Monday, December 02, 2013
Send a Message to Barbie
About two weeks ago, I posted an article I titled “Enough With the Princesses,” that you may recall. The idea of encouraging girls to think STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) is really taking off this year, with Claire Miller making suggestions for Christmas presents for girls that are not in the pink and purple aisle. I know I am definitely doing this. I’m intrigued by the Lego Woman Scientist character and by the GoldieBlox (shown in the video on my blog). My only problem with this graphic is that neither girls nor boys have to wear glasses anymore, and prolong this stereotype that all scientists or mathematicians or engineers have poor eyesight. What is that about? Lasik surgery is widely available.
Shopping for a Girl? Consider Science and Engineering Toys
Sofia the First, a new Disney princess decked out in a lavender gown, is high on most retailers’ list of the hottest toys this holiday season. But if you’re shopping for a girl, why not skip the doll aisle for toys that encourage science and engineering?
That’s the Black Friday message from a small group of toy makers who say they are frustrated that there are separate lists for girls’ toys and boys’ toys in the first place. They have been led by GoldieBlox, the company whose“Girls” ad went viral this month (and got the company into some trouble with the Beastie Boys, whose song it rewrote).
But others are also sending that message. The American Association of University Women, for example, created a list of 16 gifts for girls of every age.
“Dolls and other toys for young children are especially important because they are still developing their own gender identity and are especially susceptible to gender stereotyping,” said Catherine Hill, director of the association’s research department.
The group’s list includes a “future scientist” onesie, computer engineer Barbie, Wikki Stix, an alternative-energy science kit, and “The Princess Knight,” a book about a princess who rescues herself (no prince required).
Robot Girl Lottie is inspired by women robotics experts and her story line and accessories are based on a science fair. Its creators stress that unlike other dolls, Lottie has a childlike body and does not wear makeup or high heels.
Roominate, a start-up founded by two women engineers with degrees from Stanford, M.I.T. and Caltech, sells kits for girls to build things as if they were design, electrical or structural engineers.
And over at the Motherlode blog, my colleague KJ Dell’Antonia made her own list, including kits for circuit board experiments, soldering and robots.
Mainstream brands like Mattel and Lego are catching on. Lego sells a woman scientist character and a pink and purple Lego set (though it doesn’t exactly break gender stereotypes — it includes a dining table, dishes and a croissant).
Meanwhile, some retail analysts say toys have been displaced by electronics and gadgets, like Xboxes and iPads, as the popularholiday gift for children. Maybe parents have been listening to Sheryl Sandberg, who says parents should let their daughters play video games if they want them to consider computer science careers.