Purpose:  To understand the visible and subtle messages about self, values, and identity that are communicated while consuming.  Additionally, at the conclusion of this assignment you ought to
Visit any four of the six locations below then answer the summary questions at the end.  Your paper should be formatted as an essay, not questions and answers!

Part 1: Observations: Choose 4 of the 6 to Observe and Include in your Paper

Observation Site One: Gaming Store (or similar location)

1.    As you walk through the store, note the following:

        a.  Are the characters in the game mostly male or female?

        b.  What roles do they assume in the game?

        c.  What stereotyped role do the characters assume?

Are the customers playing the games predominately male or female?
What messages are communicated and what values are transmitted through these games?
2.      Play a game.

        a.  Describe the males in the game

        b.  Describe the females in the game

        c.  What was the object of the game?

Describe the violence in the game.

Observation Site Two: Music Store (or music section in store)

1.      How are men and women portrayed on the CD covers?  Look at 10-15 of each.

What types of music are men likely to perform?  Women?
What values are portrayed and modeled on the CD covers?
Are these significant for adolescents or children’s sense of who they want to become?

Observation Site Three: Card or Gift Store (or card section in a store)

1.      Look at the two sections: Birthday Boy and Birthday Girl.  Note the colors of each type of card.

2.      What roles are assumed in the cards by gender?

3.      Describe the difference between male/female birthday cards.

4.      Look at the wrapping paper.  How does that reflect gender?

Observation Site Four: From the map (directory) compare the number of mens vs. womens

stores (those that cater to male and female products).

What is the ratio of stores in the mall?
Is this significant? What does this say about who shops?
Go into some of the stores male stores and then female stores.  Who works there?  How are they dressed?  What’s their demeanor? Etc.

Observation Site Five:  Toy-Store (or toy department in a store)

Look at the dolls:  Do they appear to be targeted toward boys or girls?  How is this done?  Are there any gender neutral dolls? What messages are reflected back to a child about what it means to be a girl or a boy in our society
What personality characteristics are promoted by the dolls? by the guns?
Check the packaging what message does it convey?

3.    Describe the color and pictures on the packaging for various toys. What messages are reflected back to a child about what it means to be a girl or a boy in our culture?

4.    What social roles are various toys teaching and training children?  Give special attention to any messages about the meaning of being a boy or a girl.

Observation Site Six: Food court

Note the number of males/females/minority group members that work the counter at several stores.
Is the manager male?  Is the manager female?  Is the manager white or an ethnic or racial minority?
What type of working condition is it?  What is your impression of the employees?  Do they look happy to be working there, stressed, depressed?

Part 2: General Analysis of the Sociological Significance of Shopping

You must answer all these questions in your paper.  These questions should be answered in paragraph form after the observation section of the paper.

What gender identity markers were evident at the mall?  How is this related to socialization? What agents of socialization exist at the mall/store?
What social class or racial markers were evident at the mall?  Of the workers and shoppers? Do stores and products reinforce class and racial differences?
How do American malls or stores influence a shoppers sense of self and promote cultural values?
Please use one of the three main sociological perspectives (functionalism, conflict theory, or symbolic interactionism) and apply it to your analysis. For example, put on your conflict theory ‘glasses’ and tell me what you noticed and identified in your analysis?

***Your paper should total approximately 3-4 pages total, typed, double spaced. The paper should be divided into two sections: the first is your analysis of your observations (4 of the 6); the second section will focus on your answers to the general analysis questions of the sociological significance of shopping.***


Observation Site 1: GameStop Gaming Store

I recently visited the GameStop gaming store that is situated in Plantation Towne Square. I took a quick tour around the store in search of a birthday gift from my brother. The store was divided into sections with respective sections containing specific genres of the games being sold at the store. During my tour of the store, I noticed that the games contained both male and female Protagonists with a majority of the characters in the video games being male. The roles assumed by the characters in the video games was predominantly determined by the genre of the game. For instance; the protagonists in games like Call of Duty which I found in the action games aisle were soldiers whereas characters in Madden NFL video game were male football players. The roles played by most of the characters in the video games that I sampled were largely stereotypical. Case in point being every character in the Call of Duty game being male yet the US military constitutes of both male and female soldiers. I also noticed that a majority of the gamers playing games at the store were male. The games being played at the store communicated different messages that was primarily dependent on the theme and genre of the game being played.

Observation Site Two: Music Store

I noticed that both men and women musicians from my observation of the CD covers at the music Store. In terms of portrayal, the photos of the musicians in the CD covers had a stark contrast with regards to how the musicians were dressed. A majority of the male musicians on the CD covers were fully dressed whereas most of the female musicians were skimpily dressed. Both genders were represented in a majority of the music genres but there were some genres such rap music that were predominantly a male domain. In contrast female musicians were most likely to sing love songs. The values that were being modeled and portrayed on the CD covers were primarily influenced by the genre of the song or album. For instance; many CD covers of rock music had a gothic theme which was a portrayal of the gothic culture that most rock music lovers associate with. The portrayal of the musicians on the CD covers coupled with the values being portrayed on the CD covers have a large bearing on how children and adolescents perceive life and who they want to be in future.

Observation Site Three: Gift Shop

During my visit to the Gift Shop in search of the perfect birthday card for three-year old nephew. I noticed a certain trend in the birthday cards designed for boys and girls. I noticed that the theme color was blue in the ‘Birthday Boy’ section and pink in the ‘Birthday Girl’ section. The difference between the thematic colors between the two sections was not the only obvious thing perpetuating the gender division in the store. There were also a huge divide between gender assigned roles being communicated by the cards. In the ‘Birthday Boy’ section, the blue themed cards were predominantly accompanied by caricatures of superheroes on their covers.

In contrast, the pink theme cards in the ‘Birthday Girl’ section were predominantly accompanied by representations of princesses and fairies on their covers. The messages captioned in the cards were also very different for the two sections. For instance; one card in the ‘Birthday Boy’ section had a blue theme with a drawing of the fictional superhero ‘Superman ‘on the cover with a message caption that read ‘A little hero turns a year older. In the ‘Birthday Girl’ section one of the pink themed birthday cards had a drawing of ‘Snow White’ a popular princess character owned by Disney. The wrapping paper also drew a clear distinction between the two sections, for the girl’s section pink glittery wrapping paper was being used whereas for the ‘Birthday Boy section the wrapping paper being used was blue with no glitter

Observation Site Five: Toy Store

The doll collection at the toy store was organized in a manner that suggested that certain dolls were meant for girls while others were meant for boys. The dolls stacked on the store’s aisles that were targeting girls were predominantly dolls depicting princess characters from popular cartoons. Also, there were a few superhero themed dolls such as WonderWoman from DC Comics being well represented in that section. The dolls that were purposed to be used by the boy child were mainly representations of Superhero characters. From my tour of the store, I was not able to identify any dolls that were gender neutral. The personality characteristics being promoted by the dolls were archetypical of the traditional gender roles that were largely accepted by the society in the past. The product packaging furthered this gender divide, with some packages for dolls that were intended to be used by the girl child contain miniature beauty kits. The color themes used in the packages also promoted the gender schism with the color blue being predominantly used in toys associated with the boys and pink being used in toys associated with girls. Many of the toys being sold at the store continue to perpetuate the traditional gender roles that have defined society for many years. Despite this pervasive use of gender-based designs in toys, the production of a superhero line of toys such as the Wonder Woman doll bodes well for the future of a gender-less toy industry

Sociological Significance of Shopping

The term gender represents the cultural and social traits of feminine and masculine behavior (OpenStax, 2016). Individuals become accustomed to their gender roles at a tender age and socialization helps them in understanding and performing such roles. Gender identity refers to an individual’s deeply held view that is influenced by their gender and is a product of the socialization process that is made possible through various agents of socialization (OpenStax, 2016).

During my visit to the mall, I was able to identify some gender identity markers. For instance, many teenage girls that I came across at the mall were wearing make-up. At the mall, there were various notable agents’ socialization such as the gaming arcade, beauty parlor, and the food court.

A social class refers to group of people that has been brought together based on common social factors such as occupation, education, income, and wealth (OpenStax, 2016). There were various social class markers that were very evident at the mall. For instance, there were some people designer clothing and shoes which are often a preserve of the wealthy. From my visit to the mall, I was not able to identify any racial marker from both the shoppers and employees that I came across.

However, I was able to notice the ability of the American malls and store to promote cultural values and a sense of self. From my personal experience during my visit to the mall I felt somehow intimidated when I came across shoppers who were wearing expensive attires and high-end jewelry. The analysis of my excursions at the mall can be directly correlated to the functionalism theory that perceives society as an intricate structure constituting of inter- related part that are geared towards meeting the social and biological needs of every individual within a society (OpenStax, 2016).

My visit to the mall produced a mix of both manifest and latent functions. Manifest functions refer to expected outcomes of any social process whereas latent function refer to the unsolicited effects of any social process (OpenStax, 2016). For example, I was able to purchase a few gifts for friends and family during my visit to the mall which is an example of a manifest function. In contrast, my encounters with various shoppers and personnel at the mall is an example of latent functions.


OpenStax. (2016). Sociology 2e. Rice University

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