OpEd on gendered toys in Sunday’s New York Times

The New York Times is reporting on it! It must be a serious issue, right?

From Cinderella Ate My Daughter’s awesome author Peggy Orenstein:

Every experience, every interaction, every activity — when they laugh, cry, learn, play — strengthens some neural circuits at the expense of others, and the younger the child the greater the effect. Consider: boys from more egalitarian homes are more nurturing toward babies. Meanwhile, in a study of more than 5,000 3-year-olds, girls with older brothers had stronger spatial skills than both girls and boys with older sisters.

At issue, then, is not nature or nurture but how nurture becomes nature: the environment in which children play and grow can encourage a range of aptitudes or foreclose them. So blithely indulging — let alone exploiting — stereotypically gendered play patterns may have a more negative long-term impact on kids’ potential than parents imagine. And promoting, without forcing, cross-sex friendships as well as a breadth of play styles may be more beneficial. There is even evidence that children who have opposite-sex friendships during their early years have healthier romantic relationships as teenagers.

Read the rest here.

4 thoughts on “OpEd on gendered toys in Sunday’s New York Times

  1. I get it. I understand that no one wants a pink and inferior product, Legos included. However, there are already so many Legos that are targeted at boys. If we only protest and get rid of the efforts at making Legos for girls who’ve already made pink choices, what’s left? As an engineer who likes pink and had to endure the male cultural indoctrination that comes with engineering school, I think some pinking of male products is good. Girls learn that building structures includes places they like to go and boys learn that there is nothing inferior about building those structures. I would have included a second “smart” girl in the group of friends, to appeal to both math and science interests, instead of a socialite with no visible skills.
    My point is, let’s no throw out the baby with the bath water. I would like to see more female figures in current sets. I want to see more sets of equal quality, for girls. We want girls to pursue STEM and we know Legos open the door.

    • Hi Vanessa,

      I think if parents played Lego with their daughters starting at very young, it would do a lot more towards helping them love the product than creating pink Legos. Playing Lego with my kids is challenging for me. I’m conditioned as well, of course, and I’d rather read or do art because I’m so comfortable with that. But since all this Lego insanity, I’ve built with my kids. It takes so much patience on my part, but then we all get into it and its really fun. We worked on Spongebob for hours. But as I blogged, Spongebob has one female. I really believe that what we need is more narratives that feature heroic girls and taht will get our daughters into Lego. In the meantime, playing with them seems to go a long way.


      • Margot,
        It is interesting to me that building with Legos did not come easy for you. You say you’d rather do other things. This is exactly my point about girls who have already been conditioned to think that Legos are not for them. I think we need to reach them where they are. At age 6, my daughter was in the pink phase (she and her friends are out of it now) and I went to the store looking for pink Legos. She would play with anything that was pink and wouldn’t play with or wear anything that wasn’t. They didn’t have pink Legos then and she missed out. She has an older brother who worked at a Lego store, so she eventually got into Legos, with the help of Bellville and Dora and her brother’s influence.
        I agree that building with our daughters is great. I also got my daughter architect Barbie, but I never bought her Bratz dolls. I did get her the Bratz math video game. My point is, I love fashion and I love physics. They do not have to be incompatible. I pick products for my daughter based on the underlying capability. I want to see more choices in female role models in toys, games and media so that there is a middle ground between architect Barbie and ladyFig Legos.
        One more point about feminity and feminism, we need women in STEM to create products that reflect our values. That starts with girls who understand that a STEM problem is not gendered but it can be biased.

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