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Communication and culture professor Fern Johnson and student Jennifer Clark explore how gender stereotypes are used to sell products on television and in print.

Publication: Gendered Voices in Children's Television Advertising

Johnson, Fern L. and Young, K. (2002). Gendered Voices in Children's Television Advertising. Critical Studies in Media Communication, Vol. 19, No. 4, pp. 461-480.


Televised ads for toys directed to children were examined to address two research questions:
  1. Do advertisers script language differently for females and males? and
  2. How is gender used as a discourse code to link products to gender roles?
In a sample from 1996, 1997, and 1999, ads for boy-oriented toys outnumbered those oriented to girls. In boy-oriented ads, the voice-overs were exclusively male, and in the girl-oriented ads, they were mainly female. Gender exaggeration in voice-overs was prevalent. Verb elements in the ads were also examined. Gender patterns were found in the types of verb elements used. Boy-oriented ads contained more elements emphasizing (1) action,(2) competition and destruction, and (3) agency and control. Girl-oriented ads contained more verb elements emphasizing (1) limited activity and (2) feelings and nurturing. The speaking roles scripted for girls and boys also revealed polarized gender voices and gender relations. Finally, the use of "power" words was prevalent in a number of ads targeted to boys but was absent in those targeted to girls. We concluded that the gender ideology underlying these ads portrays males and females through strikingly traditional gender-polarized voices, and we discuss the implications for teaching media literacy to children.

For readers with institutional access, the full text of the above article can be found at:


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