What's Wrong With Princesses?
Why is it supposedly damaging and awful that girls like pink and want to play "Princess"?
What if they just aren't into the toys that are supposed to funnel them into STEM careers?
Regarding boys and girls' different toy preferences and those trying to push girls into more STEM-directed play, we're sending a message of "boys' toys = good; girls' toys = bad," observes evolutionary psychologist Steve Stewart-Williams in a 2012 post at PsychologyToday.com:
Is it realistic to think we can re-engineer girls' preferences so easily? And what's so terrible about their preferences, anyway? New options are always good - but does the pink aisle really need to be disrupted?
He's writing about "GoldieBlox," a construction toy designed specifically for girls. The manufacturers of GoldieBlox have high hopes for their new product. Their aim is 'to disrupt the pink aisle and inspire the future generation of female engineers.'"
He quotes Emily Jashinsky from a post at AEI:
The efforts of GoldieBlox may truly be empowering to a minority of girls who indeed prefer tinkering to tailoring and building to Barbies. But the message that the company sends in this viral video--intentionally or otherwise--demeans and condescends the 'pink aisle' play preferences of most girls. And it seems to be premised on the false (and arguably sexist) conclusion that princess play is less intellectually stimulating than Lego-stacking. What's most important is that we value equally the play preferences of young girls and boys and respect their choices--whether a little girl enthusiastically nurtures her baby doll or happens to prefer blocks.
Emily Jashinsky adds at AEI:
If GoldieBlox can successfully inspire more interested girls to pursue STEM careers, I applaud their efforts. Just as long as they don't mock the average girl's love for her Barbie in the process. My advice: don't distress if your daughter would rather play with dolls than building sets- and don't try to reengineer her play preferences either.
A tweet to me that puts the toy thing perfectly:
@amyalkon It's perplexing the idea that "We should value boys and girls equally, as long as [girls] act like traditional boys."
And from one of my posts from a few years back:
Why should we push women to be, say, physicists (to correct some perceived imbalance -- as if the gender of a researcher should matter) if they'd rather be, say, veterinarians? Or...sell advertising space. And, as Steven Pinker asked at the Human Behavior and Evolution Society conference in Austin, Texas, a few years back, if we're pushing women to go into physics, should we also be pushing men to go into talking and helping professions?
For a terrific book on male/female sex differences, read Joyce Benenson's Warriors and Worriers: The Survival of the Sexes.
Here's my New York Observer piece referencing Benenson's work, in which there's a mention of how even female chimps engage in what seems to be doll play. And surely not because they saw commercials for Barbies on Saturday morning TV.
And finally for a little more of the truth about girls, here's a link to the radio show Dr. Jennifer Verdolin and recently did on the evolution of "mean girls" and how to beat their system.