Sex Roles

, Volume 67, Issue 7–8, pp 375–388 | Cite as

The Gender Marketing of Toys: An Analysis of Color and Type of Toy on the Disney Store Website

  • Carol J. AusterEmail author
  • Claire S. Mansbach
Original Article


The purpose of this study was to examine 1) the extent to which the gender marketing of toys on the Internet replicates findings of previous studies of the gendering of toys, and 2) the extent to which toys for “both boys and girls”, a previously overlooked category of toys, share characteristics, such as color and type of toy, with toys marketed for “boys only” or for “girls only”. The sample consisted of the 410 toys listed for boys and the 208 toys listed for girls, including 91 toys that appeared on both lists, on the English language U.S. Disney Store website. The marketing of toys on the Disney Store website is important not only because of the growth in e-commerce, but also because of this company’s global domination of the children’s entertainment industry. Tabular analysis and chi-square revealed that bold colored toys, predominantly red, black, brown, or gray toys, and those that were action figures, building toys, weapons, or small vehicles typified toys for “boys only” on this U.S. website. Pastel colored toys, predominantly pink or purple toys, and those that were dolls, beauty, cosmetics, jewelry, or domestic-oriented typified toys for “girls only”. A majority of toys for “both boys and girls” were mostly “gender-neutral” in type, but they resembled toys for “boys only” in terms of their color palette, presumably to appeal to boys, who are less likely to cross gender lines than girls. The potential impact of the gendering of toys on individuals as well as limitations of this research and suggestions for future research are discussed.


Gender Toys Socialization Children Disney 



We would like to especially thank the editor, Irene Frieze, as well as anonymous reviewers for their valuable and insightful comments and suggestions.


  1. Bakir, A., Blodgett, J. G., & Rose, G. M. (2008). Children’s responses to gender-role stereotyped advertisements. Journal of Advertising Research, 48, 255–266. doi: 10.2501/S002184990808029X.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  3. Bandura, A. (2002). Social cognitive theory of mass communication. In J. Bryant & D. Zillman (Eds.), Media effects: advances in theory and research (2nd ed., pp. 121–153). Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  4. Bell, E., Hass, L., & Sells, L. (Eds.). (1995). From mouse to mermaid: The politics of film, gender, and culture. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Blakemore, J. E. O., & Centers, R. E. (2005). Characteristics of boys’ toys and girls’ toys. Sex Roles, 53, 619–633. doi: 10.1007/s11199-005-7729-0.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bridges, J. (1993). Pink or blue: Gender-stereotypic perceptions of infants as conveyed by birth congratulations cards. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 17, 193–205. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-6402.1993.tb00444.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Caldera, Y. M., Huston, A. C., & O’Brien, M. (1989). Social interactions and play patterns of parents and toddlers with feminine, masculine, and neutral toys. Child Development, 60, 70–76. doi: 10.2307/1131072.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cherney, I. D., & London, K. (2006). Gender-linked differences in the toys, television shows, computer games, and outdoor activities of 5- to 13-year old children. Sex Roles, 54, 717–726. doi: 10.1007/s11199-006-9037-8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Clark, E. (2007). The real toy story: Inside the ruthless battle for America’s youngest consumers. New York: The Free Press.Google Scholar
  10. Corsaro, W. A. (1997). The sociology of childhood. Thousand Oak: Pine Forge.Google Scholar
  11. Davis, A. M. (2006). Good girls and wicked witches: Women in Disney’s feature animation. Eastleigh: John Libbey.Google Scholar
  12. Disney Store. (2010). Retrieved on July 9, 2010 from
  13. Downs, A. C. (1983). Letters to Santa Claus: Elementary school-age children’s sex-typed toy preferences in a natural setting. Sex Roles, 9, 159–163. doi: 10.1007/BF00289620.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. England, D. E., Descartes, L., & Collier-Meek, M. A. (2011). Gender role portrayal and the Disney Princesses. Sex Roles, 64, 555–567. doi: 10.1007/s11199-011-9930-7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Fishel, C. (2001). Designing for children: Marketing design that speaks to kids. Gloucester: Rockport Publishers, Inc.Google Scholar
  16. Fisher-Thompson, D. (1990). Adult sex typing of children’s toys. Sex Roles, 23, 291–303. doi: 10.1007/BF00290050.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Fisher-Thompson, D., Sausa, A. D., & Wright, T. E. (1995). Toy selection for children: Personality and toy request influences. Sex Roles, 33, 239–255. doi: 10.1007/BF01544613.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Frey, K. S., & Ruble, D. N. (1992). Gender constancy and the “cost” of sex-typed behavior: A test of the conflict hypothesis. Developmental Psychology, 28, 714–721. doi: 10.1037/0012-1649.28.4.714.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gerbner, G., Gross, L., Morgan, M., & Signorielli, N. (1994). Growing up with television: The cultivation perspective. In J. Bryant & D. Zillman (Eds.), Media effects: Advances in theory and research (pp. 17–41). Hillsdale: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  20. Giroux, H. A. (1997). Are Disney movies good for your kids? In S. R. Steinberg & J. L. Kincheloe (Eds.), Kinderculture: The corporate construction of childhood (pp. 53–67). Boulder: Westview.Google Scholar
  21. Goldstein, J., Buckingham, D., & Brougere, G. (2004). Toys, games, and media. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  22. Kahlenberg, S. G., & Hein, M. M. (2010). Progression on Nickelodeon? Gender-role stereotypes in toy commercials. Sex Roles, 62, 830–847. doi: 10.1007/s11199-009-9653-1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kane, E. W. (2006). “No way my boys are going to be like that!”: Parents’ responses to children’s gender nonconformity. Gender & Society, 20, 149–176. doi: 10.1177/0891243205284276.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Karniol, R. (2011). The color of children’s gender stereotypes. Sex Roles, 65, 119–132. doi: 10.1007/s11199-011-9989-1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kline, S. (1993). Out of the garden: Toys, TV, and children’s culture in the age of marketing. Toronto: Garamond.Google Scholar
  26. Little, A. C., & Hill, R. A. (2007). Attribution to red suggests special role in dominance signalling. Journal of Evolutionary Psychology, 5, 161–168. doi: 10.1556/JEP.2007.1008.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Maglaty, J. (2011). When did girls start wearing pink? Retrieved from
  28. Marcon, R. A., & Freeman, G. (1996). Linking gender-related toy preferences to social structure: Changes in children’s letters to Santa since 1978. Journal of Psychological Practice, 2, 1–10. doi: 10.1080/14753639608411259.Google Scholar
  29. Martin, C. L., Eisenbud, L., & Rose, H. (1995). Children’s gender-based reasoning about toys. Child Development, 66, 1453–1471. doi: 10.2307/1131657.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Martin, C. L., Ruble, R. N., & Szkrybalo, J. (2002). Cognitive theories of early gender development. Psychological Bulletin, 22, 903–933. doi: 1.1037/0033-2909.128.6.903.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Nelson, A. (2000). The pink dragon is female: Halloween costumes and gender markers. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 24, 137–144. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-6402.2000.tb00194.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Neuendorf, K. A. (2002). The content analysis guidebook. Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  33. Orenstein, P. (2011). Cinderella ate my daughter. NY: HarperCollins.Google Scholar
  34. Pennell, G. E. (1994). Babes in toyland: Learning an ideology of gender. Advances in Consumer Research, 21, 359–364.Google Scholar
  35. Pew Research Center. (2010). Attention shoppers: Online product research. Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. Retrieved from
  36. Pomerleau, A., Bolduc, D., Malcuit, G., & Cossette, L. (1990). Pink or blue: Environmental gender stereotypes in the first two years of life. Sex Roles, 22, 359–367. doi: 10.1007/BF00288339.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Ruble, D. N., Lurye, L. E., & Zosuls, K. M. (2007). Pink frilly dresses (PFD) and early gender identity. Princeton Report on Knowledge, 2. Retrieved from
  38. Rudy, R. M., Popova, L., & Linz, D. G. (2010). The context of current content analysis of gender roles: An introduction to a special issue. Sex Roles, 62, 705–720. doi: 10.1007/s11199-010-9807-1.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Schor, J. B. (2004). Born to buy: The commercialized child and the new consumer culture. New York: Scribner.Google Scholar
  40. Seiter, E. (1993). Sold separately: Children and parents in consumer culture. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
  41. Steinberg, S. R., & Kincheloe, J. L. (1997). Kinderculture: The corporate construction of childhood. Boulder: Westview.Google Scholar
  42. Stern, S. L., & Schoenhaus, T. (1990). Toyland: The high-stakes game of the toy industry. Chicago: Contemporary Books.Google Scholar
  43. Thorne, B. (1993). Gender play: Girls and boys in school. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
  44. Tobin, D. D., Menon, M., Hodges, E. V., Menon, M., Spatta, B. C., & Perry, D. G. (2010). The intrapsychics of gender: A model of self-socialization. Psychological Review, 177, 601–622. doi: 10.1037/a0018936.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Turgeon, S. M. (2008). Sex differences in children’s free drawings and their relationship to 2D:4D ratio. Personality and Individual Differences, 45, 527–532. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2008.06.006.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. U. S. Census Bureau (2011). Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2012 (131st ed.). Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  47. Wasko, J. (2001). Understanding Disney: The manufacture of fantasy. Cambridge: Blackwell Publishers, Inc.Google Scholar
  48. Wiersma, B. A. (2000). The gendered world of Disney: A content analysis of gender themes in full-length animated Disney feature films. Unpublished dissertation, South Dakota State University.Google Scholar
  49. Williams, C. L. (2006). Inside toyland: Working, shopping, and social inequality. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  50. Wimmer, R. D., & Dominick, J. R. (2011). Mass media research: An introduction (9th ed.). Belmont: Wadsworth.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyFranklin and Marshall CollegeLancasterUSA

Personalised recommendations