender marker associated with
toys for boys only, while a pastel color was more likely to be
a gender marker associated with toys for girls only.
With regard to predominant color, the color that covered
the most surface area of the toy, the hypothesis was that toys
380 Sex Roles (2012) 67:375388
that were red, blue, or colors that are both dark and more
neutral, such as black, gray, and brown, would be more likely
to be toys for boys only, while toys that were pink or purple
would be more likely to be for girls only. The remainder of
the colors would not be gendered. When we used the predom-
inant color as the independent variable and used the two-
category gender classification of toys as the dependent vari-
able to identify colors that were possible gender markers, we
found a notable pattern between these two variables. Table 1
shows that more than 85 % of toys that had red, black, brown,
or gray as their most predominant color were toys for boys
only. An example of an overwhelmingly red toy for boys
only was the Iron Man 2TM Quantum Quad and Action
Figure, a shiny red motorcycle with small gold detailing. The
Iron Man action figure was sitting on the motorcycle in a shiny
bright red suit and helmet. In contrast, 86.2 % of toys that were
pink were toys for girls only and only 13.8 % were for boys
only. The Disney Princess Scooter by Huffy is a pink
scooter with hot pink and light pink accents on it. Everything
from the streamers to the wheels is a shade of pink. In
addition, nearly two-thirds of toys that were purple were toys
for girls only. For most of the colors, the pattern we pre-
dicted was supported. Blue, however, did not appear to be a
gender marker for toys for boys only in that the distribution
Table 1 The two-category clas-
sification of toys by color
palette, predominant color,
and type of toy
a
Based on Disneys
categorizations
b
X
2
(1, n0 436)0 96.0, p<.001
Characteristics of Toys Classification of Toys
a
Boys only Girls only Total
% n % nn
Total 73.2 319 26.8 117 436
Color Palette
b
Bold 83.6 291 16.4 57 348
Pastel 31.8 28 68.2 60 88
Predominant Color
Red 96.3 77 3.8 3 80
Black 95.3 41 4.7 2 43
Brown 86.7 13 13.3 2 15
Gray 86.4 19 13.6 3 22
Yellow 73.8 31 26.2 11 42
Tan 71.4 10 28.6 4 14
Blue 70.8 51 29.2 21 72
Orange 68.8 11 31.3 5 16
Green 66.7 34 33.3 17 51
White 62.9 22 37.1 13 35
Purple 35.3 6 64.7 11 17
Pink 13.8 4 86.2 25 29
Type of Toy
Small Vehicles 100.0 72 .0 0 72
Weapons 100.0 8 .0 0 8
Building Toys 100.0 6 .0 0 6
Action Figures 97.7 84 2.3 2 86
Figures & Figurines 81.0 51 19.0 12 63
Electronic Games & Accessories 80.0 8 20.0 2 10
Bath Toys 75.0 3 25.0 1 4
Sports, Bicycles, Scooters 62.5 5 37.5 3 8
Stuffed Animals & Plushes 61.8 68 38.2 42 110
Musical Instruments 60.0 3 40.0 2 5
Board & Card Games 56.3 9 43.8 7 16
Creative 33.3 1 66.7 2 3
Dolls 3.0 1 97.0 32 33
Beauty, Cosmetics, Jewelry .0 0 100.0 5 5
Domestic .0 0 100.0 7 7
Sex Roles (2012) 67:375388 381
of blue toys closely matched the overall distribution of toys for
boys only and for girls only in the sample.
Our hypothesis for type of toy was that dolls as well as toys
that were associated with domestic skills, such as cooking,
cleaning, or personal beauty, would be more likely to be toys
for girls only, while toys associated with activities that
involved traditional portrayals of masculinity, including those
with action figures and weapons, would be more likely to be
toys for boys only. A coding scheme with fifteen categories
that reflected a variety of types of toys discussed in the
literature was used to test our hypotheses (see Appendix).
When the variable representing these the types of toys was
used as the independent variable and, as before, the two-
category classification of toys (i.e. toys for boys only and
girls only) was used as the dependent variable, the pattern
that emerged supported the hypothesis. Table 1 shows that
100.0 % of small vehicles, weapons, and building toys as well
as 97.7 % of action figures were for boys only.TheIron
Man 2TM 3-in-1 Repulsor Blaster Glove Toy,atoyforboys
only from the Iron Man collection, is a set of bright red and
gold weapons with play bullets and a blaster. In addition to
these broad categories of toys, all of the toys that were named
Disney Cars, Iron Man, Spider-Man, and Super Hero Play
Squad were categorized by Disney as toys for boys. In con-
trast, over 95 % of toys that were dolls, domestic, or related to
the beauty, cosmetics, and jewelry were for girls only.The
Sea Pretty TM Ariel Styling Head, a big doll face with long
red hair that a child can comb and style, is a typical example of
a toy for girls only. In addition, all of the toys that had
names such as Disney Princesses, Disney Fairies Sets, Disney
Dolls, and Princess and Frog were categorized by Disney as
toys for girls only. The findings regarding type of toys for
boys only and girls only supported the hypothesis.
Toys for Both Boys and Girls
With the gender markers associated with the first stage of the
analysis in place, the second stage of the analysis was to
examine the relationship between characteristics of toy s,
namely the color palette, predominant color, and type of toy,
and the three-category classification of toys which is com-
prised of toys for
boys only, girls only,andboth boys
and girls. To test the hypotheses related to color palette, the
three-category classification of toys was used as the indepen-
dent variable in the tabular analysis and color palette was used
as the dependent variable. Based on the findings of the first
stage of the analysis, bold and pastel have been identified as
masculine and feminine, respectively. Our hypothesis regard-
ing palette was that toys for both boys and girls would be
more likely to resemble toys for boys only than toys for
girls only. Table 2 shows that the relationship between the
color palette and the three-category classification of toys was
significant χ
2
(2, n0 527)0 108.2, p<.001. While about 90 %
of toys for boys only and for both boys and girls had a
bold color, this was true for only 48.7 % of those for girls
only. About half of toys for girls only were pastel, but this
was true for less than 10 % of toys for boys only and for
both boys and girls.
To test the hypothesis about predominant color, we used
the results regarding predominant color from the first stage of
the analysis to classify each of the colors as boy colors, girl
colors,orgender-neutral colors. Since 73.2 % (n0 319) of
the toys in the two-category classification (n0 436) were for
boys only and 26.8 % (n0 117) were for girls only,only
those colors for which the distribution differed notably from
73.2/26.8 were then identified as gendered colors. More spe-
cifically, we identified boy colors as those for which the
percent of toys for boys only was 10 % or more above
73.2 %, namely 83.2 % or higher. Similarly, we identified
girl colors as those colors for which the percent of toys for
boys only was less than 36.8 %, which is 10 % or more
above 26.8 %, the percent of toys for girls only in the
sample. Using this criteria, the twelve colors were recoded
into three categories: red, black, gray, and brown were iden-
tified as boy colors
; pink and purple were identified as girl
colors; and yellow, tan, blue, orange, green, and white were
identified as gender-neutral colors.
The three-category classification of toys was then used as
the independent variable and the recoded color variable was
used as the dependen t variable. The relat ionship between the
two variables was statistically significant, χ
2
(4, n0 527)0
98.7, p<.001 and the pattern of the results offered support
for the hypothesis that toys for both boys and girls have
colors more similar in to toys for boys only than those for
girls only (see Table 3). More specifically, toys for boys
only (47.0 %) and both boys and girls (29.7 %) were
much more likely than toys for girls only (8.5 %) to have a
boy color as the predominant color. In addition, toys for
boys only (3.1 %) and toys for both boys and girls
(13.2%)weremuchlesslikelytohaveagirl color as the
predominant color than toys for girls only (30.8 %).
To set the stage for testing the hypothesis regarding type of
toys, we used the results regarding type of toys from the first
Table 2 Color palette by the three-category classification of toys
Classification of toys
ab
Color palette
Bold Pastel Total
% n % nn
Boys Only 91.2 291 8.8 28 319
Both Boys & Girls 90.1 82 9.9 9 91
Girls Only 48.7 57 51.3 60 117
a
Based on Disneys categorizations
b
X
2
(2, n0 527)0 108.2, p<.001
382 Sex Roles (2012) 67:375388
stage of the analysis to classify toys into three categories.
Since more than 95 % of small vehicles, weapons, building
toys, and action figures were for boys only; these toys were
then recoded together as masculine toys. Since 95 % of toys
that were dolls, domestic, or related to the beauty, cosmetics,
and jewelry were for girls only, these toys were recoded as
feminine toys. The remaining types of toys were recoded as
gender-neutral toys, including board and card games; mu-
sical instruments; sports, bicycles, and scooters; stuffed ani-
mals and plushes; bath toys; electronic games; and figures and
figurines. Since there were no learning toys that were for
boys only or girls only, the learning toys were coded as
gender-neutral toys. The Baby Einstein Bendy Ball Toy,a
toy for both boys and girls, is a learning toy. It is flexible,
sphere with bright yellow, electric blue, red, and green sec-
tions and holes through it for working on small motor skills.
To test the hypothesis that toys for both boys and girls
would be more likely to resemble toys for boys only than
toys for girls only, the three-category gender classification of
toys was used as the independent variable and the recoded type
of toy variable was used as the dependent variable. Despite the
statistically significant relationship χ
2
(4, n0 527)0 280.4,
p<.001 between these two variables, nearly all (96.7 %) of
the toys for both boys and girls were gender-neutral toys (see
Table 4) with just over 45 % of the 91 toys for both boys and
girls falling into the category of stuffed animals and
plushes. In addition, all of the toys with the Disney name
Pook-a-Looz Plush and Baby Einstein were toys for both
boys and girls. On the other hand, 53.3 % of toys for boys
only were masculine and 46.1 % were gender-neutral, while
39.3 % of toys for girls only were feminine toys and 59.0 %
were gender-neutral. Although the types of toys for both boys
and girls were expected to be more similar in type to toys for
boys only, this hypothesis was not supported.
The final hypothesis was that toys for both boys and girls
that were gender-neutral in type would have the color palette
Table 4 Recoded type of toy by the three-category classification of toys
Classification of toys
a
Recoded type of toy
bc
Masculine
d
Gender-neutral
e
Feminine
f
Total
% n % n % nn
Boys Only 53.3 170 46.1 147 .6 2 319
Both Boys and Girls 3.3 3 96.7 88 .0 0 91
Girls Only 1.7 2 59.0 69 39.3 46 117
a
Based on Disneys categorizations
b
Derived from Table 1
c
X
2
(4, n0 527)0 280.4, p<.001
d
Small Vehicles, Weapons, Building Toys, Action Figures
e
Electronic Games & Accessories; Bath Toys; Sports, Bicycles, Scooters; Stuffed Animals & Plushes; Musical Instruments; Board & Card Games;
Creative
f
Dolls; Beauty, Cosmetics, Jewelry; Domestic
Table 3 Recoded predominant color by the three-category classification of toys
Classification of toys
a
Recoded predominant color
bc
Boy colors
d
Gender-neutral colors
e
Girl colors
f
Total
% n % n % nn
Boys Only 47.0 150 49.8 159 3.1 10 319
Both Boys & Girls 29.7 27 57.1 52 13.2 12 91
Girls Only 8.5 10 60.7 71 30.8 36 117
a
BasedonDisneys categorizations
b
Derived from Table 1
c
X
2
(4, n0 527)0 98.7, p<.001
d
Red, Black, Brown, Gray
e
Yellow, Tan, Blue, Orange, Green, White
f
Pink, Purple
Sex Roles (2012) 67:375388 383
associated with toys for boys only, namely bold. For gender-
neutral toys, the relationship between the three-category gen-
der classification of toys and color palette was significant χ
2
(2, n0 304)0 32.8, p<.001 and the hypothesis was supported.
As Table 5 shows, for gender-neutral toys, 89.9 % of toys for
both boys and girls were a bold color, which is similar to that
for toys for boys only (84.4 %) and quite different from toys
for girls only (55.1 %). For example, the Baby Einstein
TM Count and Compose Piano toy is a small white piano
with bright yellow, orange, red, purple, and blue piano keys
that yields colors and a color palette that does not offend
boys. Thus, when the type of toy was gender-neutral, color
palette continued to be a notable gender marker. We did not
explore the color palette of feminine toys for boys only (n0
2) or both boys and girls (n0 0) or of masculine toys for
girls only (n0 2) or both boys and girls (n0 3) because
there were so few toys in these categories.
Discussion
Our research focused on the gendered marketing of toys on the
Internet. The first stage of the analysis explored the extent to
which three characteristics of toys, namely the color palette,
predominant color, and the type of toy, serve as gender
markers for boys only and girls only toys as well as
whether our findings would replicate those of past research.
We then used the results of the first stage of the analysis for
each characteristic to examine the extent to which toys for
both boys and girls, those toys that appeared on both the list
for boys and the list for girls on the Disney Store website,
displayed characteristics that were similar to or different from
the toys for boys only and for girls only. Past studies of
adults and childrens perceptions and choices of toys do not
look at all three of these characteris tics (Blakemore a nd
Centers 2005; Cherney and London
2006;Kane2006)nor
do they turn their focus to the characteristics of toys that are
nevertheless marketed to both boys and girls (Kahlenberg and
Hein 2010;Kline1993;Seiter1993) even when the toys are
not listed as such. In addition, the Internet marketing of toys
that has been growing in popularity has been previously over-
looked (Kahlenberg and Hein 2010;Kline1993;Seiter1993).
In the concluding section of this paper, we also discuss the
possible implications of our findings for childrens socializa-
tion and their preparation for their future.
Gender Markers
For the most part, we found our hypotheses and the findings of
previous research on toys and related childrens products sup-
ported by our analysis of the Internet marketing of toys on the
Disney Store website using tabular analysis and chi-square.
Similar to the findings of others, toys that were pastel colored
were much more likely to be marketed as toys for only girls
than for only boys, while bold colored toys were much more
likely to be marketed as toys for boys only than for girls
only (Clark 2007; Kahlenberg and Hein 2010;Nelson2000).
In addition, with regard to specific colors, while over 85 % of
toys with red, black, gray, and brown as the most predominant
color were for boys only, over 85 % of toys with pink and
nearly two-thirds of toys with purple as the most predominant
color were for girls only. The findings regarding color,
particularly those related to pink and purple, reaffirmed what
earlier studies have found for a variety of items, including toys,
Halloween costumes, clothing, crayons, room color, and con-
gratulatory birth cards (Bridges 1993;Fishel2001;Fisher-
Thompson et al. 1995; Kane 2006;Karniol2011; Little and
Hill 2007;Nelson2000; Pennell 1994; Ruble et al. 2007; Seiter
1993; Turgeon 2008); however, the importance of having
gender markers emerge from the data is evident in the findings
that revealed blue as a gender-neutral color rather than as a
boy color. In addition, it is interesting to note that pink, a
color associated with toys for
girls only, is a mixture of white
and red, the second of which is highly associated with toys for
boys only. Thus, it seems that even slight shift in color tint
changes the gender with which it is associated.
When we examined types of toys, nearly all of the action
toys, small vehicles, weapons, and building toys were for
boys only, while nearly all of the toys that were dolls or
related to beauty, cosmetics, jewelry, and domestic work were
for girls only. The Disney marketing of toys on the Internet
again replicated the findings of previous studies in which toys
reflected a traditional view of masculinity associated with
physicality and a traditional view of femininity associated
with nurturing and domestic qualities as well as concern
with physical attractiveness (Blakemore and Centers 2005;
Cherney and London 2006; Downs 1983; Fisher-Thompson
Table 5 Recoded type of toy by color palette and the three-category
classification of toys
Recoded type of toy
a
Color palette
Bold Pastel Total
% n % nn
Gender-neutral
bc
323
Boys Only Toys 84.4 124 15.6 23 147
Toys for Both 89.9 79 10.2 9 88
Girls Only Toys 55.1 38 44.9 31 69
The classification of toys is based on Disneys categorizations
a
Derived from Table 1
b
Electronic Games & Accessories; Bath Toys; Sports, Bikes, Scooters;
Stuffed Animals & Plushes; Musical Instruments; Creative: Board &
Card Games
c
X
2
(2, n0 304)0 32.8, p<.001
384 Sex Roles (2012) 67:375388
1990; Fisher-Thompson et al. 1995; Kahlenberg and Hein
2010; Kline 1993; Marcon and Freeman 1996; Pomerleau et
al. 1990) and those regarding the portrayal of tr aditional
gender roles by Disney (Giroux 1997; Wiersma 2000).
Toys for Both Boys and Girls
Although logic might have dictated that the toys for both
boys and girls actually would have been marketed as Toys
for Both Boys and Girls,therewasnosuchcategoryonthe
Disney website. In addition, for the two-category classifica-
tion that Disney actually presented on the website, the toys for
both boys and girls made up 44 % of the 208 toys listed for
girls, but only 22 % of the 410 toys listed for boys. Even here,
it seemed that the Disney Company assumed boys would be
less likely to cross gender lines than girls.
There is additional evidence from this study of the impor-
tance of making toys for both boys and girls appealing to
boys associated with several characteristics of toys. In the
second stage of the analysis, we found that toys for both boys
and girls were more likely to resemble toys for boys only
than for girls only in terms of both color palette and predom-
inant color. With regard to the type of toy, learning toys were
likely to be toys for both boys and girls, and this was true, for
example, of the Baby Einstein toys that were marketed for
young infants. The lack of gender differentiation among these
learning toys for infants is reminiscent of the lack of gender
differentiation among Halloween costumes for infants (Nelson
2000). And even the toys for both boys and girls that were
gender-neutral in type tended to be bold colored and resemble
toys for boys only rather than for girls only.
The findings described above would seem to imply that the
choice of a gender-neutral toy potentially reflects gender cross-
ing for boys; therefore, the bold color palette of such toys helps
reduce the labeling of such a choice as the gender crossing that
boys resist. In contrast, it seems that the choice of a gender-
neutral toy does not constitute gender crossing for girls; there-
fore, the color palette can be that associated with toys fo r boys,
namely bold, and not diminish girls interest in such toys.
Another possibility is that color palette is not as strong a gender
marker for girls as it is for boys; an explanation also supported
by the finding that even about half of toys for girls only are
bold and about half are pastel. The above findings are reminis-
cent of previous research indicating girls were more likely than
boys to find gender-neutral toys appealing as well as to cross
gender lines (Caldera et al. 1989;Downs1983;Marconand
Freeman 1996; Schor 2004) and have a more flexible idea of
what is gender appropriate (Frey and Ruble 1992).
Implications
Although the gendered marketing of toys on the Internet may
not reflect how adults and children actually perceive toys, it
may have a tremendous influence on how adults and children
think about the toys they want to purchase and ultimately how
children do gender, particularly since consumers are increas-
ingly relying on the Internet to fulfill their shopping needs
(Pew Research Center 2010). Although we did not directly
study the impact of the gender marketing of toys on childrens
play nor adults choices of toys for the children in their lives, if
customers choose toys based on gen dered marketing and
children restrict their play to toys marketed to their gender,
then boys and girls experiences will be limited (Martin et al.
1995). This leads to boys and girls learning different sets of
skills (Cherney and London 2006), including cognitive, emo-
tional, and social skills (Kline 1993).
As a result of learning different skills, children may become
more experienced in and more prepared for some occupational
fields and future roles and less for others (Marcon and Freeman
1996). Children limiting themselves to certain categories of
toys may narrow their career interests in the future and con-
tribute to the gender segregation of the occupational structure
with women statistically dominating fields such as nursing and
men statistically dominating fields such as engineering (U.S.
Census Bureau 2011, T able 616). Although women have been
entering male-dominated occupations in greater numbers than
men have been entering female-dominated occupations, the
types of toy marketed to boys and girls appear to have changed
little over time. Instead Disney markets toys in a way that
seems to rely on girls willingness to cross gender lines with
regard to toys. The gendering of toys may also contribute to the
gendering of familial roles and the household division of labor
as well as to the gender segregation of adults recreational
choices (U.S. Census Bureau 201 1, Table 1249). Thus, our
examination of the gendered marketing of toys on the Internet
by Disney reflects the impact that message producers have on
message content, an important motivation for content analysis
suggested by Rudy et al. (2010), even though our study did not
evaluate the effect on toy purchasers nor the toys played with
by children. And if the amount of exposure to media affects the
impact as cultivation theory suggests (Gerbner et al. 1994),
then the Internet will have an increasing impact in the future.
Limitations
There were some limitations to our research, mainly associat-
ed with using as our sample the images of toys on one website,
namely the English language U.S. Disney Store website. First,
one cannot assume that the findings regarding color palette,
color, o r type of toy reflect cultu ral universals. The link
between these toy characteristics may vary across cultures
and even Disneys marketing may vary depending on how
gender is associated with certain colors or types of toys in
other c ultures. In addition, we only looked at the gender
marketing of toys on one companys English language U.S.
website, not those of other companies based in the U.S. nor
Sex Roles (2012) 67:375388 385
those based in other countries. Second, we used the images of
toys on the Disney Store website that appeared in the summer.
Since Disney updates the website and posts new toys with
some frequency, we collected all of the images of toys for our
sample on one day so that we would have a consistent set of
data, but that may have come at the risk of not representing all
of the toys that Disney offers throughout the year.
Third, we conducted our analysis without making a ny
attempt to code toys by the age of the child to whom the toy
is marketed or who might play with the toy. Consequently,
with the exception of DisneysBabyEinsteintoysthatare
overtly marketed to infants, we did not explore how the char-
acteristicsoftoysthatwerethefocusofthisresearchmightvary
depending on the age of the children to which Disney is
marketing particular toys.
Fourth, the Disney Store website only contains the prod-
uct details; there is no way of knowing who purchased the
toys and to whom they were given. Parents may reinforce
traditional gender expectations by buying toys for their
children based on toy marketers gender classification of
toys or they may be defying them by buying toys in a way
that reflects the skills they want their child to learn regard -
less of the gender of that child. The website cannot tell us
whether toys are purchased for boys or for girls, who chose
the toys, and the extent to which the children for whom toys
are purchased play with them or not.
Future Research
There are many aspects of this study that could be pursued
further. First, future researchers could use our schema to look
at the extent to which other companies market toys by gender
as well as the impact of the characteristics studied here, such
as color palette, color, and type of toy on the gendering of
toys, whether on websites, other forms of media, or in toy
stores. Additionally, it would be interesting to study the gen-
dered marketing of toys by age since the Disney category of
Baby Einstein, which caters to infants, yielded a high per-
cent of toys that were listed for boys and listed for girls on the
Disney Store website. In addition to infant toys, one could also
explore more generally the impact of the target age group on
how toys reflect gender markers.
Second, we studied the marketing of toys, but we did not
explore the role that parents and significant others play in
enforcing these traditional views of masculinity and feminin-
ity. Toy companies tend to market highly stereotyped toys
with advertisements that tend to exaggerate gender differences
(Bakir et al. 2008;Fishel2001; Seiter 1993), and this sample
of toys seems no different. It would be useful to know to what
extent adults of both genders buy toys for children based on
their own views or the desires of children and what conflicts
arise between parents and children about the gender appropri-
ateness of particular toys based on specific characteristics of
those toys. Additionally, it would be useful for research-
ers to conduct observational studies of children to discover
whether age influences the extent to which boys and girls
actually play with the toys marketed to them and under what
circumstances, including whether they are playing in a same-
gender or mixed-gender group.
Third, future researchers could explore the impact of toy
marketing on the Disney Store website or that of other toy
companies in a cross-cultural context. The research that we
conducted was based on the English language U.S. version of
the Disney Store website, but there are several different ver-
sions of the website designed for different countries around the
world. Consequently, customers around the world have had the
opportunity to view Disney products on those versions of the
website and make consumer decisions about the products. We
do not know, for example, whether consumers in other cultures
would view the toys for boys or for girls in the same way. If
those in other countries are less rigid about gender boundaries,
then the effect of toy companies categorizing toys by gender on
a website may be less influential. Moreover, the colors and
functions associated with toys for boys only, girls only,
and both boys and girls in other cultures may differ from
those in the U.S. and be worthy of study for that reason.
Conclusion
While Disney continues to overtly market its toys to boys or to
girls, we have seen that if one examines the toys for boys
only and the toys for girls only on this companys website,
some toys appeared on both lists even though these toys were
not marketed overtly as For Both Boys and Girls
or For
Children. T oy companies have the capability to market toys in
a more gend er-neutra l way, such that acti on figures and
cooking toys could be marketed to both boys and girls. One
could also change specific characteristics of toys, such as color,
to make some of them more appealing to both boys and girls.
This suggestion allows for the possibility of change, but it also
reflects the continued impact of certain colors and other char-
acteristics as gender markers. Nevertheless, Blakemore and
Centers (2005) believe that Children of both genders would
benefit from playing with toys that develop educational, sci-
entific, physical, artistic, and musical skills (p. 632). If chil-
dren played with greater variety of types of toys, they might
well develop a wider repertoire of cognitive, physical, and
social skills. Providing children with opportunities to develop
skills congruent with their talents would be a laudable goal,
and wider acceptance of toys as appropriate for both genders
would contribute to this possibility.
Acknowledgments We would like to especially thank the editor,
Irene Frieze, as well as anonymous reviewers for their valuable and
insightful comments and suggestions.
386 Sex Roles (2012) 67:375388
Appendix
References
Bakir, A., Blodgett, J. G., & Rose, G. M. (2008). Childrens responses
to gender-role stereotyped advertisements. Journal of Advertising
Research, 48 , 255266. doi:10.2501/S002184990808029X.
Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought a nd action.
Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall.
Bandura, A. (2002). Social cognitive theory of mass communication.
In J. Bryant & D. Zillman (Eds.), Media effects: advances in
theory and research (2nd ed., pp. 121153). Mahwah: Lawrence
Erlbaum Associates.
Bell, E., Hass, L., & Sells, L. (Eds.). (1995). From mouse to mermaid:
The politics of film, gender, and culture. Bloomington: Indiana
University Press.
Blakemore, J. E. O., & Centers, R. E. (2005). Characteristics of boys
toys and girls toys. Sex Roles, 53, 619633. doi:10.1007/s11199-
005-7729-0.
Bridges, J. (1993). Pink or blue: Gender-stereotypic perceptions of
infants as conveyed by birth congratulations cards. Psychology
of Women Quarterly, 17, 193205. doi:10.1111/j.1471-6402.1993.
tb00444.
Caldera, Y. M., Huston, A. C., & OBrien, M. (1989). Social inter-
actions and play patterns of parents and toddlers with feminine,
masculine, and neutral toys. Child Development, 60,7076.
doi:10.2307/1131072.
Cherney, I. D., & London, K. (2006). Gender-linked differences in the
toys, television shows, computer games, and outdoor activities of 5-
to 13-year old children. Sex Roles, 54, 717726. doi:10.1007/
s11 199-006-9037-8.
Clark, E. (2007). The real toy story: Inside the ruthless battl e for
Americas youngest consumers. New York: The Free Press.
Corsaro, W. A. (1997). The sociology of childhood. Thousand Oak:
Pine Forge.
Davis, A. M. (2006). Good girls and wicked witches: Women in
Disneys feature animation. Eastleigh: John Libbey.
Disney Store. (2010). Retrieved on July 9, 2010 from http://www.
disneystore.com.
Downs, A. C. (1983). Letters to Santa Claus: Elementary school-age
childrens sex-typed toy preferenc es in a natural setting. Se x
Roles, 9, 159163. doi:10.1007/BF00289620
.
England, D. E., Descartes, L., & Collier-Meek, M. A. (2011). Gender
role portrayal and the Disney Princesses. Sex Roles, 64, 555567.
doi:10.1007/s11199-011-9930-7.
Fishel, C. (2001). Designing for children: Marketing design that
speaks to kids. Gloucester: Rockport Publishers, Inc.
Fisher-Thompson, D. (1990). Adult sex typing of childrens toys. Sex
Roles, 23, 291303. doi:10.1007/BF00290050.
Fisher-Thompson, D., Sausa, A. D., & Wright, T. E. (1995). Toy
selection for child ren: Personality an d toy request in fluences.
Sex Roles, 33, 239255. doi:10.1007/BF01544613.
Frey, K. S., & Ruble, D. N. (1992). Gender constancy and the cost of
sex-typed behavior: A test of the conflict hypothesis. Developmental
Psychology, 28,714721. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.28.4.714.
Gerbner, G., Gross, L., Morgan, M., & Signorielli, N. (1994). Growing
up with television: The cultivation perspective. In J. Bryant & D.
Zillman (Eds.), Media effects: Advances in theory and research
(pp. 1741). Hillsdale: Erlbaum.
Giroux, H. A. (1997). Are Disney movies good for your kids? In S. R.
Steinberg & J. L. Kincheloe (Eds.), Kinderculture: The corporate
construction of childhood (pp. 5367). Boulder: Westview.
Goldstein, J., Buckingham, D., & Brougere, G. (2004). Toys, games,
and media. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Examples of types of toys
Type of toy Boys only Girls only
Action Figures Captain America Action Figure Toy Story Jessie Action Figure
Bath Toys Cars Bath Toys Set Disney Princess Bath Toys Set
Beauty, Cosmetics, Jewelry
a
Sea Pretty Ariel Styling Head
Board & Card Games Spider Sense Spider-Man Tub Full Games Alice in Wonderland - The Board Game
Building Toys
b
Woodys Round Up Toy Story Lego Set
Creative Toy Story Etch A Sketch Disney Fairies Make Your Own Keepsake Memory Book
Dolls Toy Story Interactive Buzz and Woody Dolls Fluttering Tinker Bell Doll
Domestic
a
The Princess and the Frog Princess Tiana Cooking Set
Electronic Games & Accessories Toy Story 3 Buzz Blaster Video Game Tinker Bell Lost Treasure Console Clutch for Nintendo DS
Figure & Figurines WALL*E Figure Play Set The Little Mermaid Figuring Play Set
Musical Instruments Phineas and Ferb Guitar for Kids Disney Princess Guitar for Kids
Small Vehicles
b
Cars Darren Leadfoot 82 Die Cast Car
Sports, Bicycles, Scooters Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Tricycle Disney Princess Scooter
Stuffed Animals & Plushes Dale Plush Toy Minnie Mouse Plush Toy
Weapons
b
Zurgs Blaster Toy
a
There were no toys for boys only in this category
b
There were no toys for girls only in this category
Sex Roles (2012) 67:375388 387
Kahlenberg, S. G., & Hein, M. M. (2010). Progression on Nickelodeon?
Gender-role stereotypes in toy commercials. Sex Roles, 62,830
847. doi:10.1007/s11 199-009-9653-1.
Kane, E. W. (2006). No way my boys are going to be like that!:
Parents responses to childrens gender nonconformity. Gender &
Society, 20, 149176. doi:10.1177/0891243205284276.
Karniol, R. (2011). The color of childrens gender stereotypes. Sex
Roles, 65,119132. doi:10.1007/s11199-011-9989-1.
Kline, S. (1993). Out of the garden: Toys, TV, and childrens culture in
the age of marketing. Toronto: Garamond.
Little, A. C., & Hill, R. A. (2007). Attribution to red suggests special
role in dominance signalling. Journal of Evolutionary Psycholo-
gy, 5, 161168. doi:10.1556/JEP.2007.1008.
Maglaty, J. (2011). When did girls start wearing pink? Retrieved from
http://www.s mithsonianmag.c om/arts-culture /When-Did-Gir ls-
Start-Wearing-Pink.html.
Marcon, R. A., & Freeman, G. (1996). Linking gender-related toy
preferences to social structure: Changes in childrens letters to
Santa since 1978. Journal of Psychological Practice, 2,110.
doi:10.1080/14753639608411259.
Martin, C. L., Eisenbud, L., & Rose, H. (1995). Childrens gender-
based reasoning about toys. Child Development, 66, 14531471.
doi:10.2307/1131657.
Martin, C. L., Ruble, R. N., & Szkrybalo, J. (2002). Cognitive theories
of early gender development. Psychological Bulletin, 22, 903
933. doi:1.1037/0033-2909.128.6.903.
Nelson, A. (2000). The pink dragon is female: Halloween costumes
and gender markers. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 24, 137
144. doi:10.1111/j.1471-6402.2000.tb00194.x.
Neuendorf, K. A. (2002). The content analysis guidebook. Thousand
Oaks: Sage.
Orenstein, P. (2011). Cinderella ate my daughter. NY: HarperCollins.
Pennell, G. E. (1 994). Babes in toyl and: Learning an ideology of
gender.
Advances in Consumer Research, 21, 359364.
Pew Research Center. (2010). Attentio n shoppers: Online product
research. Pew Research Centers Internet & American Life Project.
Retrieved from http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1747/e-shopping-
researched-product-service-online.
Pomerleau, A., Bolduc, D., Malcuit, G., & Cossette, L. (1990). Pink or
blue: Environmental gender stereotypes in the first two years of
life. Sex Roles, 22, 359367. doi:10.1007/BF00288339.
Ruble, D. N., Lurye, L. E., & Zosuls, K. M. (2007). Pink frilly dresses
(PFD) and early gender identity. Princeton Report on Knowledge,
2. Re trieved from http://www.princeton.edu/prok/issues/2-2/
pink_frilly.xml.
Rudy, R. M., Popova, L., & Linz, D. G. (2010). The context of current
content analysis of gender roles: An introduction to a special
issue. Sex Roles, 62, 705720. doi:10.1007/s11199-010-9807-1.
Schor, J. B. (2004). Born to buy: The commercialized child and the
new consumer culture. New York: Scribner.
Seiter, E. (1993). Sold separately: Children and parents in consumer
culture. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.
Steinberg, S. R., & Kincheloe, J. L. (1997). Kinderculture: The cor-
porate construction of childhood. Boulder: Westview.
Stern, S. L., & Schoenhaus, T. (1990). Toyland: The high-stakes game
of the toy industry. Chicago: Contemporary Books.
Thorne, B. (1993). Gender play: Girls and boys in school.New
Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.
Tobin, D. D., Menon, M., Hodges, E. V., Menon, M., Spatta, B. C., &
Perry, D. G. (2010). The intrapsychics of gender: A model of self-
socialization. Psychological Review, 177, 601622. doi:10.1037/
a0018936.
Turgeon, S. M. (2008). Sex differences in childrens free drawings and
their relationship to 2D:4D ratio. Personality and Individual Dif-
ferences, 45, 527532. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2008.06.006.
U. S. Census Bureau (2011). Statistical Abstract of the United States:
2012 (131st ed.). Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office.
Wasko, J. (2001). Understanding Disney: The manufacture of fantasy.
Cambridge: Blackwell Publishers, Inc.
Wiersma, B. A. (2000). The gendered world of Disney: A content
analysis of gender themes in full-length animated Disney feature
films. Unpublished dissertation, South Dakota State University.
Williams, C. L. (2006). Inside toyland: Working, shopping, and social
inequality. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Wimmer, R. D., & Dominick, J. R. (2011). Mass media research: An
introduction (9th ed.). Belmont: Wadsworth.
388 Sex Roles (2012) 67:375388
... Color has also repeatedly been found to be a central indicator of gender. For example, toys, clothes, books, even bedroom furniture are color-coded for gender: boys' possessions are colored darker, and girls' have light pastel colors, and gender-neutral objects are colored darker to appeal to boys who shun pink (Auster & Mansbach, 2012;Berry & Wilkins, 2017;LoBue & DeLoache, 2011;Weisgram et al., 2014). More recently, researchers asserted that by the age of 5 years, children use more gender-stereotypical colors for gendered targets (Navarro et al., 2014), and the gendering of clothing color may prime perceivers for a masculine or feminine read (Cunningham & Macrae, 2011). ...
... The category of children's questions also differed by age group. We had predicted that older children would rely on clothing, hair length, color, and biological properties more than younger children would because these are conventional cues that children use when they are older (Auster & Mansbach, 2012;Blakemore, 2003). Although older children did not ask more distinguishing questions that relied on color to distinguish gender groups, they did base more distinguishing questions on clothing, hair length, and biological properties (e.g., giving birth). ...
... In terms of the content of these schemas, past work has suggested that children are adept at using hairstyle, clothing, body build (Blakemore, 2003), and color (Auster & Mansbach, 2012) to distinguish women and men on a physical level. In the present study, children relied on hair length followed by clothes, activities, and physical activities. ...
Full-text available
Article
Studies on how physical gender schemas develop in children have traditionally utilized forced-choice and close-ended tasks, finding that the ability to make gender-related distinctions develops in the first years of a child’s life. To reduce demand characteristics that reinforce gender binaries in children’s models of gender, we relied on open-ended discourse analysis to study children’s physical gender schemas. We focused on whether children’s ability to ask questions that distinguish gender groups was greater in older than younger children. Participants were 44 3–4-year-olds, 35 5–6-year-olds, and 23 7–8-year-old children in the U.K. who were led through a guessing game to elicit gender-related beliefs and compare their beliefs about gender to their beliefs about other entities such as living things. When asking questions to distinguish gender binary groups, older children judging gendered individuals were more likely to ask questions that stereotypically distinguished the gender groups than younger children. Older children were also more likely to focus on individuals’ biological properties, clothing, and hair length than were younger children. Thus, the development of a child’s understanding of physical gender schemas gender is discrete, developing gradually at least until the age of 8.
... Colors are associated with gender stereotypes (e.g., pink-girl/blue-boy) [1][2][3][4][5] . In many countries, parents have different color preferences for male versus female children, and children are exposed to colors related to their genders. ...
... In many countries, parents have different color preferences for male versus female children, and children are exposed to colors related to their genders. For instance, girls' toys, clothes, and rooms are typically colored in variations of pink/reddish colors while boys are surrounded by blue/green colors [2][3][4][5] . The mere exposure with early perception of gendered colors may lead to stereotypical color-gender associations and influence gender related cognition and behaviors. ...
... We anticipated that the gender perception of faces would depend on those two factors with the background color and the face morphing levels. The generalized linear mixed-effect model analysis showed that there was no significant interaction effect between the background color and face morphing levels, x(16) 2 Figure 3. The data points represent the mean proportion of trials in which participants responded with female judgement for each morphed face stimulus presented with three background colors. ...
Preprint
Color carries gender information (e.g., red–female, blue–male). This study explored whether red background color could influence the gender categorization of human faces. Visual stimuli were generated from faces whose sexually dimorphic content was morphed monotonically from female to male perception. The face stimulus was presented upright (Experiment 1) and inverted (Experiment 2) with three background colors (i.e., red, green, and gray). Participants were instructed to categorize the gender of the face stimulus as male or female by pressing one of two labelled keys. Results showed that a red background color could bias the gender of the face toward a female compared with green and gray background colors (Experiment 1). However, this red effect was diminished when the face stimulus was inverted (Experiment 2). These results suggest that red–female association interacted with facial features to bias gender perception toward a female face, perhaps through top–down processing.
... In contrast, boys' toys seem to be more violent, competitive, and dangerous (Blakemore & Centers, 2005;Reich et al., 2018). Toys can be further stereotyped in a wide variety of ways, ranging from the use of labels, colors (Weisgram et al., 2014), play narratives (Reich et al., 2018) to marketing methods (Auster & Mansbach, 2012). The disparity was reflected among the toys marketed on the U.S. Disney Store website in 2010 (Auster & Mansbach, 2012). ...
... Toys can be further stereotyped in a wide variety of ways, ranging from the use of labels, colors (Weisgram et al., 2014), play narratives (Reich et al., 2018) to marketing methods (Auster & Mansbach, 2012). The disparity was reflected among the toys marketed on the U.S. Disney Store website in 2010 (Auster & Mansbach, 2012). Toys titled "boys only" were mostly red or darker shades like brown, gray, black and encompassed the majority of the action figures (such as the model of Captain America), construction toys, weapons, and vehicles presented. ...
Full-text available
Article
Gender stereotypes are ubiquitous and often have negative consequences. However, they are common in children’s media, toys, and stories. Awareness of these gender stereotypes can hugely influence children’s perception of gender roles. Further, family-related factors, such as familial makeup, parenting, and siblings order, may be crucial in children’s acquisition of gender knowledge, which may later affect children’s wellbeing, career aspirations, peer choices, and academic performance. In order to better understand factors influencing children’s perception of gender roles and what psychological impacts they have, we integrated findings across the fields of sociology and psychology. We reviewed literature on the roles of the media, family, toys, and stories in shaping children’s perception of gender roles across sociological and psychological journals. We only included papers discussing factors and impacts on children aged two to fourteen. The findings from this review indicate that children’s media, toys, and stories commonly portray a disproportionate distribution and stereotypical gender representation of male and female characters. Besides, familial factors can influence children’s perception of gender roles and gender flexibility. Findings underline harmful impacts gender stereotypes may have on children, ranging from mental health problems like depression, anxiety, and somatic complaints to bullying, problematic peer relations, impaired academic performance, and school misconduct. Given the prevalence of gender-stereotypical ideas embedded in parenting and children’s media, toys, and literature and their negative impacts, we should be working to reduce the adverse impact of these stereotypes on children.
... In most cases, the first impression affects human behavior, attitude, and relationship with the product in the mid-and long term [26]. Studies have found that even the color alone has a psychological effect on the user by triggering the human arousal system and affecting product perception and trust in the product [27,28]. Designers use the word desirability to describe how attractive the visibility of a product is and whether the product is perceived as "worth having or seeking" and as being useful, advantageous, or pleasing [29]. ...
Article
Socially assistive robots (SARs) aim to provide assistance through social interaction. Previous studies contributed to understanding users` perceptions and preferences regarding existing commercially available SARs. Yet, very few studies regarding SARs' appearance used designated SAR designs, and even fewer evaluated isolated visual qualities (VQ). In this work, we aim to assess the effect of isolated VQs systematically. To achieve this, we first conducted market survey and deconstructed the VQs attributed to SARs. Then, a reconstruction of body structure, outline, and color scheme was done, resulting in the creation of 30 new SAR models that differ in their VQs, allowing us to isolate one character at a time. We used these new designs to evaluate users' preferences and perceptions in two empirical studies. Our empirical findings link VQs with perceptions of SAR characteristics. These can lead to forming guidelines for the industrial design processes of new SARs to match user expectations.
... The mere exposure to co-occurrences of gender and color information in the social environment could provide a basis, which became deeply embedded through statistical learning and language development. For instance, the gender-stereotyped colors of toys and clothing since the early development, that parents commonly dress their baby girls in red/pink and their baby boys in blue/green colors (Auster & Mansbach, 2012;Cohen, 2013;Picariello et al., 1990;LoBue & DeLoache, 2011;Davis et al., 2021), and the widely using of red in female clothing and cosmetics in later life (Frank, 1990), may help to construct the strong red-female associations. ...
Full-text available
Preprint
Previous studies showed stereotyped color-gender associations (e.g., red/pink is female, and blue/green is male). Here, we investigated the automaticity of color-gender associations using two Stroop-word categorization tasks. Ten Japanese gendered words were chosen as visual stimuli. In Experiment 1 ( N = 23), participants were instructed to indicate whether a target word presented in either red, green, or gray font color was a masculineor feminine word. Results showed a congruency effect of red-female association that red font color facilitated feminine words categorization and inhibited masculine words categorization than other colors.No effect of green-male association was observed. Experiment 2 ( N = 23 newly recruited participants) tested whether the congruency effect of color-gender associationscould bias perceptual font color categorization. Participants were asked to discriminate the font color in low saturation was red or green while ignoring the word’s meaning. Results showed that participants responded faster and made fewer errors when categorizing red font colors for feminine words than masculine words. A congruent effect of green-male association on performance accuracy was observed and there was no effect on response times. Through two experiments, an automaticallyactivated red-female association in conceptual gendered word categorization and perceptual font color discriminationwas observed. Those results suggest that color-gender associations could be strong to bias both conceptual gender and perceptual color processing.
... The mere exposure to co-occurrences of gender and color information in the social environment could provide a basis, which became deeply embedded through statistical learning and language development. For instance, the gender-stereotyped colors of toys and clothing since the early development, that parents commonly dress their baby girls in red/pink and their baby boys in blue/green colors (Auster & Mansbach, 2012;Cohen, 2013;Picariello et al., 1990;LoBue & DeLoache, 2011;Davis et al., 2021), and the widely using of red in female clothing and cosmetics in later life (Frank, 1990), may help to construct the red-female associations. Moreover, gender differences in color preferences, that female tend to prefer reddish colors (Saito, 1996;Hurlbert & Ling, 2007), may also lead to those associations. ...