A good bowl of cereal and Saturday morning cartoons were a rite of passage for many growing up in the 70’s and 80’s. Today’s kids don’t know what quality kids-oriented TV programming was, since everything now has to be sanitized to ensure that nothing is directly marketed towards kids.
Remember McDonaldland and all the fun characters that Ronald McDonald used to hang out with? Don’t see them much on TV anymore, do you? It’s a surprise that they still show up at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, considering the promotional aspect of having a clown as your spokesman.
But let’s get back to the cereal aisle.
As parents often reiterate that phrase, “YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT“, have you ever taken a good look at the characters depicted on cereal boxes in order to sell their particular flavor of sugared nutrition?
It ends up that MALE CHARACTERS DOMINATE THE CEREAL AISLE BY A DISPROPORTIONAL AMOUNT in a study entitled GENDER AND FORM OF CEREAL BOX CHARACTERS: DIFFERENT MEDIUM, SAME DISPARITY.
In one study, over 215 different cereal boxes were checked for character gender down the cereal aisle. Gender was identified by either the obvious (the name of the character being a predominately male or female name) or more subtle (clothing choices, such as hair ribbons or skirts). Even non-human characters were genderized in this study. 352 individual cereal characters were identified, and 1,568 secondary characters on the boxes were grouped together.
Overall, 1,386 characters were able to be identified as having a gender.
- 72% were male characters
- 28% were female characters
If the researchers looked only at times when there was only one character on the front of the box rather than looking at all sides, the differences were much stronger: 82% were male characters
Some of the other data that this study found were:
- Women were more likely to be shown as people. Men were more likely to be shown as animals or objects
- Women were more likely to be depicted as a child or adolescent. Men were more often shown as adults
- Women were not often shown as being in active activities, but were often shown in more passive or sedentary styles
What’s the takeaway from a cereal-based gender study?
If you’re a parent who insists on purchasing pink Legos for your daughter — you know, because they’re pink, and girls should only play with pink toys — then you may want to extend your gender bias to your cereal purchases as well and force your daughter to only eat woman-endorsed or promoted cereals.
On the other hand, you can use this as a learning opportunity to tell cereal manufacturers that it’s not just boys that go cuckoo for Cocoa-Puffs, but that girls can love a sweetened corn cereal just as much.