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Is society becoming more conservative?


freejoytoo

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Of late I have noticed that several things seem to have become gendered lately. Perhaps it is looking back with rose-coloured glasses, but I remember toys being unisex, clothes being unisex and it being acceptable to discuss sex on television. Lately toy aisles seem to be split into 'boys' and 'girls', Lego has pink bricks for girls and teenagers are encouraged to abstain on television rather than being taught about contraception. Even books have different covers for boys and girls!

Is it just me who has noticed this? Am I overreacting? I mentioned to a girl at work that it annoyed me that the dough sets had a picture of cupcakes on with a girl and a construction picture with a boy, instead of just one box for both, and she said she felt it had always been that way and that people aren't affected by marketing unless they allow themselves to be. While I agree that people are capable to recognising and criticising marketing ploys I do feel we are affected by our environment and that society feels more conservative than it did even ten years ago. The only more liberal step I have noticed is attitude towards gay rights.

Thoughts?

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I don't think so, I just think it's certain companies pandering to neo-cons, because they think that because they think that most neo-cons are rich and will want to be merchandise for their kids all of the time, and traditional media such as Disney and Nickolodeon are afraid to put LGBT and sex-friendly shows on T.V, because they're afraid they'll here the wolves cry persecution for making their kids watch those channels when the wolves can make their kids watch Christian channels. Maybe I don't know what the hell I'm talking about/I'm too biased.

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Guest Anonymous

I am 41 and live in the Uk and I think that toys and clothes have always been differentiated by gender. They used to be more expensive and we made do more and passed them around more so, for example, tshirts and sweaters might be passed between boy and girl cousins. As far as toys go, I hate the explosion of pink glitter plastic that is around these days, but in my day girls got Sindy dolls, Girl's World beauty parlours, etc, but things generally cost more, so there were fewer of them around in poorer families like mine.

I think there is way more discussion of sex on tv than there used to be (well, especially since there only were 3 channels when I were a lass ;) ). Channel 4's The Sex Education Show last year was very good I thought. And, although things are far from ideal, there is much more serious representatation of non-heterosexual cisgender people in soaps and tv drama, rather than just mocking 1-dimensional characters, eg John Inman in Are You Being Served). And I have never seen a book with different covers for boys and girls, but I do remember when Puffin used to 'helpfully' label books, eg, as being "suitable for boys aged 4-7" or "for girls age 7-11 and sensitive boys".

Edited for an explosion of typos and corrections.

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I grew up in the US and the toys have always been heavily gendered as far as I can remember (I'm 30). We're more aware of it now as a society, I think, but as Anxious Girl said, there is some pandering to conservatives still.

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I don't think so. Sometimes it seems as though it is, but I think that's really because it isn't, which prompts the conservatives to get their knickers in a twist and shout a bit louder

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I think it's probably cyclical. You had the 1950's, the 1980's and apparently now, the 2010's, when there's a push-back against the changes that happened in the decades before. It's the nostalgia for the "good old days."

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In terms of the toys- no I don't think that they are being separated by gender more now than in the past. What I see happening is the conservative voices are becoming louder in society and the media do to a perceived "attack" as other portions of society have become more liberal (i.e. feminism, LGBT rights, etc). Conservatives were always there but they didn't feel the need to force it down everyone's throats because they were able to convince themselves that most people were Christian and agreed with them on some level. Now that they are faced with the reality that people don't agree with many or all of their views they feel the need to defend their views (and try to convert people). Like keen23 said, it appears to be cyclical, there have been conservative/religious revivals throughout history often in response to what people view as the excesses of current society, this is just another one.

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I do agree with most people above that it's mostly perception. However, it IS common for societies to get more conservative in times of economic crisis so that could be part of it as well. On the whole I remain optimistic that things will right themselves in the end (as long as we keep fighting for it).

I think we've minimized a lot of overt sexism (in the mainstream, obviously) -- like, it's normal for women to go to university, it ISN'T normal to openly discuss beating them in the papers, etc. But a lot of subtle stuff remains, like the exceedingly annoying notion that women are led by their emotions, or yes, that little girls won't play with toys unless they are pink and glittery. Maybe because the obnoxious stuff is less obvious, the subtle stuff is moreso?

I also slightly think it's a marketing ploy. If you convince buyers that girls must have pink frilly things, they're going to be hesitant to pass that stuff on to their sons, so they have to buy things twice instead of using hand-me-downs.

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As a parent of a young child, currently expecting our second baby, I think that gendered marketing to new parents and kids is much more substantial than I remember it being during my lifetime.

Since so many couples find out a baby's sex via ultrasound, it's much more common to have "girl" baby gear and then a gender-neutral or boyish option for the exact same item. We've chosen to have our babies be delivery surprises, and it seems like there are fewer options for clothing and gear that are truly neutral. It definitely leans girly for baby gear, though. We know several couples who bought all pink stuff for their first baby (car seats, swings, strollers, etc.) and then ended up buying all the same stuff over again 2-3 years later because they had a boy and heaven forbid he be in a pink swing. :roll: Those who have boys first tend to just re-use the fairly neutral stuff they got the first time around.

There's a big section of "Cinderella Ate My Daughter" that explains how the princess/pink marketing is a conscious decision on the part of toy and gear manufacturers to get parents to buy more stuff - even when it's an item that is identical other than color. If a family has a bunch of pink/purple toys they've found that they will rebuy those toys in neutral colors for a boy child, and if they have the neutral version for an older boy parents are surprisingly likely to buy the girly version when a girl comes along. Don't even get me started on clothes. Once you're past layette sizes it's difficult to find clothes that aren't strongly gendered - especially for girls. Clothing was more neutral when I was a kid, based on pictures from childhood.

When I was a kid 25-30 years ago, there was one style of Legos in primary colors - now there's the primary colored version and the girl version. The same goes for pretty much any classic preschool/toddler toy (bubble mowers, doctor kits, play cooking sets, etc.), Legos, Lincoln Logs, board games, and the like. Even educational toys like Leapfrog brand comes in green and purple. We do our best to avoid strongly-gendered toys at home for several reasons and have been largely successful, but most of the little girls our daughter knows are very into the girly-girl stuff. We go to their homes and they're awash in pink, but we've made a conscious choice to not have those kinds of toys in excess; we don't buy them at all so the only "girly" stuff she has was gifted to her. She enjoys playing with a wide variety of toys and her favorite TV show (Signing Time) doesn't have a strongly-gendered message. That's not to say she doesn't like to play with her baby doll - she does! She also likes doing puzzles, coloring or painting pictures, playing with a wooden train set, etc. People laugh at us but we have real reasons for wanting to avoid the girly-girl/princess culture in our home as much as possible and it works for our family.

I don't think all of this is inherently a sign of a more-conservative culture or society but I do have concerns about the long term effects on children, especially little girls. We don't want our daughter feeling that she's less of a girl if she likes Thomas the Tank Engine more than Disney Princess movies. I don't think that it's anything more than marketing; it's not that society is using Disney Princess and pink sparkly toys to force her to be a 1950s-style housewife, but as parents we still don't like the message that it could send.

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Kids stuff is more strongly gender coded now, then even 20 years ago. There was lots of boy-stuff, girl-stuff but it wasn't delineated into camo and pink the way it is now. There were way WAY more colours. My easy bake oven was white and yellow, my daughter's is pink and purple.

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I think that toys become more gendered as they become more popular and they need variations (unless it is heavily gendered to begin with; ie, Easy Bake Oven, GI Joe, etc.)

While something like LEGOs and Play Doh was very neutral when I was a kid, they were fairly new toys. We did not have LEGO sets, just the box full of basic colors. Likewise, Play Doh came in canisters to be made into new things by imagination only. Even when play sets came into vogue, they were at first more neutral for a broad audience; for instance, Play Doh made spaghetti and stars, instead of princess and construction crane related items (both of which they sell now.)

My guess is that when such toys become popular enough that half the audience would still make a profit, they gender it.

To the broader question: I think society is becoming far less conservative.

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Society is less conservative (same sex marriage! movie about sexual surrogate being heavily favored for Oscar nomination! openly gay and lesbian and bi and trans elected officials!) for sure.

However, toy and clothing manufacturers in the US and Canada are marketing toys by gender more aggressively. This is for economic reasons, though: as people have fewer children, toy companies have to make more sales, and thus forestall hand-me-downs. I gave the bike I grew out of to my younger brother; it was silver. If it had been pink with Barbie on it, he wouldn't have wanted it. So, genius move by the toy manufacturers to cut out the inter-gender hand-me-down potential.

48 here, East Coast US.

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I think overall, society is becoming slightly more conservative even as it continues to progress in many ways. I just hope the slightly more conservative thing is temporary.

I also think toys are becoming more gendered. If nothing else, the colour pink has definitely barfed all over girls' toys in the past couple decades in an unprecedented way.

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I think that there are simply more toys and clothes now, so it seems more noticeable.

I wore some hand me downs from my brother when I was little, but for the most part I wore girly clothes. I was a child of the 80's, so it was My Little pony, Rainbow Brite, Cabbage Patch Kids, Barbie, and Strawberry Shortcake....very girly toys.

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Hmmm.. I don't think I've seen it become any stronger -- I remember lots of "girl toys" and "boy toys" when I was a kid. I had barbies, my brother had GI Joe. I had She-Ra, he had He-Man. I had My Little Pony, he had dinky cars. My bike was a pink & white banana seat, his was a yellow and blue BMX... and so on... very girl/boy....

My toddler has toys from both "gender sections" or whatever you want to call it... he has trucks, he has a cabbage patch doll. He likes Diego *and* Dora, has books of both. His last toothbrush was pink because that's what he picked - his current one is spiderman. His favourite shirt has a cat with flowers around it - it was a yard sale item, would have been in the girl section. He loved it because "kitty! kitty!". His leapfrog laptop thing? It's the "girls" one - he loves it. He also loves his metal tonka truck. And the soft pink plush doll he's had since he was four months old.

He likes what he likes and we never say "that's for girls" or whatever.

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I think that there are simply more toys and clothes now, so it seems more noticeable.

I wore some hand me downs from my brother when I was little, but for the most part I wore girly clothes. I was a child of the 80's, so it was My Little pony, Rainbow Brite, Cabbage Patch Kids, Barbie, and Strawberry Shortcake....very girly toys.

Hey do you remember (as a fellow eighties kid LOL) --- there was a doll with these colourful.. chipmunks??? or something?? that clipped in her hair... wtf was that...

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Hey do you remember (as a fellow eighties kid LOL) --- there was a doll with these colourful.. chipmunks??? or something?? that clipped in her hair... wtf was that...

That sounds vaguely familiar....I didn't have it, but maybe a friend did....now I must google!

Edit: Holy crap! Lady Lovely Locks and the Pixietails ! LOL, yup, i didn't have it but I remember that there was a cartoon for it.

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I think that toy companies are manufacturing more gender specific toys because people do buy them, and they're heavily marketed. My brother and SIL are the type of parents who don't enforce gender roles, as my niece loves the Disney Cars toys, but she has started getting into My Little Pony as well, and by that, I mean the same ones her mom played with as a child, as my SIL's mom saved all of those toys. My Mormon step siblings on the other hand, are enforcing gender roles, as a 3 year old got a ton of Barbies, even though it might be a year or so before she really gets interested in them. They also gave all of their sons BB guns, as they're a bunch of gun nuts, but these boys remind me of the Howlers as they can't sit still in a pizza place.

As a whole, I do think society is becoming less conservative in that same sex marriage and other human rights for homosexuals is becoming more acceptable, and women are in control of their own bodies, as women are having children later in life, and many other women are deciding not to have children.

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Interracial and intercultural marriages are much more common and accepted in the US than they were in my childhood, for another index of how US society has become less conservative since then.

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I think that toy companies are manufacturing more gender specific toys because people do buy them, and they're heavily marketed. My brother and SIL are the type of parents who don't enforce gender roles, as my niece loves the Disney Cars toys, but she has started getting into My Little Pony as well, and by that, I mean the same ones her mom played with as a child, as my SIL's mom saved all of those toys. My Mormon step siblings on the other hand, are enforcing gender roles, as a 3 year old got a ton of Barbies, even though it might be a year or so before she really gets interested in them. They also gave all of their sons BB guns, as they're a bunch of gun nuts, but these boys remind me of the Howlers as they can't sit still in a pizza place.

As a whole, I do think society is becoming less conservative in that same sex marriage and other human rights for homosexuals is becoming more acceptable, and women are in control of their own bodies, as women are having children later in life, and many other women are deciding not to have children.

I do have to say that "My Little Pony" is now pretty gender neural.....both of my boys love MLP (the older one just likes the show, he's 13), even more than my daughter....and there is even a name for boys who like MLP, they are "bronies", you can even buy "brony" shirts (in boys and men's sizes)....just saying.

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I don't know about marketing toys but I think in the media there's a cultural split taking place. On the one side you have cable channels, books, media, and so on dedicated to a Conservative, and growing more Conservative minority. In that media gender roles are traditional, children are expected to abstain, and so on. On the other side you have the Liberal channels, books, media, what have you. That side is more comfortable with LGTB issues, with sexuality as a whole, and with non-traditional gender roles. In the middle you have the mass media. It's conservative in that it doesn't want to take risks and it tries to reach everybody.

The end result is, say, a rerun of Matlock vs. The Wire vs. CSI. Or Left Behind vs. (insert just about any book here) vs. Twilight. Or MSNBC vs. Fox vs. CNN/HLN. Or Fireproof vs. say, anything by Lars Von Trier vs. the latest comic book hero movie.

I guess how conservative the US is depends on which way you look. On which culture you want to live in.

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I agree with others here. Toys may be more "gender specific" but only because they better market and sell them. With the globalization of toy manufacturing, toys can be bought on the cheap. I see how many toys these kids have nowadays and most families could never afford such quantity back in the days. Toys no longer need to be handed down and gender neutral. With smaller families, cheaper toys, more dual incomes, people can buy more stuff for their one child and cater to that child's gender specifically.

As for whether society is more conservative....I'd say no. Gay marriages are finding more acceptance. Even conservatives allow women to work outside the home---Palin is the classic case of the acceptance of women in leadership even among conservatives now. I find more acceptance of other religions and cultures as well. There were heightened anti muslim sentiments after 9/11 but nowhere as bad as during WWII with Japanese internment. I think society is doing better on the social front, despite the conservative resurgence in the 90s.

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Guest Anonymous

I am curious as to freejoytoo's original perspective though, because we don't have that split in the UK. We have a strong political conservative party, but we don't have the same religious imperative. Left Behind and Fireproof would not be known about in the UK beyond a few very fringe religious folks (and the FJ membership! :lol: ).

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That sounds vaguely familiar....I didn't have it, but maybe a friend did....now I must google!

Edit: Holy crap! Lady Lovely Locks and the Pixietails ! LOL, yup, i didn't have it but I remember that there was a cartoon for it.

YES! That's it! Ha.

Bratz in booty shorts? Pfffft. We had dolls with rainbow critters living in their hair.

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I was thinking more on the media - toys and books seem to have a more gendered split than when I grew up. I've also noticed on television that it seems more fashionable for a woman to be dumbed down.

I think my initial post was a little rambly. I think the media and perhaps in general feminism has taken a step back and it seems unfashionable to proclaim to be a feminist or even to seem too intelligent as a woman at times. I think attitudes have improved towards gay marriage and racial issues but not towards gender. I've really noticed on American television that sex between teenagers is really discourage.

What I'm trying to say is that I think a lot of aspects of society, such as gender relations and the market, have become increasingly conservative, and pandering towards conservatism in some outlets of the media has become more pronounced.

I hope that makes sense. I can't seem to get my words straight tonight.

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