Finally, girls can use microscopes!

Another in our series on breakthrough products, the microscope set for girls!

On the one hand: Hurrah for girls using microscopes!
On the other hand: Do girls really need a special pink microscope?
On the third hand (I’m special): Anything that helps girls think they can do science is surely good. And maybe the pink microscope helps break down that “science is for boys” stereotype?

(Thanks, Jo!)

7 thoughts on “Finally, girls can use microscopes!

  1. How about if we just had a set in a gender-neutral colour that was marketed to both boys and girls? Maybe it could even have a picture of a boy and girl playing with it together. That would be a real breakthrough in toy marketing, which is rigidly segregated on gender lines and serves only to reinforce negative stereotypes about both sexes.

  2. How about same color set, but a boy and a girl playing with it? Break the “science is for boys” and “pink is for girls” stereotypes simultaneously.

  3. Given that we use color to gender-type everything from toys to clothes and shoes for children the moment they are born, an image of a pink microscope sends an important message to young children (both boys and girls). This is a pattern so deeply entrenched in our society that it is almost impossible to counteract the effect of it as a parent. Despite my best efforts to provide a gender-neutral environment and clothing for my oldest daughter — and to act as a role model by playing with trucks and blocks and tools — she did not start to build her own structures until a relative bought her pastel-colored sets of Legos and wooden blocks with accessory furniture.

    So I think anything to break down the stereotypes is helpful. (Although I think what we’d need to completely break down the stereotypes is for manufacturers to produce *only* pink microscopes and blocks and trucks — and *only* boy dolls and dark blue strollers and kitchen sets.)

    But there’s an interesting question when it comes to the traditional schemas for adolescents and young adults. Here, merely reversing the typical gender roles is not clearly the right thing.

    I was asked by a publisher about three years ago to participate in a review of the visual elements of several different contemporary logic textbooks. One of the things I expressed some concern about was the absence of images of any females in books that offered photos of logicians and philosophers such as Frege, Peirce, Russell, Brentano, Goedel, and so on. (I am convinced that showing photos of an all-male or predominately-male cast of researchers has a more pronounced negative impact on aspiring female philosophers than merely failing to include female authors in a syllabus. Is anyone aware of any research that demonstrates this?)

    The publisher in question subsequently produced a new logic textbook which *does* have a couple of images of women. Hooray! – Right?

    NO. The photos they chose are actually worse (in my opinion) than simply omitting images of women.

    Why?… Well, you judge for yourself. Here’s a link to an excerpt from the book:

    Take a look at the photo of the girl on page 2. Not only does it miss the chance to open discussion on, say, an interesting truth-functional paradox, but it is also unnecessarily loaded with subtle undertones. Would a heterosexual woman look at another woman and point to her chest with that expression? If the publishers have decided to appeal to “contemporary culture” to sell logic, why don’t they show similar images of men pointing to truth-functional statements printed on choice regions of their clothing? What message does this send? That logic is interesting not as a means of understanding a particular kind of truth, but rather as a tool for sexual provocation?

    In other words, it is one thing to attempt to break gender stereotypes for young children by manufacturing a traditional boy-toy in girly colors, and quite another to attempt to break gender stereotypes for adolescents and young adults by showing that a traditionally male-dominated area of inquiry can be used to enhance female sex appeal. The schema for one of these age groups is (in my opinion) innocuous; the schema for the other, not.

  4. Zenmind, what a truly sad “feminization” of a logic book. Really, a stunning piece of stupidity by the publishers.

  5. Zenmind, I didn’t find that image overtly sexual at all. I see a male in that same pose, and he looks like he’s giving me attitude. If she were in a less brazen pose, she’d look too demure. There’s your double standard. Women and their bodies are so over sexualized in general that postures that convey assertiveness for men are interpreted as sexy/sexually competetive when women use them.

    Thanks for the insight into my own head-bashing with these academics, though. I’ll be taking a closer look at what wealthy (?sheltered) people perceive as appropriate body language. I might save myself a few weekly ID checks from campus police as well.

  6. “she did not start to build her own structures until a relative bought her pastel-colored sets of Legos and wooden blocks with accessory furniture.”

    I find that weird myself. But then again, pastel-colored Lego blocks didn’t exist in my time (I was a kid 25 years ago, since I’m 28). I liked building and classifying things for the heck of it (didn’t mind their color), and I’m aspie.

    Being “raised as male” didn’t mean much to me: expectations that didn’t get me beat up I didn’t care about. And I played with Legos, and videogames from a young age…and identify as female, and feminine (the non-make-up wearing who wears sneaker kind), and a geek yeah. Being aspie is counter to being rigid in thinking, absent outside “direct training” (read: coercion).

    In other words: I didn’t care if doing stuff I didn’t like got rewarded by peers/parents etc (popularity). I only cared if doing certain stuff got me punished/beaten. So I developed a paranoia towards feminine-coded things, because I’d get beaten up over being “too feminine” (despite it being body language, not exactly something you notice yourself). Sort of like how we avoid oven top surface when it’s heating…especially if you’ve burned your hand on it before.

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