"Those are the GIRLS' stuff!"
There is a long tradition of using gender and sexual dualism as marketing strategies in industries from technology to entertainment. Discourses in advertisements are often framed as “targeting at” whether male or female consumers. Products are also packaged in ways that are gendered according to certain sets of binary codes. Such dichotomous gender representations not only reproduce the existing social and cultural structures of gender segregation, but also inform individual and collective activities which oftentimes are responses to these existing structures. Disney’s recent production strategy could be read as a manifestation of how individuals — in this case children — interact with the gender meaning structure. Sociologist and gender theorist, Barrie Thorne noted in her study about children how boys and girls respond to gender dualism through “borderworking.” As Thorne points out, school boys and girls interact with each other on playgrounds which sometimes strengthen the gender “border.” While playing games in the school yard, boys and girls would form groups which are opposite and even antagonistic against each other. In a more virtual world of gaming and television, the borderline between “girls” and “boys” is drawn along the separation of “girlie stuff” and “boys’ stuff.” The shows and programs boys and girls watch indicate which groups they are involved with, while forming their collective identity — as belonging to “the girls” or belonging to “the boys.”
However, this is not suggesting that there are entirely different cultures for boys and girls. The relationships between cultural structures and human behaviors are not static nor unchanging. There are always boys who like to watch girlie shows or girls who like to play the “boys’ games,” and thus interrupt the constructed border between the two. Children’s interpretations of what is girlie and what are the boys’ stuffs may reconfigure existing notions of the gender structures as well. Gendered behaviors and groupings also change according to circumstances and surrounding situations. As Thorne stated, under environments where gender differences are not emphasized, the borderworking between boys and girls are less significant. Since television programs and shows are fundamental to gender representation and reproduction, creating a media environment which switches the focus away from gender segregated production might help breaking down the borderlines drawn between boys and girls.