All the naysayers out there are neglecting an important viewpoint best explained by a personal anecdote. I have a 4 year old niece that is so into princesses, pink, high heals, the whole 9 yards, that any present that isn't themed pink and girly will just get ignored, yet she's very smart and likes playing with puzzles. Something like this might actually work for her, where gender neutral legos or erector sets would never get played with.
To this point there seems to be strong and widespread anecdotal evidence that many boys don't want to seem to much like girls by playing with "girly" toys and many girls feel the same way towards "boys" toys. There is perhaps (or perhaps not) a problem with this phenomenon that, over time, needs to be addressed. In the meantime things like this seem to be a great way to spread interest in science and engineering among both genders.
My first reaction when I saw this campaign was to roll my eyes a bit, to be honest. My own daughter loves the gender neutral and even "boyish" construction toys, and even though she loves ponies and princesses and pink frilly things, she'd probably cast something like this aside.
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.
My knee-jerk response to that: Do they make pink girly legos? Maybe there are reasons why that's the wrong approach, but I tend to regard interaction and packaging as two very distinct design components. If the packaging is the problem, fix that first.
Changing the interaction should come second. Dumbingitdown 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.)
I think there's a bit more to this toy than simply 'pink it and shrink it' as they say in retail.
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)
GoldieBlox is exactly the sort of project that Kickstarter should be used for. Stories like, "I'm a talented engineer who's identified a real problem and used my life savings to develop a prototype that could fix it; I've tested it rigorously and gotten great feedback. Now I just need your cash to put in my first order of 5,000 sets." are easy to get behind.
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.
Can't hate, I love it. Even the pink and cuddly bits. If this product instead had a blue ribbon and alien figurines with the title "Cyber Drivetrain Blast Kit" it wouldn't raise an eyebrow as a gendered or pandering toy.
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.
Even with the sets there is still learning involved in lego or at least skill/work involved for some(the same people with the imagination before I would imagine). I'm young enough that I grew up with lego sets(actually I grew up with construx and built many a string controlled robot with them!) my favourites were the pirates ones and I still have them in a big box at my parents house. The lego sets I had came with a set of instructions on how to build whatever they were for. But the booklets also came with 4 or 5 pictures of other projects built with the same or a subset of the same parts but no details on how to make them. I admit I wasn't imagining a new thing and building it but I would always work out how to build what they showed and I learned a lot from that too.
They are learning to follow instructions. Sure that's a useful skill, but 98% of school is teaching them that. What the more open ended lego kits teach is that you are free to create things constrained only by your imagination and the bricks you have. That surely is far more valuable than reconstructing a movie scene and having it gather dust on a shelf.
I see the sets as a way of defining constraint, i.e. establishing what an approved construction standard is. It then becomes possible for someone with extra bricks to invent a new model that fits in with the same scale/standards. Look at the fan-created models that scale to the modular building standard established by the Cafe Corner/Greengrocer sets for example. Sometimes a set of reasonable constraints leads to more creativity than there would be in a completely open environment.
Why should girls have to be interested in bio-alien-robots? Gender differences are real, so instead of trying to overcome them, we should do what this toy is trying to do: recognize them and work within them.
Anecdotally, I'm probably a good example of this. Being sickly, I was homeschooled for a lot of my childhood, so I didn't have a peer group to tell me what was cool for many years. I did interact with other kids through church and various activities like choir, but it wasn't very similar to social groups that form in schools.
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.
I get the desire for narrative and different colors...but this looks awfully simple-minded. Why can a boy age 5-9 play with erector sets and legos, but a "girl's" engineering toy must comprise such a primitive set of components?
In no way does it seem that this is the final product she will ever ship. This version is easy to manufacturer and easy to sell. She has an engineering degree: I'm sure this was not the first design and she whittled down from more complex designs, which she can get back to after she has a thriving business and marketing team. Personally, I think I would have been bored by this after one time at the age of 6 or 7, but it would have gotten my attention (and I was never a princess girl, I just liked puzzles). Think of the things that can spin from this: more technical puzzles, parts that the kids can use to invent their own games, story-telling and programming. I'm committing to her project because I see her as a long-term producer of products that could genuinely make a difference (and if not her, there's enough in here to spin a thousand ideas). Like someone commented on here: The Diamond Age could come from this, and who knows if it will be a girl in 25-50 years who builds it?
I can see the concerns some people have with legos clearly focusing on marketing to boys, but erector set stuff does seem rather un-gendered to me. I don't know if it has changed, but the erector set stuff I had as a child was just a bunch of stamped out metal parts with nuts/bolts. Not much "themeing" at all. I suppose you can just buy "vanilla" lego blocks too of course.
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).
If anything, the kids may not care, but adults picking out toys for a little girl will feel more comfortable buying this. People are always happier if they feel their choices were more "customized" for the person they're buying for.
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.
Ah thats a shame. Lego has always been pretty popular with girls though in my experience, though they tend to play houses with it rather than build vehicles. My girls love it, and so did my wife as a kid. Perhaps the genre specific lego sets have been pushing girls away from lego.
I think the toy is pretty cool and I'm sure lots of little girls will enjoy playing with it, but I'm not sure how this is supposed to get girls interested in engineering. There are none of the aspects of legos and erector sets that make those toys a stepping stone to becoming an engineer.
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?
I can't figure out if this is a good idea because it encourages girls to explore traditionally male-dominated activities, or a bad thing because it reinforces the idea that traditional construction toys are intended for boys.
I think it accepts the fact that traditional engineering toys are boy oriented, and adds a girl oriented toy to the market. Seems less about changing prevailing attitudes and more about using presenting cool stuff about engineering to girls who have probably already been impacted by those attitudes.
In any case, I signed up for a couple boxes for my daughters.
Agree with TWAndrews. At the end of the day, if there are girls out there who would not be interested in playing with the boy-oriented sets but WOULD be interested in playing with GoldieBlox, and from there learn that engineering is cool - then the toy accomplished what it set out to do.
Good intentions yes, but is this even fun? She says she playtested it, but I can't imagine it holding anyone's attention for more than an hour. Maybe you can re-play it by reading the story again, though.
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.
Note: not all girls need pink and frills to love engineering toys, building things, or even LEGO. My 8yo daughter loves to tear apart electronics for the components and build new things, and so do several of her friends.
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.
Odds are, they'll want a Toy for Gender. It's not 100% and I would never push my kids to have a particular type of toy, but gender differences are real.
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.
> We tried very hard to not overly bias our kids, but the bias is in their genetic code.
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.
There are differences, but so much is socialization. I.e. if green were a traditional girls' colour, and marketed as such, then girly girls would want to play with green toys. Parents would subtly encourage boys not to play with green toys.
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.
This is actually the first kickstarter project I've tossed in for. My only regret is that it won't be ready for Christmas. I have 4 young female relatives at the moment that I'd love to get interested in engineering. Two of them already have good starts but all could use a fun toy to really bring out the interest. I'm not buying it to try to convince them to be engineers either, I'd just like all of them to have a fun technical toy to play with like the ones I remember fondly as a kid. Does it need to be girl specific? Nope, but I think it will help.
I initially made a more crass comment, and then deleted to it, but what I'll say is that this got my feminist heckles up, and it seems like a pragmatic approach. However, in this case the pragmatic approach seems like building a castle on a swamp, as opposed to making any attempt to deal with said
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?
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.
The solution isn't to expect girls to play with toys that were designed and marketed specifically for boys, as tinker toys were and are. At least, not without putting the same onus on little boys. If boys were eager to play with pink tinker toys, after all, they would already exist.
Have you thought about writing to the Lego corp and suggesting inch-high dolls? You could give them things like interchangeable heads and hair, or even legs. Maybe even tiny little hands that can grip on to things? I guess you could even do them themed ... pirates, knights, soldiers. Amazed Lego have never considered doing miniature dress up dolls for boys before. You could call them ... Hrm ... Lego Men?
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
This is because however politically incorrect it is to point out, that girls and boys are different in basic fundamental temperaments.
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.
I am pretty sure both of my little brothers each had at least one Ken doll, at least one Cabbage Patch Kid, several Care Bears, etc... all kinds of toys that would be considered more gendered today. The eighties, man, they were a different time.
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.
Why not call it "GoldieBlox: The Cute Engineering Toy"? Why enforce gender roles? Isn't the title kind of saying "Girls like cute stuff, boys don't ever like cute stuff, and the only way to get girls interested in engineering is to make it cute"? Couldn't we get females into engineering more easily if we stopped culturally delegating "cool" to little boys and "cute" to little girls?
[Or the real solution, just stop having gender identification entirely, but that's a ways away]
I think the answer to this has been no, females won't go into engineering more no matter how you culturally delegate personality attributes. Consider the sales of the toys and the admissions rates into engineering programs DESPITE the fact that more women are being admitted to university than men , and yet still engineering programs are 80-20 male-female, despite the gender neutrality motions taking place and the fact that it's no longer the 50s with openly sexist TV commercials and advertisements.
In the 50s women were prohibited from entering engineering programs by policy, so commercials didn't have anything to do with it. It didn't become illegal for engineering programs to discriminate based on gender until the 70s.
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.
Parents not buying gendered clothes or discussing their child's gender until after birth, texts using "she" as often as "he" or occasionally neither at all. Overall there's more of that social push than there ever was (perhaps because there was none at all).
In fact, there's even a school in Sweden that went hardline on this: