Messages in the Media: What Family Window Decals Say About "Normal"

Sociological Images is one of our favorite sites for finding images that serve as excellent springboards for discussion. And I also find fascinating the kinds of complex and meaningful explorations that can come from simple sources. Recently SI posted about simple family window decals that we often see on cars. Typically we see a dad, mom, one or more kids, and sometimes a family pet -- in that order. As the post says,

"So the stickers tend to reproduce the normalness of (1) being paired up with (2) someone of the other sex, (3) having children, (4) a gender hierarchy, and (5) the imperative that men be taller than women." I was happy to see that in addition to the gender hierarchy, the post mentioned that in the typical ranking "all humans take precedence over animals," noting the normality given to speciesism in our culture.

Read the complete post.

If we visit the website selling the decals and customized options for our family, we can note several additional interesting messages, such as:
  • the males wear pants; the females wear dresses;
  • the males can wear glasses; the females don't;
  • the males have short hair; the females have long hair;
  • the males engage in active pastimes, such as hockey, football, and soccer; the females are gardeners, ice skaters and cheerleaders (both genders can play golf, fish, and be cowboys/girls);
  • there are 27 different head options for males; there are 9 for females;
  • there are 3 choices for family "pets."
My intent isn't to pick on the offerings of this particular company. There are plenty of other companies that promote the same kinds of stereotypes and assumptions (as well as companies that offer much more diversity). But this is an important example of how ubiquitous and subtle messages about important issues like gender identity, gender roles, relationships, and normalcy can be; and it's a great example, as I mentioned before, of how complex, meaningful explorations can spring from simple sources.

~ Marsha

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