Leslie Rech

Responses from Leo, age 6, and Leslie, age 41, to the phrase "fighting and helping"

Investigations of children's drawings show a relationship between gender and style. In Gender Style as Form and Content: An Examination of Gender Stereotypes in the Subject Preference of Children's Drawing, Donna Tuman (1999) refers to studies that show girls "possess a marked interest in rendering the human figure as an embellished, well-proportioned, portrait often surrounded by a balanced, realistic, natural or or domestic environment" and boys to prefer to document figures "in imaginary episodes of conflict, humor, fantasy, and action with warriors, monsters, armies, and machines." She also references an earlier study:

Feinberg (1976) was the first to find that when boys and girls were asked to draw pictures in response to the words "fighting" and "helping" girls portrayed "fighting" in terms of emotional conflict between friends or family, and "helping" in terms of personal assistance or care for someone they knew. By contrast, boys portrayed "fighting" as an indirect aggressive action between violent armies, fantasy creatures and teams, and "helping" as a hands-on contribution to a production task such as building a skyscraper or constructing a bridge.

Toys and cartoons are pervasive forms of visual stimuli. Barbies and GI Joe are examples of what McClure (2011, referencing Barthes) describes as mythic texts, "adults imposed upon children, through toys, a barren set of pre-determined potentials for adult, social, productive, and political life that contribute to the perpetuation of the nation state."