Some pinkification I can live with… for now

A while back, someone on Twitter pointed me to this GoldieBlox Kickstarter project, excited that finally, someone was doing something to get young girls interested in engineering. In amongst the glut of male-targeted building toys like K’nex and Erector Sets and LEGO, there’s hardly any such thing for girls. None of these toys are inherently boy-oriented (so long as you omit the obvious pun), but all of them are always always ALWAYS advertised for boys with special playsets to build things that boys are enculturated to like, like cars and helicopters and space ships.

There’s often a girls version that is pink, because girls simply aren’t picking up those “boys’ toys”. This offering involves princesses and ponies and none of the things boys “like”. Look at K’nex’ Tinkertoy offering for girls, with its uniquely colored blocks and princess figurines. Or LEGO’s foray which makes the minifigs “pretty” and all the blocks pastel and designed so you can make a French cafe.

These attempts at girlifying this class of toys — let’s call them engineering toys — are often quite maddening in the face of this culture, that has since the turn of the last century wholly entrenched rigid gender roles from the Victorian era. In this culture, where once we looked like we were actually coming out of the woods when LEGO produced ads for their unisex product that were absolutely wonderful and starred little girls as often as little boys, all doing the same things — but have evidently since backslid to an enormous degree. In this culture, where even three year olds can grok the transparent gendered marketing.

So I can totally see why some might lash out at yet another example of pinkification to try to get girls interested in engineering.

But in the case of GoldieBlox, I can live with it.
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Automoblox: cool idea, with an unfortunate gender-related flaw

Update: see comments for some corrections from the co-founder of Automoblox, which I will also include inline.

Reader James Sweet of No Jesus No Peas has discovered a bit of probably accidental sexism in a particularly innovative kids’ toy called Automoblox.

The toy concept is rather novel, as a sort of hybrid of LEGO and the good old fashioned wooden car, where kids might find something novel to do with them at many different stages in their development. The really young have a nice, sturdy toy car; as they develop, they might be inclined to take that car apart and put it together differently in mix-and-match ways, or just to explore shape recognition with the various sizes and shapes that each slot and tab has. With all the various parts that can be disassembled, from the car’s body in three sections, to the various interiors and hoods, to the little people to act as passengers, there’s practically no part of this toy in any of its incarnations that can’t be taken apart and put back together.

Evidently in the design process, though, nobody thought about what might happen if a kid decided to try to put one of the female passengers into the lefthand driver’s seat. It’s actually completely impossible to do so, owing largely to the rotational chirality of the female passengers’ slot-and-tabs. Note: this is apparently only true of the sportscar models, and other car models (and cars for other countries) include women in the driver’s seat by default.
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