NPR had several interesting discussions regarding the controversy over girl-themed Legos, and gender in toys .
On reflection though, I think anything that helps get girls interested in the concepts is fantastic. This simply wouldn't be of value to my own daughter (or my nieces for that matter), but I can see how it would be really helpful in getting girls like your niece interested, and that can only be a good thing.
However, I feel like parents who are inclined to buy this might not be likely to have princess-obsessed kids. But I am not a parent, so I don't know.
Changing the interaction should come second. Dumbing it down is almost never the solution, yet it's often the first solution people turn to when trying to deal with a gender gap. It's as if they think the issues will go away if they speak very slowly and loudly.
(I admire the objective, but I believe I would like the project better if it said "an engineering toy" instead of "the engineering toy." The implication differs.)
Why yes, yes they do: http://friends.lego.com/en-us/Default.aspx
They're controversial for the same reasons people are complaining on this thread, but they're selling. (See http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/business/2012/09/lego-friends-tr...)
Users care about things like color far more than engineers often suspect. If changing the color makes a substantive improvement to outcomes you care about - change the color.
The story + building is the innovation - meeting girls where they are and presenting construction/engineering themes through something other than a jumble of Legos. (This coming from a girl who loved Legos but didn't end up as an engineer)
Really fun to build.
Stories like "We've got an idea that seems pretty neat, and we'd like your cash to help us support ourselves while we flesh it out a bit; without your money we'll probably just make a few sacrifices, live a little less comfortably, and build it in our spare time anyway." are harder to rally behind.
Both of the female engineers I know got into engineering because their parents were engineers. It would be great to see people with more diverse sources of inspiration entering the field, and toys like GoldieBlox could be a great step in this direction.
Legos are for boys when 95% of what's on the Lego shelf is boy pirates, boy laserbros, boy Batman, boy bio-alien-robots tearing the shit out of boy bio-dino-robots, etc.
It _is_ disheartening to go into a lego store and see almost solely boy-oriented sets, though. I note kids in Lego stores are roughly 60/40 boys / girls, but the sets are boyish.
What happened to kids using their imaginations?
My mother also limited my TV time. My dad didn't but only when we watched Star Wars, Star Trek, Babylon 5, and all kinds of other sci=fi stuff together. He also told me stories about robots. I did also love playing with my Littlest Pet Shop toys and dressing up as a princess, but I also loved building robots, spaceships, pirate ships, etc. with legos. I don't really understand why that stuff isn't more popular with girls. I mean, almost all franchises based on them have multiple good female characters and storylines that seem like they would appeal to women.
Based on later experiences as a teacher of 4-5 year olds, I get the impression that socially there is usually a queen bee girl who tells all the other girls who like different things that they are lame and they can't be in the club if they play with robots. I don't necessarily think that's a natural thing as the way schools divide children up based on age would be unusual from a historical perspective. I think having all 5 year olds together with no younger or older girls encourages bullying behavior as they establish a social dominance, rather than age-based, hierarchy.
The problem appears to be the social backlash little girls face if they like those things.
Anyway, parents know what their kids want more than anyone else, so I think the option of gendered construction toys is great (so long as the market doesn't become dominated by them).
Personal anecdote: when I was a girl I wanted this $50 erector set for Christmas which my dad said was too expensive, but then he bought me a some $50 stuffed animal for Christmas anyways. I guess he felt like it was a better gift.
"Erector Sets" sold in the us are actually rebranded "Meccano". I'm not sure when that change happened, but it seems like that is what I actually had. I guess they bought the brand for marketing reasons.
I haven't heard how the new "Lego Friends" line has been doing, though.
Is the pattern a puzzle for the kids to solve? Do the kids follow along based on the patterns shown in the story?
Either way, exciting concept. I wish they explained the game itself though.
For more info:http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/12/09/can-a-ki...
In any case, I signed up for a couple boxes for my daughters.
Legos let you build whatever you can imagine, including things like houses, bridges, buildings, cars, planes, etc that exist in the real world. This allows little kids to emulate real engineers which is critical to creating excitement in the discipline. It also promotes skills like math (2x4 blocks = 8 dots), physics (how tall can you go before it falls over, where should wheels be to make a car stable), symmetry, organization (keeping 3000 parts in order), and instruction comprehension. I don't see any of that with a toy where you put a ribbon around 5 spools.
It's almost like saying Easy Bake Ovens create more female chefs. Thing is, they don't. Girls that spend lots of time in the kitchen building skills and creating on their own become chefs, not girls that put brownies under a light bulb. I also thought it was funny that they couldn't even move away from the Barbie syndrome. Can't girls have any other role models than blonde hair, blue eyed, thin Caucasian women?
As a father of two daughters, this makes me sick. I'm not a feminist, but I can't stand when people make "things for girls" that are pastel-ly and have ribbons. That does not help them, unless it is clothing or accessories.
To make girls want to play with tinkertoys, you make... tinkertoys. My youngest- she loves guns and trucks. I don't even own a gun or a truck!
Unfortunately, McDonalds sells "girl toys" and "boy toys". That makes me sick too. But they know their market. So- I think it is a good thing. There is a place for almost every toy. Just not with my daughters.
I have four kids. I've bought many toys that matched stereotypes and several that didn't match. What surprised me the most was, even when we didn't buy toy guns or swords, my boys turned things into them; and no matter what game was being played (and how violent the boys wanted it to be :/), one of my girls always wanted to be the stereotypical girl (the other is a very interesting mix of incredibly girly and not).
We tried very hard to not overly bias our kids, but the bias is in their genetic code. What I like about this toy is it recognizes that while providing a creative play experience. There are few girl's toys that allow you to build something.
The bigger question: do the girls want it? My guess is that they do. Not all of them, but enough to make this kind of toy successful.
Maybe you didn't mean this literally, but I think it's important not to promote this as-yet-unproven notion. There are tantalizing studies with conflicting conclusions here - we just don't know how much gender-stereotypical behavior is genetic.
Robots etc. are not inherently violent so an interest in / lack of interest in (non-weaponized) robots is better explained by socialization, rather than gender differences, IMHO.
But I'd like them to gravitate towards that, not be marketed to believe that they ought to be an X or a Y.
My son and my daughter both like My Little Pony (as do I, it's awesome) and I don't see anything that I could do to stop it, even if I wanted to.
Tangent: I've had an idea for a while that the best way to teach girls programming would be to start not with math or games but with a chat server. You can handwave over how the networking works, with the right framework. And kids who are really interested can delve deeper. Maybe kids reared on that would learn TCP/IP before they ever had to slog through some dreary fibonacci exercise.
I get that she's not "typical", but I'm not sure that the problem is that LEGO and Erector are "for boys". I lean towards thinking that the problem is that we tell kids that, one way or another.
Give girls lego.
My nearly-3 daughter loves megablocks and is getting into lego. I don't see any need whatsoever to get the 'gendered' version, especially stuff that is artificially simplified in the name of being 'girl friendly'.
The best way that I know of not inflicting the gender biases onto my child from a young age, is to NOT DO IT MYSELF. I mean, really, if parents aren't able to filter the marketing BS, how are children supposed to do it?
A key critique of what Legos have become is that they enforce oppressive gender roles - boys build fire trucks; girls build hair salons - and that goes much deeper than the color of the blocks.
To my eyes, this toy looks empowering.
So don't blame Lego - they're not the ones deciding what people actually want to buy.
[Or the real solution, just stop having gender identification entirely, but that's a ways away]
If it were natural differences the number would be consistent internationally. Instead, it varies in Western countries from 9% (Luxembourg) to 31% (Iceland) and has been trending consistently upward, albeit slowly, in the US.
In fact, there's even a school in Sweden that went hardline on this:
They were my favorite. It never occurred to me that they were for boys, and I don't think anyone else tried to tell me that, either. I loved building houses and hotels with my universal building sets and for a long time they fueled dreams of being an architect, until I discovered engineering.
I know there has always been some gendering of toys, but I feel like we've regressed from where we were as a society when I was a child, and it's terribly depressing.
Some examples as to what you can build with the toy would be great.
Right now this solution feels like similar solutions being pursued in computer engineering to fix the gender imbalance- namely creating girls-only coding groups. This is good in some ways, but I feel like it breeds two standards (with the female standard being weaker). For me, the best type of progress is girls working alongside the boys, with both happy and comfortable.
Kickstarter is getting frothy. Reminds me of all the swill that was earning millions in the early days of the iOS App Store.
But I guess that's not all! Think about all the fun people could have with dress up soldiers! "Men of Action", or, gee, "Joe who's a GI". You could give him a whole range of accessories and outfits and and and...
By dressup dolls I thought I clearly conveyed the idea of dolls whose design and accessories are all about dressing them up with clothing, makeup and fashion accessories. Not guns. Not tools. Not Batman-like gadgets/vehicles. Dressup dolls. Think Barbie dolls. The point being that dressup dolls and babies appeals to a large percentage of (but not necessarily all) actual real-life girls whereas action figures and guns appeal to a large percentage of (but not necessarily all) actual real-life boys. But you don't see people complaining about the lack of the latter for girls.
"Why aren't there more toy Glocks marketed for girls like my little Suzy?" - a concerned suburban mom, nowhere
Boys play competitive games where they either compete against each other or work together to overcome an objective. That's how my brother and I played back in the day. And growing up in the UK, we played with Action Men rather than GI Joe's.
Now, I have two daughters and they play cooperative games. The best description of girls playing that I've heard is "lets". I've heard my daughters playing together and they say "let's ..." all the time. They role-play scenarios with their Barbie dolls. And before they had Barbies, they did it with their stuffed animals. I'm a pastor and they often re-enact church and family stuff. They get details exactly right, including the pastor (me) working on his sermon on his laptop.
I have not forced this behavior on my daughters. And they like a few activities not normally associated with girls. My oldest likes shooting, has her own .22 rifle and is a pretty good shot. They both like wearing camo much to my wife's distress. They do play with lego and mega-blocks. My oldest has an Ubuntu laptop and loves it. But most of the time, they play traditional girls stuff.