Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A bad similarity between Barbies and science for girls

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For kids, girls are always the weaker half of their demographic: the boys are out playing sports, blowing stuff up in videogames and picking fights every few days, whereas girls are at home, having tea parties with their stuffed animals and playing with dolls. (An interesting correlation to how things were before the advent of the women’s rights movement, in fact.) And, of course, a crucial part of this “distinction” between the sexes is how girls are generally weaker and more insipid than the boys, and also how they’re crazy for pink.

Of course, once kids grow up, this sort of distinction is usually left behind as it rightfully should be as it becomes apparent that girls can make it in this world every bit as easily as boys can. No more is such a vapid and silly distinction made. (Well, generally. I’m not saying the fight for women’s rights is over, but it certainly is on better grounds than ever.) As teens, and later as adults, the female half is regarded as being an equal part of the human species, every bit as able as the male half.

So, I have to wonder: what in the hell is wrong with this picture?

Weaker pink science tools for girls in Toys ’R Us catalog

In case you can’t tell what’s going on here, this is a snapshot from a page of a Toys ’R Us that showcases some of the available toys in the science equipment domain. We see microscopes and telescopes – yet in each category, there is a pink, decidedly “girly” version of the tool. This would be bad enough as it is, although perhaps still borderline permissible – some girls do like pink, after all – but then, they went and even made these pink, “girlish” models substantially weaker than the others. (The regular microscopes have 900X and 1200X capabilities, but the “girl version” only goes up to 600X; the regular telescopes have 250X and 525X capabilities, yet the “girl version” is limited at 90X.)

Normally, I’d be the first to tell others and myself to calm down, that appearances can be deceiving and that perhaps we aren’t seeing the full picture, but it’s rather hard to see such a clear and ridiculous distinction between toys for boys and toys for girls and not conclude that someone, somewhere, apparently doesn’t expect girls to be as good in science, or to be as deserving of performing equipment, as boys. Of course, I’m not saying Toys ’R Us is sexist, or the catalog – such would be a baseless and stupid claim. But there is something going wrong, somewhere, if someone thought it was a good idea to print such silliness.

Your thoughts? Is this just, perhaps, an unfortunate little error? Or is this plain sexism?

(via Pharyngula)