Pick a gendered children’s toy or a purchasable, gendered object that is part of child or teen culture, and read it as a cultural sign. Recall from our class
discussions that a sign has a denotative meaning, it’s literal or ostensibly “objective” meaning, and it has a connotative meaning, an implicit or not-so-obvious
meaning that is often emotive or ideological in nature. In this essay, you must clearly and convincingly explain your toy or object’s connotative meaning and
how it participates in constructing our cultural conception of masculinity or femininity. In what ideological beliefs about gender does it participate?
Articles we read and you can mention are Karen Klugman’s article “A Bad Hair Day for G.I. Joe”, Aaron Devor’s essay “Gender Role Behaviors and Attitudes”
and Deborah Blum’s essay “The Gender Blur: Where Does Biology End and Society Take Over?”
Essays must be between 1000-1250 words in length (please put the word count at the end of your paper). If the paper isn’t at least 1000 words, you are not
completing the assignment, and it will not receive a passing grade.
The body paragraphs should:
Have a topic sentence that introduces the characteristic or element of the toy that will be examined in the paragraph (Even transitional words like “another”
and “next,” can create a stronger, clearer topic sentence.)
Provide convincing analysis. Remember that the author must go beyond explaining how we know the toy is for boys or girls (we already know that). The
author should provide enough analysis to illustrate the ideological beliefs about gender that the toy perpetuates and constructs. Analysis of the toy is the
evidence in your paper.
Be focused on analysis and not a list of ideas.
Do’s and Don’t
Your essay must be grammatically correct and thesis-driven.
Focus your paper. Do not write half your paper on a boy’s toy and half on a girl’s toy.
Feel free to quote any of the sources we used in class. Texts read in class do not need a works cited page, but it should be clear what author you are
referencing. If available, include the page number/s in an in-text citation (Links to an external site.).
It’s usually obvious which gender the toy is intended for, so assume your audience knows that fact (it is the toy’s denotative meaning after all). In other words,
the point of the paper is not to explain how you know which gender the toy is intended for.
Avoid the use of the word “appeal.” Again, we aren’t worried about how we know which gender the toy is meant to appeal to.
This essay should not be a research paper on the history of children’s toys or your toy. Do not write a paper on biology and gender. Therefore, limit or
completely eliminate the use of outside sources. There will be a paper that requires research at the end of the semester. For essay 1, use your time attending
to the quality of your analysis and clarity in your writing. If you feel an outside source would enhance your analysis, use MLA format (Links to an external
site.). Using outside sources will not raise your grade. I’m grading on the quality of analysis.
This essay is not an opinion piece on the state of children’s toys today. You should not spend time in the body of the essay explaining why this toy is harmful,
or problematic, or gives the wrong impression about gender roles. You might mention these issues in the conclusion of your paper, but the body paragraphs
should solely be devoted to analyzing the toy’s characteristics.