Shannon’s Culture Jam

The original ad:

The ad I chose for my culture jam is part of a display for the Games 4 Girls campaign. Games 4 Girls was a shortly-lived marketing campaign created by GameStop, the top video game retail store in the United States. The display contains an abundance of sparkles and the colour pink, as well as images of stereotypically “girly” characters such as Bratz Dolls, The Little Mermaid, and My Little Pony.

The problem I am addressing in my culture jam revolves around marketing that focuses on targeting girls for only stereotypically “girly” products, while all other products are appropriate for boys as a default. The Games 4 Girls display is even conveniently situated close to the store’s doors so that girls are segregated to this area upon entering the store, and may not bother to peruse the other games. This can result in girls not being exposed to a wide variety of other games that they could have enjoyed and connected to.

The subject content of the games advertised in the Games 4 Girls display is also something I wanted to address in my culture jam. The issue here is that girls are pigeonholed into interests traditionally seen through the gender binary as being “for girls”. The display excludes popular video game genres like sports, action-adventure, superhero, and fighting or racing. Instead, the games under the display include titles such as Cooking Mama (a cooking simulation game), and titles from franchises such as Barbie or Bratz, which consist of a series of mini-games revolving around fashion, grooming, and shopping. This divide between genres that are appropriate for girls and boys reinforces harmful restrictive notions on what girls are capable of doing and enjoying.

The jammed ad:

When I set out to start this assignment, I knew I wanted to do something related to women and video games. Video games are an important part of my life, but at the same time, many aspects of the video gaming community are toxic and exclusionary to women. As such, I have a complex relationship with video gaming culture as a feminist, and wanted to explore this further in my culture jam.

My jam focuses on the ad’s notion that there is only a small subset of the vast variety of video games that are appropriate for girls. I wanted to show that by claiming that these stereotypically feminine games are the “Games 4 Girls”, the display is putting forth the damaging notion that these are the only games appropriate for girls to play. The display covertly suggests that girls should leave the sports, adventure, and epic tales of superheroes for the boys to enjoy. I’ve emphasized this message by adjusting the top banner to read, “Show the boys what the girls can’t do,” and including images of baseball, an alien and Batman covered by the “no” symbol to show that these interests are not acceptable for girls.

I also wanted to use my culture jam to invoke the idea that mainstream media often portrays women as lacking intellectual depth and complex interests. To do this, I used some additional stickers to emphasize how the “Games 4 Girls” display reinforces stereotypical and shallow assumptions of what things are important to women, such as beauty products like perfume and makeup.

There is one aspect of the ad that I wanted to mention but did not address in my culture jam. This is the fact that gender-based marketing is not only harmful to girls, but also to boys. The “Games 4 Girls” ad also implicitly states that these are not games for boys. This can lead boys to be shamed for enjoying such things, fostering toxic masculinity in society. While this is certainly an important issue, I chose to not to address this aspect of the display in my culture jam for the sake of brevity.