The content analysis activity described in this article allows students to investigate the gendered meanings in marketing materials for children’s Halloween costumes. What lessons about gender are relayed through materials such as these? Existing research has shown that costumes are often gendered in traditional, stereotypical ways. However, rather than being passive recipients of research findings, students participating in this activity get to “do” scholarly work and examine data firsthand. This process of discovery is the hallmark of inquiry-guided learning and is also central to feminist pedagogy. For this activity, students are provided with a set of children’s Halloween costumes to analyze – specifically, the costume name, image, and description from a retailer website. They are then tasked with coding this material, making note of if and how the costume names, costumes, models, and descriptions are gendered, the adjectives used to describe the costumes and models, and whether the models’ poses connote activity or passivity. After coding each costume, students identify patterns in their findings. In the follow-up discussion, students report findings and consider how they compare to those from previous studies. In doing so, they can identify ways that gender stereotypes are reproduced and/or challenged. More generally, this activity encourages students to consider how mass media and consumer culture can contribute to children’s gender socialization, as well as what can and cannot be learned from content analysis research such as this.
"Crime-Fighting Heroes and Pretty Caped Crusaders: Classroom Content Analysis of Children’s Halloween Costumes,"
Feminist Pedagogy: Vol. 2:
4, Article 5.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.calpoly.edu/feministpedagogy/vol2/iss4/5