Steve Stewart-Williams Ph.D.

The Nature-Nurture-Nietzsche Blog

What's Wrong with Princesses?

Boys' toys = good; girls' toys = bad.

Posted Nov 23, 2013

Emily Jashinsky has an interesting new article about a perennial gender-wars issue: gendered toy preferences. A lot of people seem to be mightily offended by the fact that, in every toy shop in every town, the girls’ toy aisle is predominantly pink, and is populated almost exclusively by dolls, princesses, and other stereotypically girly offerings. In contrast, boys get all the cool stuff like Lego(TM). No wonder more boys than girls become engineers!

But now there’s 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”. An ad for GoldieBlox recently went viral, garnering more than 7 million hits in less than a week.

But 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?

Jashinsky gives what I think is a sensible, balanced, and tolerant answer to these questions. Here's a sample:

"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."

You can read the rest of the article here. And you can follow me on Twitter, if you so desire.