ScienceSkepticism

Boy Toys vs Girl Toys

Zach hits another one out of the park (that’s with a boy toy of course):


Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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58 Comments

  1. Hey, I am a “girl” engineer and I played with dolls. Oh wait. My favorite doll was Ken because his flat top head made him a great stand in for a column in my model structures. Come to think of it, the dolls were mostly decoration for elaborate miniature worlds.

  2. I made a pact with myself that if I ever have children I shall never buy anything from the monochrome pink isle in the toy store for them. They can pick stuff from that isle for themselves if they want, but I’m not going to hand it to them.

  3. The first toy I got for my daughter when she could barely sit up was a 6″ CP Crescent wrench. It’s cold and hard and perfect for teething; it’s too big to swallow and too small to damage much, Oh, it can be very useful later.

  4. I loved this. I remember the doll related toy that got the most play in my house: Barbie’s car. Not only that, it was silver, not pink. And the beanie babies fit perfectly!

    My brother and I shared a lot of toys, boy or girl toys, and I think that was best for both of us. Not to mention our Hotwheels races…

  5. *eyerolls* Haven’t people considered that the reason pink stuff, dolls, etc have traditionally been marketed to girls is because girls LIKE those things? So what if girls and boys are different (but equal, of course), and there are so few women [insert whatever here]?

  6. It’s true. Because I have a vagina I only like things that are pink. I’ve never in my life ever wanted a toy that was any other color besides pink and I don’t care at all if I’m actively discouraged from pursuing something that I may enjoy, or even *gasp* be good at, because it’s not a girl thing to do.

    Stupid women for thinking they like things that aren’t pink! You do! You LOVE it! How are men ever supposed to take you seriously when you can’t even figure that much out?

  7. I’m old enough to remember the Lionel Pink electric train for girls. didn’t sell — they’re worth $$$$$ now.
    Almost all of the women engineers I know had engineer fathers. They are also some of the BEST engineers I know.

    Chas, PE SE

  8. I’ve noticed this quite a lot with my 2-year-old daughter. Several people have asked me *why* I bought her some toy trucks. … “Um, to play with?” She also has the whole “plastic tool set” thingy.

    Only one doll.

  9. My 2 year old son’s toys include building blocks, lego, tools, cars, a pirate ship, toy car garage, stuffed toys and a baby doll. He plays with the tools and drives the cars. He also acts out complicated scenarios with his stuffed toys. He cuddles, “feeds” and puts his baby doll to bed, complete with lullaby. When he gets older we’ll introduce building sets, chemistry sets, rockets, etc., but if he prefers to play with his stuffed toys/dolls we’ll let him.
    A different take on the final panel might be “Why do so many engineers seem socially awkward?” Maybe because they never had the option to play with dolls.

  10. I remember my (at that time) 1 year old niece having a wonderful time with a plastic tool box toy. You’d give it to her, then after about 30 seconds she’d manage to get it open and the contents (tools, nuts, bolts) would cascade everywhere. Then you’d have to pack it all up and give it back to her to have another go.

    I’ve given my nieces a large sandpit toy truck and a large K’nex set, but mostly I’ve just given them books.

    I think there are inherent differences in the likes of boys and girls, and no matter how equal we make the opportunities, some professions will have substantial sex bias. (Although not always in the traditional direction: medical doctor and author both look to be heading for female domination.)

    The point I think is to give the kids the choice. Give your daughter blocks and dolls, and if she ends up dolls-and-frilly-pink-dresses-and-makeup, at least you’ll be confident it is because that is how she is, rather than because that was how she was expected to be.

    (Personally, I’d love to have a bunch of scientist/engineer daughters, but it isn’t looking too likely now, due to lack of offspring.)

  11. @Shalini

    *eyerolls* Haven’t people considered that the reason pink stuff, dolls, etc have traditionally been marketed to girls is because girls LIKE those things? So what if girls and boys are different (but equal, of course), and there are so few women [insert whatever here]?

    I’m pretty sure most people have considered that. The problem is, how often do we ask girls, free of cultural biases and social pressures what kind of toys they want. The intensity and thoroughness of the pink + doll marketing to girls is such that it’s nearly impossible to really tell how much of it is innate preference of girls, and how much is socially constructed.

    I tend to favour the idea that most of what is “feminine” and “masculine” are social constructs that have little to do with actual biological differences between men and women. In the 1800s, blue was the feminine colour and pink (a variety of red) was the masculine, this flipped in the late 1800s/early 1900s. Dolls are a clear analogue for child birthing/rearing and motherhood. Even if an individual girl would prefer more “masculine toys”, likely most or all of her friends have traditionally “feminine” toys.

    Of course many girls and boys are perfectly happy with their socially assigned, gender appropriate toys and roles, but the point is, most don’t really have a choice.

    I always wanted to play with dolls, doll houses, etc., but of course I didn’t have any, and I knew from a very, very young age that boys just didn’t play with those kinds of toys. Social indoctrination of strict gender roles start from even before birth.

    The “So What?” is that gender roles are mostly arbitrary social constructions and we do all children a disservice by buying girls pink, frilly dolly-things and boys mechanical, aggressive, complicated things.

    It’s sexist and unfair. We’re forcing unhealthy and unnatural ideas about gender and sex onto children with things as simple and seemingly innocuous as what toys we buy for them, what clothes we dress them in, what colour we paint their rooms, and what adjectives we use to describe them before they can even talk.

  12. @Shalini:

    Oh, it’s you. Are you going to go on again about how women who have more sex than you are comfortable with are sluts and whores again? Since a woman’s sex life is, apparently, your business.*

    And are you that really oblivious to how society works? Sure, some girls do like such things, but this shit is literally shoved down their throats constantly. They can’t choose because they don’t have a fucking choice in the matter. It is assumed that the girl should like the girl toy, and heaven forbid a boy like a girl toy – oh dear no, that’s just wrong!

    That’s how our society works.

    It’s not about the child’s personal choice; it’s about what society deems their choice should be.

    *For y’all: This sexist droll decided to tell the world of Faceobok that women whoa re promiscuous (using her subjective opinion of what “promiscuous” is, of course) are whores and sluts, and deserved to be judged and are not worthy of respect. Because clearly it is her business who women choose to fuck and how many people they choose to fuck, and of course it’s up to her to decide which women deserve her respect respect, depending on how many people they’ve fucked.

    I wish I was making this shit up or exaggerating. I am not.

    Oh, and btw, all of her opinions are based on religious ideals, even though she claims to be an atheist. But of course, women must act like women, and men must act like men — that means you must like pink, girls! — and if you open up your legs, girls, tsk tsk, you’re a whore and a slut and you do not deserve respect.

    Just goes to show that even atheists can be sexist assholes.

    So what if girls and boys are different (but equal, of course), and there are so few women [insert whatever here]?

    Also, that. Yeah, so what! So what if there aren’t many women in science? Who cares, right? They should all close their legs and play with dolls like good little quiet girls and become teachers and nurses! We don’t need no stinkin’ women in science!

    And women, and men! They are so different! Women looooove pink, duh! All women. Men hate it. Grossss!

  13. I swore I would never subject my daughter to princesses and pink, but in the end she likes what she likes. Thankfully, My little Pony’s ride her fire engine, and her rainbow socks have skulls and crossbones with pink bows. I can’t imagine telling her she can’t play with her dolls just as I can’t imagine taking away her dinosaurs (sometimes the dollies go to war against the dinosaurs and then all havoc ensues).

  14. @Shalini:

    I want you to answer these questions for me. Every single one. And not with subjective opinions. I’m asking for FACTS. This is a Skeptic blog, after all! We thrive on facts, don’t we?

    On to the questions:

    -What is your definition of “promiscuous”?

    -What is your definition of “promiscuous” based on?

    -Why, exactly, do women who meet this definition of promiscuity of yours not deserve your respect? (I should emphasize: YOUR respect, because apparently, at least according to you, your opinions of others are super important and totally matter, though I personally question this.)

    -Why is it your business who women decide to fuck, and how many people they decide to fuck?

    -Why does your opinion of promiscuity matter, and why should anyone care about your opinion?

    -Why do your claims of respect matter, and why should anyone care about whom you claim to respect or not respect?

    -Is your definition of “promiscuous” only based on heteronormative ideals, as I suspect? What about lesbians? Bisexuals? Transgendered folks? Pansexuals? Poly people? Those with open marriages? Because the implication in your “women who have sex are whores” rant was that they are having sex with men – though you never *actually* mentioned men, because men can’t be whores; only women. But them queers? They REALLY don’t matter!

    Remember, facts. Not, “I feel!” or “I think!” Facts.

    As an aside: I’m pretty sure you’d think I was a promiscuous whore, because I’ve had my share of one-night-stands and enjoy sex very, very much, am not ashamed of it, and do not make any bones about it. In fact, I went on a trip this weekend, with a good friend of mine whom I also occasionally fuck. And we fucked on this trip, and it was awesome. We’re not dating and it’ll probably remain that way. I’m sure you’d call me a slut (since you seem to like calling women whores and sluts) and say you do not respect me, though I’m not so sure you’d have the courage to say it to my face if we weren’t fairly anonymous here.

    And you know what? Anyone who judges me based on who I have decided to fuck, when my decision to fuck has no affect on them whatsoever, doesn’t deserve my respect, because I do not respect judgmental assholes, especially those who base their opinions on religious ideals while hypocritically calling themselves an atheist, and furthermore, it is none of your business. I do not respect busy-bodies.

    If it weren’t for the fact that your misogynist, uneducated, old-fashioned opinions and those like you, of which there are many, didn’t affect women, young and old, I wouldn’t give a flying fuck, because I think your opinions are baseless, uninformed, and you do not deserve my respect. But it’s people like you who perpetuate sexism and bullshit and make women feel ashamed for doing something they shouldn’t feel ashamed about (owning their sexuality) and I’m fucking sick and tired of it.

    You do not belong here, I can safely say that. I am not surprised you rarely comment. Why are you here? How can you claim to be an atheist and a skeptic while holding on to clearly religious ideals about sex and gender?

    And I didn’t even touch your baseless “men and women are different, who cares if more women aren’t in science?!” bullshit! The bullshit, it’s just seeping out of your pores, man.

  15. The intentionally irritating Shalini asks a question which is so profoundly stupid that it actually deserves discussion. Who cares? I do! The sciences do need women. If we leave the sciences to the men because they aren’t frilly enough or if we make the few women interested in the sciences so lonely that they shy away from them, all women end up losing, even the pink ones. In the war between logic and magical thinking, we need to keep an eye on all fronts. And, more importantly, youth is our best hope. Who is teaching the children who will form the next wave? In the years I spent in the mom community (while my kids were young) I noticed something very disturbing. Who is pushing the religious and new age magical nonsense to the children? Almost always, it is the moms. Women need to be educated in science and critical thinking, even if they never hope to use it professionally. I am sick to death of otherwise intelligent women spouting religious nonsense and woo. I raised my own daughter to be a skeptic and I get in the ear of every young mom I know but what else can I do? What else can WE do?

  16. Boys totally play with dolls too, but they’re called ‘action figures.’ : P

    And I, as a girl, totally played with action figures and mechanical kits meant for boys, AND with dolls, blocks, trains, bikes, stuffed animals, dirt, leaves, and whatever else I could play with. I just loved to play.

    I would even disassemble dolls and switch their heads and body parts around, and then reassemble them. My engineer husband did the same thing as a kid with his G.I. Joes.

    While I can agree with the general point of this cartoon — that gender constructs are forced on us from a very young age (if you want to depress yourself, browse the baby section of Target to see the gender lines pushed to the extreme) and that has an unfortunate effect in discouraging girls and eventually women to pursue science and math based fields and that’s a very stupid thing to do, something about the cartoon irks me about the manner in which it gets that point across.

    (‘Sup, run-on!)

    Anyway, I don’t know, I guess it’s the general notion that kids are being told how to play with a toy in the first place bothers me as much as the notion that ‘girls are pink and frilly and ditzy, and boys are blue and mechanical and clever.’

    But maybe I’m just saying that because I’m an artsy-fartsy, emotional artist who played with too many dolls and too few model airplane kits?

    And for what it’s worth, they do make dolls that you hook up to your computer these days — to change the color of her earrings and the style of her hair as dictated by the official website’s color options… Sigh. Nevermind.

    Perhaps this re-released Barbie doll would be better instead? http://tinyurl.com/38a9bvx

    I mean, she does have a PhD!

  17. @Shalini: Some girls do. My niece Caity plays with dolls and has fun doing it… when she’s doing “Daddy’s” voice, she makes her voice deep. For Caity’s voice, her voice is normal. For Mommy’s voice, her voice is higher than her normal voice. It’s adorable.

    But she also wants to be a Jedi (which only reluctantly replaced her dream of being an entomologist), likes to play with blocks and Legos, and I’m waiting for her to be able to sit still long enough to introduce her to D&D and Star Wars role-playing games.

    Quite frankly, I’m holding out for her to become a Jedi. Not only would it be AWESOME, but the Million from Randi (plus other amounts from similar prizes) would go a long way towards founding the Jedi Academy.

  18. @FlameTest: She seriously wants to go back to the 1950s, in regards to how we treat and view female sexuality.

    Anyone who claims that the 1950s were AWESOME for women, and who blasts feminism (which she has, on more than one occasion), while at the same time claiming to be an atheist, and a professional woman (see: http://skepchick.org/teen/?p=340), is a fucking hypocrite, and also not very bright. Does she honestly think she’d be allowed to voice her opinions if it were 1950? Does she think she’d be as successful as she claims to be in 1950? LOL. No. Of course, maybe she prefers it that way — since she seems to think the 1950s were so awesome and all.

    Furthermore, anyone who says, “Oh, why can’t we go back to ? Wasn’t it so wonderful then?” clearly lacks any kind of critical thinking skills. Seriously, that kind of shit is just plain stupid and shows that you haven’t done any actual research into our history. The 1950s weren’t any more “innocent” than the 2000s, I promise you that.

    And, yes, she actually said that the way women were treated in 1950s is the way it should be. I am not making this shit up or exaggerating.

    How can someone call themselves a skeptic while lacking critical thinking skills? It doesn’t mesh!

    What scares me is that this “skeptic” is posting over at http://skepchick.org/teen/ and may spread this sexist, misogynist bullshit to our most vulnerable — is she going to call a young woman who is comfortable with her sexuality a whore now?

  19. @Mark Hall: Oh dear! I almost forgot. I must go put on a pink apron and get my ass back into the kitchen!

    Oh, 1950! You were such a great time! So *innocent!*

    http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/13216/a_womans_role_in_the_1950s.html

    We must totally get back to that! Especially Shalini, who must really resent the fact that she is able and even encouraged to have independent thoughts of her own! She must really despise being a successful woman, and must wish she was instead in the kitchen, acting how a good lil’ woman should. Since she thinks 1950 was so awesome and wishes it were still 1950!

  20. let’s hope shalini grows out of this attitude (and all the /b-tard crap listed in her interests… egads, “lulz”?). She’s young yet. Even as a liberal, open-minded dude I had some odd hangups (probably related to my own insecurities) about sex, gender, and sexuality when I was that age. It takes experience to get over that, and hopefully she gains some of that experience in college. If not, there’s always assholes on the internet to set her straight.

  21. @mikerattlesnake: Maybe. Somehow I doubt it, but maybe.

    I just really can’t hang when someone who claims to be a skeptic calls women whores and sluts and then says that these women whom she has subjectively judged don’t deserve respect – not just from her, but from anyone.

    That’s absolutely unacceptable. Period.

    Also, she was 18 when that was posted — almost two years ago. She’s 20, and probably close to 21. She is old enough to know better, especially if she’s been a Skeptic since she was 12, as she claims.

    Also, “Remember kids, Shalini is a good influence.” — Elles. Nope, I’d say not; omeone who calls other women whores and sluts is not a good influence to anyone.

    If not, there’s always assholes on the internet to set her straight.

    Who, me? But I’m so nice! ;)

  22. @rider: You sure about that?

    Has she ever watched a TV show aimed at girls? Aside from Dora Explorer, nearly everything aimed at girls is full of pink and princesses. And I think Dora Explorer is no longer what it used to be, going for a much more girly look and feel.

    Has she ever watched a Disney movie?

    What about her peers? Most of the girls she knows probably have lots of pink. Part of it is wanting to be like your peers.

    She doesn’t live in a vacuum. It may not be forced on her in the sense that someone is saying, “HERE! BUY THIS! You can’t have this, you must by this!” — but as a whole, a large number of things aimed at young girls are pink and frilly. This means she is exposed to it, even if you don’t directly encourage it.

    That said, there is nothing inherently wrong with her liking pink. It’d just be nice if it wasn’t assumed that girl = pink, or girl = cheesy plastic jewelry instead of a (relatively) cool action figure, as it is in our society.

  23. @mikerattlesnake: Honestly? I get the feeling she just likes to be combative and have the ~unpopular~ opinion — but her actual life and her personal opinions on how women should act/be do not mesh. It’s high hypocrisy.

    And even if she honestly thinks that 1950 was some ideal, she’s still calling women whores and sluts — this is not how a skeptic should act, of any age. Even my nephew knows that’s unacceptable, and he’s 8. I know 12 year old girls, the age at which she claims to have found skepticism, who know that calling women and girls whores and sluts is sexist, rude, and unacceptable, regardless of your actual feelings on casual sex. It’s not so much her opinion as how she expresses it. It’s not how a ~20 year old skeptic should act. Period.

    It wouldn’t bother me much if she was just a commenter but she is a contributor to Teen Skepchick, and that is sad and scary. This woman is supposed to influence young women, and she’s calling her fellow teen skepchicks whores and sluts? Really? Young women already have to deal with this kind of crap from all angles — and now they get it from someone who is supposed to be a peer, someone they are supposed to admire and look up to? Really? No. If it was up to me, her posting duties would be stripped.

    It is unacceptable behavior. Period.

    Also, I’m really tired of “she/he is young, they’ll grow out of it!” Age is not an excuse. I know young women and men who know better. I knew better at that age! And if you acted like that at that age, you were still a sexist jerk. I’m glad you grew out of it, but that doesn’t mean your behavior wasn’t unacceptable nor does it mean you didn’t deserve to be called out on it. I’m also sure it would mean you wouldn’t have been an appropriate person to be a role model for teen skeptics, and I’m sure you’d agree.

  24. @jimmieskeptic: And she has posting access over at Teen Skepchick. Yay! That’s exactly what young women need: Yet more people to judge them and call them whores and sluts, based on arbitrary, personal, subjective rules and old-fashioned, religious based ideals! Because they certainly don’t get enough of that already, and that’s certaily not one reason why we have so few women in the sciences. Certainly!

    And it doesn’t surprise me that she hasn’t responded to any of this. What would her response be? “But but, *I* think they are whores and sluts because I said so!”

  25. Since posting my comment last night, I looked through her Twitter profile and her blog to find the post that marilove refers to. I couldn’t find anything on there that calls women “whores and sluts” and as her FB profile is unacceptable to non-friends, I’ll have to trust marilove that she’s not misrepresenting Shalini’s opinion.

    The one comment that Shalini posted on here, while I disagree heartily with, is nothing close to calling women “whores and sluts.”

    Her posts on Teen Skepchick are all pretty decent as far as I can tell, so why should her posting privileges be revoked when she hasn’t done anything wrong in terms of being a #writer for TS#. If you would remove her because of an opinion that you disagreed with, it would smack of hypocrisy in a worse way, and that is a dangerous precedent to set in the skeptic movement.

    Yes, she’s a hypocrite, and yes she needs to be called out, but recommending that she be removed from posting on TS because of an unpleasant opinion on her #private FB page unaffiliated with TS# would be ridiculous and downright stifling her freedom of speech.

  26. @jimmieskeptic: I promise I’m not. There is another Skepchick commenter or two that was there when I told her that her opinions were bullshit and then removed her from my facebook list (I don’t need that crap on my personal facebook).

    “downright stifling her freedom of speech.”

    No, it wouldn’t. That’s not what freedom of speech means. She’s free to have any opinion she wants and to voice them if she wishes, in her own personal space(s). But just like my place of work has a right to fire me if I say something in public or where others I worked with could see that didn’t jive with their business model, the owner of a blog has a right to ban and/or strip someone of posting access if they aren’t representing the community the way they should be or are harrassing — and it’s not a violation of free speech. That’s why I said if it were up to me, I’d strip her of her commenting abilities — taking into consideration that she also has young skeptical women on that facebook, reading that crap, knowing she is affiliated with Teen Skepchick.

    It’s not a violation of freedom of speech. Again, that’s not what freedom of speech means. She still has every right to voice her opinion. I just personally wouldn’t want such crap in any way affiliated with a blog I ran.

    Calling young women whores and sluts is unacceptable behavior. It’s harassing, at the very least. She is not an appropriate role model for young skeptical women. But hey, it’s just my opinion and I don’t have any actual say in the matter.

  27. I am not disagreeing that it is unacceptable. If she posted that on Teen Skepchick, I’d say remove her from contributing. If she posted it on her private FB account, it’s a whole different matter.

    I disagree with her, I think her opinion on that matter is downright wrong – but it is her FB page and she can do whatever she wants on there – which is not the same if she was calling women “sluts and whores” on TS. As far as I know, she isn’t doing that, and her posts on TS are fine, so she shouldn’t be prevented from contributing. It’s as simple as that.

  28. @marilove: And btw, I’m not implying Rebecca or anyone else should do anything; it’s not my space and while I can certainly voice my opinions on the matter, they do not have to listen to me. It will not offend me. But I think it’s important that they know what kind of crap this so-called skeptic is spreading to our young women.

    But even if they decided to ban me for being an opinionated asshole, that doesn’t mean my free speech would be violated. I could still voice my opinions. Just not here.

  29. #But just like my place of work has a right to fire me if I say something in public or where others I worked with could see that didn’t jive with their business model#

    I disagree with that too. I don’t think businesses should have the right to fire someone for expressing an opinion that a higher-up disagrees with – imagine a Christian boss firing an employee for being an open atheist, or openly gay. Imagine a racist employee firing someone for protesting the Arizona immigration law.

    That would be discrimination.

    Then again, this is just my personal opinion.

  30. #I could still voice my opinions. Just not here.#

    Exactly. She is NOT voicing her silly ideas on woman’s issues ON TEEN SKEPCHICK. Until and if she does, there is no reason to prevent her from contributing.

  31. I suspect that many of the Girl Engineers are those who played with dolls and who never took “Be a doll!” as the correct answer to “What’s it do?”
    It’s about creativity, thinking around what people tell you things should be.
    While I’m not an engineer (though I’m a proud Maker), and not even much of a girl, I grew up digging for fossils in my backyard with crazy raised-by-pterosaurs-Barbies. I built houses for my minifigs out of things other than Lego, and hacked up a Barbie van into a hippie camper bus towed by an RC car.

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