Wednesday, March 30, 2011

My Little Pony must die

The language used to target young consumers (or children as we used to call them) is often designed to appeal to their developing sense of gender identity, and some would argue that many ads manipulate that identity to encourage boys and girls into thinking that certain toys and games are only for the other gender. I've seen it happen with my own kids who've left the protective cocoon of CBeebies and CBBC and entered the commercial wasteland that is ITV2 and the Cartoon Network.

This brilliantly simple piece of corpus analysis using Wordle (and flagged up by an anonymous person on the English Language list today) takes the language of TV ads and represents them in word clouds. The results based on gender are really striking:
boys' toys
girls' toys
The effects of this kind of polarised language are harder to gauge perhaps, but it's pretty stunning that in the 21st Century kids are still being sold a line that fighting is what boys do and love is what girls do. This pressure group - Pink Stinks - has done some good work in challenging gender stereotypes around children's toys and clothes, and is well worth a look.

For A level Language Investigations (AS ENGA2 projects into representation for the AQA A spec or ENGB4 for the A2 investigation in AQA B) this sort of work is ideal.

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